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"This is a game all about real life"
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Friday, 12 May, 2000, 17:49 GMT 18:49 UK
Lethal guinea pig kills virtual people
Three Sim people
A domestic moment in the life of a family of Sims
By BBC News Online internet reporter Mark Ward

Living the life of a virtual person is proving to be a little too real for some computer game enthusiasts.

Artificial people created by players of The Sims are falling victim to a virtual virus introduced into the game via a computerised guinea pig.

Players who have lavished hours of work on the virtual people are bombarding the game's creators with angry messages because their creations are dying off.

The Sims is the latest creation of Will Wright - the man behind classic computer games such as Sim City. But instead of running a city, The Sims involves helping virtual people live rich and fulfilling lives.

"People are very upset by this aspect of reality being added unannounced

Sim fan Sandra Linkletter

Players of the game help their Sims find jobs, make friends, furnish their houses and even fall in love, get married and have children.

The game became an instant hit because with a little hard work players can build a house with a pool that they could never afford in the real world. Many people like it because Sim kids do what they are told and people are always getting promoted.

The life of any Sim can be made more fulfilling by downloading new gadgets and furniture from the website of Maxis - the company that developed the game.

Career setback

The extras are chunks of computer code that look like objects such as radios or chairs that cause the Sims to react in new ways. But one of the latest extras, a guinea pig, is proving a little too lifelike for some people.

Sloppy Sims who do not clean the cage of the guinea pig and get bitten by the filthy beast are falling ill and, in some cases, dying.

Will Wright
Sims creator Will Wright
To make matters worse sick Sims that do not rest and recover can infect other Sims.

Players of The Sims who have lavished attention on the virtual people for weeks only to see them cut down by a dirty guinea pig are getting annoyed.

"People are very upset by this aspect of reality being added unannounced to the game," said Sandra Linkletter, a keen Sims player. She said people were annoyed because there was no warning about the danger posed by the guinea pig.

Other Sims players have bombarded Maxis with protests and the discussion area of The Sims website has rung with questions about cures for the sick Sims and how a Sim can recover from the career setback of spending a few days in bed.

Some child Sims with bad grades have ended up in military school after spending a day or two in bed recovering from the cold.

The campaign of criticism seems to have had an effect. In response, Maxis has now updated the guinea pig code. The virus that Sims can catch from the new pet is less virulent and leads only to a cold rather than death.

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