Female; married. Education: University of Utah, B.A.; University of Delaware, M.A. (in early childhood education). Hobbies and other interests: Skiing, painting, biking, spending time with husband and dog.
Office—Electronic Arts, Redwood Shores Studio, 209 Redwood Shores Parkway, Redwood City, CA 94065.
Game designer and producer. Worked for Theatrix Interactive (children's software company); Maxis Software/Electronic Arts Inc., associate producer, designer, and lead designer on various Sims products, including translation of the original game to computer and for the online version, 1999—.
game designer; with others
SimIsle: Missions in the Rainforest, Maxis Software Inc., 1995.
SimSafari, Electronic Arts Inc. (Redwood City, CA), 1998.
SimCity 3000, Electronic Arts Inc. (Redwood City, CA), 1999.
The Sims, Electronic Arts Inc. (Redwood City, CA), 2000.
The Sims Online, Electronic Arts Inc. (Redwood City, CA), 2002.
The Sims: Deluxe Edition, Electronic Arts Inc. (Redwood City, CA), 2002.
The Sims 2, Electronic Arts Inc. (Redwood City, CA), 2004.
Work in Progress
Further upgrades of The Sims.
"The goal has always been to facilitate players entertaining each other," Chris Trottier, lead designer for The Sims Online told David Becker of CNET News.com. That one small sentence speaks volumes about the difference between the entire Sims video/computer games and their more testosteronecharged competition. As Dawn C. Chmielewski noted in SiliconValley.com, "The bestselling computer game of all time isn't about winning the Super Bowl, repelling an invading force or indulging any other adolescent-boy fantasy. 'The Sims' is electronic entertainment's version of 'Seinfeld': It's a game about simply existing." Instead of destroying worlds, players of any of the myriad Sims products create them. And in doing so, they have attracted an entirely new demographic to gaming: women, many of whom are over age twenty-four.
The formula has been a winning one, with over thirty-six million copies of The Sims and its various incarnations sold worldwide. "We had a feeling when developing it that it would either be a colossal success or a colossal failure," Trottier recalled in an interview with Sims Online News Interview. "We had our hopes that gamers would be intrigued by a different kind of game. But I don't think anyone anticipated how many non-gamers would not only play Sims but become incredibly hardcore and loyal about it."
From Education to Gaming
Trottier is part of a new generation of game designers who are leading the industry in a new direction: toward more cooperative play with an emphasis on social interaction. Earning a master's degree in early childhood education, she initially worked for a children's software company. By the late 1990s she had joined the California-based Maxis Software and its Sims team. "I came to Maxis … when they were still doing kids products," Trottier told Libe Goad in a GameGal.com interview, "and then it was probably two months after I started that they canceled the kids' line and said, 'You're going to go to work on The Sims.'"
These were still early days for the game created by Will Wright, who began conceptualizing a simulated life game idea in 1984. It wasn't until 1987 that Wright cofounded Maxis Software and two years later he released SimCity for the Mac and PC. This game simulates building a city, and for the next decade Wright and his production team turned out numerous titles featuring this simulated world: SimEarth, SimAnt, SimFarm, SimCity 2000, and SimCity 3000. Maxis was bought out by Electronic Arts Inc. in 1997, but Wright stayed on, and by the time Trottier joined the team work was already underway on The Sims. Whereas earlier titles had been about building and constructing and then managing various structures, The Sims took the concept one step forward and featured the construction of characters or Sim people.
At the time Trottier was assigned to Wright's team, The Sims was "a bastard product that nobody wanted to be on," the game designer told Goad. "Nobody really understood it and they thought it was a game about going to the bathroom. It was kind of this secret project that Will was doing now and then. … I fell in love with it and I've been doing Sims stuff ever since." In 2000 The Sims was released, and what had been a suspect project quickly became a crowd pleaser.
The World of Sims
As a writer for VirtualGamerz.com noted of the 2000 release, The Sims is the "very first family simulation in the world….. First [it] proposes that you create your family. Depending on your feelings, you have the opportunity to begin with a single character or with the whole family (little baby crying included)." The personalities of such characters are determined by a limited number of factors, such as character, cleanliness, love of fun, ease, and dynamism. Gender, race, clothing style and more can also be determined by the player. Once the character or characters are chosen and programmed, life begins. Abilities and skills are added and then the Sim is free to begin working his or her way up the social ladder, for that is the point of the game. Consumption is built in from the start with a base amount of money (Simolians) provided for each Sim to purchase and decorate a home. Possessions can be added by earning more money, and there are catalogs from which to choose things such as furniture, clothing, and cars.
Once set up, these characters take on their own character, depending on the parameters entered. Untended, they will simply fall over of exhaustion if they miss their sleep, or run to the bathroom, or interact with each other. According to the VirtualGamerz.com critic, "the most phenomenal thing in this game is without any doubt, the interactions between the characters." They babble to one another in Simlish, a blend of English and Romance languages. Similarly, the reviewer for Armchair Empire felt that the "most intriguing part of the game is making friendships. The character traits that were assigned to the Sim at the creation stage come into play. If your Sim is very outgoing it may be easier to make friends."
A reviewer for Armchair Empire noted that the goal of the game "is to make your Sim happy. This is accomplished by initiating friendships with people in the neighborhood, acquiring bigger and better things, and earning more money. No spiritual enlightenment here, folks! A diamond over the head of each Sim displays their general psychological condition." Along those same lines, J. C. Herz, reviewing the game in the New York Times commented that The Sims "is disturbing in its crudeness," especially in its emphasis on consumerism. "But it's also disturbing in its accuracy," the critic added, "to the extent that getting and spending is the modus operandi for a lot of folks." Herz concluded that The Sims "succeeds as art, or as modern architecture," for "by building a window into Sims' souls, it prompts us to consider our own."
Writing in the Houston Chronicle, Dwight Silverman found The Sims "easily the most addictively enjoyable game … since the first SimCity." Similarly, Aubrey Hovey noted in the Albuquerque Tribune that The Sims "sucks in even the most casual computer gamer, [and] is turning everyday living into addiction." The fascination was not uniquely American. Tim Wapshott, writing in the London Times, dubbed it a "soaraway success." Writing in GameSpot.com, Andrew Seyoon Park noted that The Sims "is about creating, managing, and controlling the lives of tiny computerized people who dwell in miniature homes." However, Park also noted that the "actual gameplay is rather limited in some respects—either by odd inconsistencies or by actual restrictions placed on your actions."
Online and AI Versions
Such initial restrictions were addressed in more recent evolutions of the game, including The Sims Online from 2002, and The Sims 2 from 2004, which pushed artificial intelligence to new levels. Going online with The Sims was, as Trottier, who was lead designer for the online model, a "no-brainer." Speaking with John Callaham on Sims Online Stratics, Trottier further noted that "the minute people started playing The Sims, they wished they could have their friends come over to the houses they were building…. Also, Sim to Sim interactions were one of the most fun and challenging things in The Sims. But AI (artificial intelligence) we put in for other Sims could only begin to scratch the surface of real human behavior which can be unbelievably complex and contradictory. Having real humans driving the other Sims makes for a much richer experience." Trottier further commented to Callaham on the development and testing of the online version: "It's been amazing to watch the nesting instinct of initial players. We've put incredible incentives on grouping in-game, whether it's owning a property together or just hanging out together." Speaking with Bob Simon of CBSNews.com, Trottier observed some of the appeal of the game. "You're completely anonymous and temporary, if you wish," she said. Also, the reality of the environment becomes a natural draw to the player. "If they tickle you, you feel like you just got tickled," Trottier explained. "If you kiss someone, it's like, 'I just kissed this other someone.' It's pretty amazing how much you end up putting yourself into that Sim. It feels like you're really doing it."
Such virtual reality is also strong in The Sims 2 which is much richer than earlier editions in terms of choices. For example, there are 13,000 different animations that illustrate the outcomes of "choices" made by the Sims. The AI element takes the game beyond the merely Pavlovian reactions which motivated characters in the 2000 edition of The Sims. It also includes 3-D graphics animation. For Takahashi, "what's remarkable about this computer game … is that the domestic drama is not scripted. The characters act the way they do because that is what naturally unfolds. It's a quality dubbed 'emergence,' based on the history of the characters' relationships and their own artificial, or preprogrammed intelligence." A reviewer for Computer Gaming World called The Sims 2 "hypnotically addictive" and a "masterpiece."
If you enjoy the works of Chris Trottier
If you enjoy the works of Chris Trottier, you may also want to check out the following computer games:
Immortal Cities, designed by Chris Beatrice. Railroad Tycoon, created by Sid Meier.
Rise of Nations, designed by Brian Reynolds.
Sims games have attracted female players to a much larger degree than have other games. Almost half the players of The Sims are female, and this is in large part due to the influence of female designers such as Trottier. Speaking with Lee Cieniawa of Armchair Empire, she noted that "there are several untraditional forms of game-play in The Sims. For instance, there are many people who spend most of their time decorating and redecorating their homes…. There are a lot of people who enjoy having a fantasy life where they get to call the shots." The noncompetitive, relation-based nature of the game is a definite draw for female gamers. And the game is not judgmental. All sorts of relationships are possible in The Sims. As Trottier noted in Advocate Online, the game "isn't themed to appeal to gaming geeks alone…. It allows the player to pursue a fantasy life in a contemporary, campy setting." This means that there are gay and lesbian relationships programmed as well. "We're here to make games," Trottier explained, "not to push any moral agenda."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Albuquerque Tribune (Albuquerque, NM), February 13, 2001, Aubrey Hovey, "Home Simulated Home," p. A1.
Computer Gaming World, Jun 1, 2003, review of The Sims Online; November 1, 2004, "Real Child of Hell," "Is It Even a Game?," and "Take Your Sims from the Cradle to the Grave in The Sims 2."
Daily Mail (London, England), April 29, 2004, "A Simple Way of Life," p. 64.
Daily Variety, November 26, 2002, David Bloom, "Reality, Virtuality Blur at Sims' Soiree," p. 28.
Electronic Gaming Monthly, May, 2003, review of The Sims.
Houston Chronicle, March 3, 2001, Dwight Silverman, "Sims Game's Allure Is That It's like Life," p. 1.
Network World, March 20, 2000, Keith Shaw, "Reality vs. Virtual Reality."
New Media Age, June 26, 2003, "Electronic Arts to Increase Use of Mobile Marketing," p. 7.
New York Times, February 10, 2000, J. C. Herz, "The Sims Who Die with the Most Toys Win," p. G10.
PC, October 19, 2004, Troy Dreier, "The Sims 2 Proves Grown-up Games Still Live," p. 42.
Times (London, England), February 26, 2000, Tim Wapshott, "Computer Games and Pastimes," p. 39.
Advocate Online, http://www.advocate.com/ (February 4, 2003), Gretchen Dukowitz, "Virtually Gay."
Armchair Empire, http://www.armchairempire.com/ (February 27, 2003), Lee Cieniawa, "Chris Trottier (Sims Online) Q & A"; (November 22, 2004) review of The Sims.
CBSNews Online, http://www.cbsnews.com/ (August 6, 2003), Bob Simon, "Sex, Lies and Video Games."
CNET News.com, http://att.com/ (December 14, 2002, David Becker, "Will Sims Online Alter Gaming World?"
Discovery Channel Online, http://exn.net/ (February 24, 2003), "Cable in the Classroom: Simulation Station."
Electronic Arts, http://www.ea.com/home/home.jsp/ (April 24, 2005).
GameGal.com, http://www.gamegal.com/ (November 22, 2004), Libe Goad, interview with Trottier.
GameSpot.com, http://www.gamespot.com/ (February 11, 2000), Andrew Seyoon Park, review of The Sims.
Maxis, http://www.maxis.com/ (November 22, 2004).
MobyGames.com, http://www.mobygames.com/ (November 22, 2004), "Chris Trottier."
SiliconValley.com, http://www.silconvalley.com/ (December 15, 2002), Dawn C. Chmielewski, Online Play to Added New Wrinkle to Curiously Compelling 'Sims.'
Sims Online, http://www.eagames.com/ (November 22, 2004), Jerry Chantemsin, "Meet Some Real Sims."
Sims Online News Interview, http://www.game gossip.com/ (December 15, 2002), "Chris Trottier."
Sims Online Stratics, http://sims.stratics.com/ (October 17, 2002), John Callaham, "Sims Online Q & A at HomeLAN."
VirtualGamerz.com, http://www.virtualgamerz.com/ (November 24, 2004), review of The Sims.*