The trailer for the latest The Sims 4 expansion, Seasons, is wholesome. Set to a Simlish version of “Walking on Sunshine,” it shows Sims going about their day in a variety of climates. Some of them build snowsims and throw snowballs, and others frolic in piles of freshly raked leaves. Seasons is a particularly popular Sims expansion for fans of the franchise, and it’s easy to see why: Plain ol’ spring weather gets boring after a while. It’s fun to watch the world around the Sims change and evolve to match the progression of time.
Oh, and there’s also an event that’s basically The Purge.
Seasons offers the traditional holidays, usually with an odd little Sims twist. You can cook a grand meal and try to seduce Father Winter for Christmas, or take a loved one out on Love Day. These are pretty standard Sims celebrations. But you can also roam the neighborhood, looking to fight anyone and everyone. Doors won’t stop you. Social conventions won’t stop you. Not even the sacred bond of family will stop you. You can fight everyone.
Sims actively roam the streets looking for conflict. If your doors are unlocked, your neighbors may actually enter your home and just start fighting you for the hell of it. Neighborhood Brawl randomly triggers as a smaller holiday; it can’t be prepared for like Love Day. It simply has a chance to show up on your calendar and kick off the chaos.
If you are a longtime player of The Sims, or you’ve browsed the most popular stories about the game online, this is a pretty big change. Sims don’t fight back, and that’s part of the charm as we endlessly ruin their lives. We put them in pools and remove the ladders until they die from exhaustion. When the developers removed that ability and allowed Sims to hoist themselves out of pools and head back inside, players responded by going into Build Mode, removing the doors to their Sims’ bedrooms, and encouraged them to light lots of fires next to the piles of rags that had suddenly appeared. We see Sims as inherently passive (and not very smart).
Even those Sims players who disdain this style of play take frustrations out on their Sim neighbors. These pre-generated digital avatars bring us fruitcake when we move in, and in exchange, we sabotage their marriages or spark arguments with them. Neighborhood Brawl flips that, turning the other occupants of the town into roving gangs of hostile attackers. They are granted a temporary valve to release stress. Families will attack each other, neighbors invade each other’s homes, and somehow, the relationship meters don’t move at all. It’s not personal, after all. It’s just an opportunity to get revenge, which must taste sweet after nearly two decades of Sim torture at the hands of players.
The Sims 4: Seasons shines when it chooses to focus on the weird moments of Sim life. While dollhouse aficionados will relish the opportunity to redecorate for Christmas and pick out the perfect gift for Sims, the stranger, smaller holidays like Neighborhood Brawl is where fun, wild stories come from.
One day, I found my Sim crying alone over a cocktail to a sympathetic bartender while her friends danced the night away. Another day, her ex-girlfriend stormed her house and took advantage of Neighborhood Brawl to take revenge for an unceremonious dumping. It’s a weird, weird world, but there’s just enough of the deeply personal there to resonate. At the end of the event, I got an alert: My Sim had had a wonderful Neighborhood Brawl and had achieved everything she had wanted to.