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18 years later, The Sims 2 fandom is thriving on TikTok

Despite the fact the game is next to impossible to buy or play on modern devices

a group of sims in the sims 2 Image: Maxis / Electronic Arts
Petrana Radulovic is an entertainment reporter specializing in animation, fandom culture, theme parks, Disney, and young adult fantasy franchises.

For a game that’s going on 18 years old this September, The Sims 2 is surprisingly popular on TikTok. A small, but passionate collection of fans has been making videos using the old game, drawing on nostalgia for the classic. While SimsTok primarily focuses on gameplay and tips for the latest game in the series, there is a cult following for the older titles. The #sims2 and #thesim2 tags on TikTok have nearly 200 million views, even as the game becomes harder and harder to play on modern consoles.

Nostalgic SimsTok isn’t just focused on Sims 2: Comparisons among the four games are common, and hardcore Sims fans usually have their preferred game, the one that they will bat for and swear is the best. Danielle, the user behind daniellebuilds, primarily makes Sims 4 videos, but on a lark decided to post a comparison between various Sims game generations — and was completely surprised by the fervor of the reactions.

“In my own personal time I would play [The Sims 2] but I would never post about it, because I didn’t know if people would care,” she said. “Because I didn’t know people grew up playing it like I did. So I posted a couple videos, and they blew up and I was like, oh. That’s why I kept posting them.”

Danielle said she now regularly sees people come out to defend their Sims game of choice in the comments of her videos. Others post their own TikToks defending their favorites. The division is usually based on what game they grew up playing. The first Sims came out in 2000, the Sims 2 in 2004, and the Sims 3 in 2009, so there are some pretty clear generational markers. To Danielle, whose first Sims game was The Sims 2, there’s just something about that game that the new ones can’t quite capture.

“​​The Sims [in The Sims 2] really, they’re just so different, but in such a good way. I feel like they have their own personality,” she explained. “With The Sims 4 you can make different Sims, but they all just feel the same to me.”

This is a natural evolution for the Sims 2 fandom

The story header for Strangetown in the Sims 2 Image: Maxis / Electronic Arts

Danielle’s Sims 2 videos are often comparisons between the games, or TikToks that highlight specific gameplay elements unique to that generation of Sims. But juxtaposing the old game with the new ones isn’t the only way that Sims 2 fans celebrate their interests on TikTok.

One of the biggest Sims 2 creators on TikTok, pinokokosha, creates wordless, ambient videos with little to no accompanying text. Instead, they show clips of gameplay which weave together into a simple minute-long story. They feel a lot like short, experimental films. In one, an old couple spends some time in their idyllic home together, till the old man passes away and the woman sleeps alone in the empty bed. In another, a lone vampire Sim wakes up at night to go to his diner job and adopts a stray dog he finds on the street.

Commenters describe her videos as “Sims ASMR” and “nostalgia hits.” They are soothing and hit on iconic parts of Sims 2 gameplay that have yet to be replicated in subsequent games. In particular, they highlight minute character interactions, like couples sleeping side-by-side shifting to spoon each other in the middle of the night, toddlers sneaking out of their cribs to splash around in the toilet, and Sims awkwardly bumping noses before a sweet kiss — all little details that colored The Sims 2 and made it feel so vibrant.

Storytelling has always been a core part of the Sims fandom, but even more so with The Sims 2. The game inspired a culture of sharing original content and fanfiction via the official Sims 2 website, independent forums and blogging sites, and YouTube. Some of these stories focused on original content, but one particular hallmark of The Sims 2 was the premade characters. Every Sims game comes with them, but The Sims 2 ones have an iconic status within the fandom. Their distinct personalities, as well as the fun interconnected lore that Maxis wove into the game, made them memorable to fans.

User omgzephyr frequently creates videos about the premade characters, a mix of narrative-driven videos and funnier riffs on TikTok noises. Casanova Don Lothario is a frequent feature of omgzephyr’s videos, usually as the butt of the joke, but other staples of The Sims 2’s large cast also come into play. Others bring a more modern internet touch to the Sims 2 premades, making memes using popular TikTok audios or even cosplaying as them.

The lore goes deep, as different generations of games are interconnected. It’s been part of the Sims franchise from the very beginning. The Sims 2 characters often pop up as premade families in The Sims 4, either as downloads or in the game themselves, passing their legacy to new fans. Some TikTok creators, like bellagothstan (who’s on hiatus at the time of writing), do Wiki-style deep dives into the intricacies of The Sims 2 lore.

And then, some try to simply capture the experience of playing The Sims 2. Rather than sharing factual comparisons or “things I miss about The Sims 2,” they recreate the experience with popular audios. The Sims 2 is still the only game in the series to feature a special event camera, which played an in-game cinematic for big moments in Sims’ lives — including the first time a Sim “WooHoo’d” with another. The scene is over-the-top comical and pretty PG-13, but that didn’t stop players from being mortified when their parents walked in.

Using The Sims 2 to make music videos was also a particular hallmark of the fanbase. Sims fans still make music videos using the game, but in the days before YouTube was full of polished creators and emo music reigned supreme, there was a certain scrappy early-web earnestness to the old videos. Omgzephyr even posted a video recreating the experience.

In the comments, many fans weigh in about their faves, and wish that they could play the game too. TikTok offers a small window into the time when Sims 2 was easily accessible, with a fandom keeping up with it in real time.

It’s not that easy to play The Sims 2 in 2022

the promo header for the sims 2, featuring a wide variety of sims Image: Maxis / Electronic Arts

Unfortunately, each generation of the Sims becomes harder and harder to play. For one, it is nigh impossible to find a legal copy of the game. EA ran a promo back in 2014, where you could redeem the full Sims 2 Ultimate collection on Origin by proving you had a physical copy of the game somewhere, but the promotion officially ended in 2018. Additionally, even if you somehow procure a copy of the game, be it through an old disc, that EA promo, or a resold copy, the old software just doesn’t run on new computers the same way.

Running The Sims 2 on a new computer often means downloading mods and finagling with the game’s settings in order to get rid of black boxes and glitching graphics. Sometimes, that even means going into internal files and tweaking the code. And sometimes, even that’s not enough.

“Still, lately, my game will crash in the middle of playing,” Danielle said, after recounting the hoops she went through to fix a graphical glitch. “And I’m like, of course I forgot to save.”

But the sheer persistence of The Sims 2 fans isn’t anything new. When The Sims 3 came out, hardcore Sims 2 fans still stuck by their game on LiveJournal and Tumblr, even as the game became harder to find and play. There may not be as many fan creators for the game as there once were, but they’re still there — converting assets in The Sims 4 to The Sims 2, posting fanart, and yes, making TikToks.

The rarity of the game also attracts a nostalgic audience who can’t play it on their own. Many comments on Sims 2-related TikToks are full of people declaring that they’ve been inspired to try and play the game again. And if they can’t get their hands on the game, or can’t get it to run properly, there are certainly many in the comments willing to offer a helping hand.

“Please never stop doing these!” reads a comment on one of pinokokoshka’s videos. “You made me play The Sims 2 again!”