Sims have a habit of catching on fire. The strongest memory I have from when I first played Sims 1 as a child was the sudden panic after turning away from the computer screen for one second I returned to find a panicked Sim surrounded by fire and lamenting that I had not installed fire alarms to alert firefighters to save her. Needless to say the first game of Sims I ever played did not go well, as ultimately my carelessness resulted in death by fire for my Sim.
The Sims games are currently on their 4th release and have hundreds of expansions, however with each new release the possibility to accidently cause mass havoc actually has decreased.
In Sims 1, Sims would die frequently, and easily, if you did not keep your eye out. I did not lose just one character to fire, there were many victims. I also lost Sims to electrocution, drowning, starvation, and the occasional guinea pig disease. However by Sims 3 the most common way to lose Sims was to old age.
With so many expansions and versions the number of ways to die in Sims has increased, however as the game has advanced, death has become easier for Sims to escape. For the sake of simplicity for this analysis I am focusing on death by fire, because it is a common death present in all four adaptions of the Sims.
As I have stated Sims 1 was the easiest game to experience death by fire. In a few rare chances the firefighters were able to save my Sims, but most often this was not the case. Sims 1 offered a gritty view of reality where if you caught on fire you panicked and quickly died. If you consider Sims as being a representation of simulated humanity then an accident with flames apparently has to end in calamity.
By Sims 2 the odds get better. Fire is slightly less common and simpler to combat in Sims 2, and could be put out easier. Sims 2 also introduced a variety of more ages than the original game had offered, but still at any age bad cooks mean threats for fire. Interestingly enough in Sims 2 the ages children to elder can die from fire, but not babies or toddlers. (I would just like to make it clear that I did not intentionally ever try to set babies or toddlers afire, and I promise that all fire deaths were accidental) Despite the unrealistic aspect that babies are immune to fire, Sims 2 started a trend of trying to imitate life more closely.
Sims 3 however was far less concerned with reality. If Sims 1 was highly pessimistic of how long people can survive before dying from fire, Sims 3 was too optimistic. In Sims 3 after an hour of burning alive the Sim finally dies, of course since it takes so long it is almost impossible for Sims to die from fire. There is less need for a panicked immediate reaction to the Sim catching on fire, since there is more time to save the Sim. Therefore in Sims 3 it is more realistic that Sims do not die instantly however it is over optimistic for just how long they can survive.
The Sims 4 game represents fire closest to reality of all the games. Taking more then a minute but less than an hour Sims have a chance to avoid death. Finally the game has reached the point were it is more accurately simulating reality. In fact it has even reached the point where fire can move through walls and spread more organically. However Sims 4 is still rather new and as expansions are released it could be that death by fire is changed to be less realistic in the future.
In general as the Sims games have improved in how they try to present the danger of fire with each now game. However there is still one potentially faulty aspect that exists in all the Sims games, this is the Sims reactions to fire. If you adhere to the old adage that humans inherently are prone to fight or flight, as fact then Sims come off as rather inhuman. In any of the games when fire breaks out Sims do not run away or try to put the fire out unless you specifically command them to. Instead all the Sims run to the fire and panic. This is a direct contradiction with human nature. While panic may cause someone to freeze and be unable to run away, usually people do not run towards theirs fears and then proceed to freak out. While Sims may be getting closer at better representing the dangers of fire it certainly has not gotten close to perfect human simulation. A part of this is most likely done purposefully to establish risk and make sure you are keeping an eye on your Sims. However the Sims games still have quite a ways to go before the Sim characters will know what to do with fire.
Ultimately Sims is a game ruled by consequences, where not supervising a unskilled cook results in fires, and not spending money on a fire alarm or phone means no help from the fire department. Just like real life if you are not careful you could burn your home down. The variety of consequences for normal situations that Sims suffer from may make the games less realistic, but ultimately that may be the games real draw for players. Having to rescue your idiotic little Sims from peril may be one of the reasons why fire has stayed as a central issue in the game. However it would be very interesting if in the future there was the possibility to create a Sim who does not panic at fire and knows what to do. This would bring more reality to the game, if in an entire group of Sims the majority panicked but there was a chance that one Sim would have the brains to either run away or put the fire out without being directed.