I Caught on Fire Again: Fire in Sims


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.

A Sim in Sims 1 panicking about a fire
A Sim in Sims 1 panicking about a fire


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.

The Sims
Fire in Sims 3


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.


Instead of running from fire Sims always run to it and freak out
Instead of running from fire Sims always run to it and freak out in Sims 3



  12 comments for “I Caught on Fire Again: Fire in Sims

  1. blissfulmomo
    January 29, 2015 at 10:38 pm

    I thought the subject matter of this blog post was really interesting. It’s cool that you chose to break down this subject. I never really noticed the fire as a fixation point before. Although I would have like to see more information on how fires work (specifically kitchen fires) and different kinds of burns. Seeing as you are at one point comparing real life to the Sims game and I would have liked to see other comparative examples. I would have also liked to hear about what they replace the fire with in the recent games. Since you mentioned that chances of fire have decreased with recent games. Sims is a great game that highly stresses almost an important aspect in taking care of something and being aware of things. So I feel fire is a great example to analyze in these aspects.

  2. kmorgan4
    January 29, 2015 at 11:20 pm

    Part of me wants to contribute this phenomenon to the developers of the game either no wanting players to be homicidal maniacs or wanting players to have a chance to achieve something with their Sim before they die. In an article I read (http://gamestudies.org/0601/articles/griebel) they talk about and actually did an experiment on how people put their values and personalities into the game. So the changes in ways to kill yourself might be attributed to the growing interests in creating goals for your Sims and building your houses and neighborhoods. As far as my personal experience goes, when I was a kid playing the first Sims, I would close mine in the middle of a room with no doors and fill it with stuff until it caught fire. I think this was also the one where you could run around as a ghost afterwards and spook people. But in these newer versions of the Sims, the entertainment I get out of it comes more from building and decorating my house, and adding certain values to my Sims to have them achieve certain goals. My favorite goal to date is owning the whole town and having no job. 🙂

  3. Meghan Cardwell
    January 29, 2015 at 11:48 pm

    Ohhhh, Sims. I will never tire of finding new and wild ways to cause my wonderful little characters as much distress as possible. Does that make me a virtual sociopath? Maybe. But come on, the best aspect of the Sims is that you’re basically their God. And where’s the fun in being God if you can’t wreak a little havoc sometimes? 😉 I like that you focused on fire. Sims seem to be awful at knowing how to handle this element, and like you said, they do the exact opposite of what they’re supposed to do by running toward it. I wonder to myself, why did the game developers even let this happen? Are they just as sadistic as us? I’m curious as to how they’ll react to fire when newer games get released, but personally, I would find it boring if they acted like regular humans. Part of the fun of the Sims is watching them do their weird stuff!

  4. isolemnlyswear
    January 30, 2015 at 3:13 am

    The whole idea of torturing Sims is very interesting to me. I think because they react so over the top to certain things allows the player to be God and basically reek havoc. Even though you can customize the characters and they have human elements, they are different, giving the player the ability to separate the game from reality.

    I like how you used fire to show the differences in each of the games. I think it shows how the Sims has evolved and how far they have to go before they can be the “perfect human simulation”. I wonder if there are any other elements that show the differences in each game and how the game increasingly becomes more human as time goes on. I found your topic very interesting and your argument was presented really well.

  5. rajonnine
    January 30, 2015 at 5:27 am

    This blog post reminds me of the silly mistakes that my friend would make and die because of the fire when he played the Sims game haha. I really loved how you stayed on your topic throughout your whole blog post. Especially you talked about the evolution of the Sims game through the years of it and how death can’t capture you now easily. Particularly from what you said, “…death has become easier for Sims to escape” makes it easier for the user to play and not die in a simple mistake like by the fire. Although in your blog post that you described each game, you could have compared some reality examples to the game. The reason is because even though Sims is a virtual game, you’re playing it like it’s a reality game. Everything in it is comparable to the reality world. It’s just a virtual game when playing but a practice for the real world since the increased improvement of the game has gotten better with the graphics and more.

  6. aicee
    January 30, 2015 at 12:36 pm

    THIS SIM IS ON FIAHH!! sorry, had to get that out of my system (and I think it would have made a wonderful title… just throwing that unwanted opinion at you)

    I am not an avid Sims player, however as a dabbler I can attest to unexpected Sim death. I think it might have been interesting to hear more about the affects of death itself in the Sims world and if there are any specific consequences to it, and I agree with blissfulmomo that some more real-life parallels might have been cool, but I understand that while you did mention real life a bit the focus was more the development of the idea of fire throwout the new generations. I know there is no support for this, but I used to think that when a catastrophe happened and all the sims gathered and panicked it was like a comparison to the part of today’s generation that are spectators that panic at awful current events and are very vocal on social media and when casually talking, but never actually act.

    All that being said, I agree with every idea you presented in the final paragraph and really enjoyed that they were all new ideas and points to me. I would love to see a new Sims game where one of the traits was something like “critical thinker”.

  7. Julia Michels
    January 30, 2015 at 1:58 pm

    Interesting! I hadn’t really considered any of this before, but as I was reading, I did wonder if you were going to mention the part about Sims running towards the fire, as that is something I had noticed again recently, and something that always frustrated me, having to constantly pause and order Sims away from the fire until the fire truck arrived. To your argument, I suppose it’s worth considering whether people enjoy the Sims games more as a simulation that is the most realistic, and the closest to our real lives, or whether it is preferred as a realistic game, where players can control the lives and play out fantasies with characters that resemble real people. After all, for many, playing video games can be a form of escaping our real lives, which, of course, is what made the Sims such an unexpected hit, as it almost seems an opportunity to play out a realistic life, but also to have far more control over it than we have over our real lives.

    Either way, your analysis is very interesting, and I find myself wondering both how this plays out in the alternative death possibilities, as well as for players who seemed more inclined to want their Sims to die.

  8. rselbrede
    February 10, 2015 at 8:08 pm

    So, I definitely focused a bit more on a very small part of your article, but it made me think nonetheless. You mentioned how in the first Sims, it was much easier to die from random accidents. You also said how as more Sims have been released, it has become much more difficult for your sim to die from anything other than old age. This stuck out to me because it is kind of how history has worked. As we have gotten better technology and understanding of science, people have begun to live longer and die from old age much like the later Sims, also a product of better technology. So, I think the parallel between history and what happens in the Sims is pretty interesting!

  9. February 12, 2015 at 4:39 pm

    I love the Sims, although I’m mostly only familiar with The Sims 3. In the Sims 3, there’s some expansion pack I believe (it might be Seasons) where meteors randomly fall from the sky and kill or burn your sim. In some ways, the freak accident aspect of it adds a level of realism to the game, but it’s also something that you can’t avoid if it happens and there’s no solution to. It’s a lot of chance, which is interesting to think about when you’re basically playing God. Does that mean that even God isn’t in control of everything? Also, I know that if you have a sim with the Brave trait, they will try and put the fire out, which is very interesting and tends to add more commotion to the sims who are already standing around the person on fire dancing and screaming. It’s very interesting that going into labor and fire both cause all the sims in the vicinity of the person needing help to just freak out until the player tells them to do something, but often times the player can’t really do anything because the options are limited. I think who has agency and how much in this game is very interesting to think about.

  10. Brianna H.
    February 12, 2015 at 6:16 pm

    I remember playing The Sims 2 for the first time: one of the pre-made families I was playing completely collapsed in on itself after the wife caught her husband cheating and left the lot. Then I commanded the male Sim to cook something and he subsequently burned himself and one of his teen daughters to death. I was both surprised and highly amused by this sudden turn of events because it added to the drama of the situation for this specific family. The Sims franchise definitely adds a lot to the video game cruelty potential because it allows players to literally control everything about their characters’ lives, and most humans enjoy causing misery without doing actual harm in real life; thus The Sims games gives them a chance to do this by killing them off in various ways. The fire death of my family was purely accidental, as it was my first-time playing the game, but I eventually went on to locking my Sims in rooms with no doors where they starve to death, drown them in pools by taking the ladder away, and even using cheats to access strange deaths such as death by flies or lower Sims’ hunger bars (I was a pretty sadistic player, I’ll admit it). Deaths such as these allow the game to take on a real life approach without too much of the messy stuff (like how pregnancy in The Sims lasts for only a few days), giving players a real-life experience while escaping real life.

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