The next expansion for The Sims 4 introduces a brand-new location, called Evergreen Harbor, where, for the first time, players’ actions will have a direct impact on the environment. The expansion, called Eco Lifestyle, will let players embrace a green lifestyle through gardening, renewable energy, and new features like upcycling goods to something new. It’s a game where you can clean up the neighborhood by switching to solar power or farming insects for sustainable food. But you can also go in the other direction, with a neighborhood blanketed by smog and covered in trash. According to producer George Pigula, the reason you can explore both sides is simple: the game is more of a storytelling tool than an educational one.
“We were really excited to make a world with more grime.”
“We were really excited to make a world with more grime in it and a lot of players are also excited about that,” he explains. “Plenty of our previous worlds have been ideal and beautiful, which is fantastic. There are a lot of stories that need a setting with a bit more trash blowing through the streets. The world of Evergreen Harbor delivers on that, and we are really excited to see the player creations there. We don’t push the player to travel down any path. They are going to play multiple games and won’t always tell the same story. We make sure that whichever story they want to tell, they have fun doing it. Our concern has always been to make the stories the players choose to tell fun for them.”
Pigula says that the eco-friendly concept is one the Sims team had been playing with for years. Eco Lifestyle includes the usual Sims upgrades like more career paths (including civil designer and freelance crafter), a new community-oriented space, and activities like beekeeping, dew collecting, and even growing cruelty-free meat on an incredibly disturbing meat wall. Perhaps the biggest change, though, is the addition of an “eco footprint,” which tracks not only an individual’s actions, but also the way the neighborhood as a whole is constructed and the various policies its residents vote on. Depending on your footprint, you can end up with a very different experience.
“Your sims can have a neutral impact and continue to source their utilities from the grid,” Pigula explains. “They can go green by using alternatives like solar, wind, or dew collectors. Or they can go Industrial by using fuel based utility generation. We also included all kinds of daily actions the sims take that can feed into this system. For example, gardening helps the eco-footprint go green. Having a bonfire pushes it a little more industrial. Launching a rocket out of your backyard, well, that contributes a bit more to an industrial footprint.”
Essentially, the idea is that, no matter which direction you go in, something interesting should happen. As another example, Pigula cites the way bills work in the expansion. This time around, your sims’ bills are broken down into three categories: taxes, water, and power. And depending on how you play, this can create some new dynamics. “You can use your bills to motivate your sims to play off the grid and generate their own utilities,” he says. “Or, maybe you use it as a motivation to drive your world towards an industrial eco footprint where you can make much more money selling power from your fuel burning generators.”
“We’re always giving players a choice to create their own stories the way they want.”
All this said, while there’s fun to be had ignoring the environment — and maybe even a few gameplay bonuses — that doesn’t mean expansion won’t have any educational value. Pigula describes games like The Sims as spaces where players can explore and experiment with different ideas “without judgement.” Eco Lifestyle may not necessarily advocate one way or the other, but it can show the impact of certain decisions — even if it does so in a typically silly Sims way.
“I feel that experiences like Eco Lifestyle can help educate our players about the different ways you can be eco-friendly and more sustainable for different aspects of life,” Pigula explains. “And it’s a common theme for The Sims in that we’re always giving players a choice to create their own stories the way they want. It’s definitely up to them if some of those in-game choices transfer into the real world, but it’s empowering nonetheless.”
The Eco Lifestyle expansion will be available on June 5th.