Sims Design

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Sims refers to a style of game that makes the player explore real world processes, people, events, or phenomena through game play. The inspiration for this type of games comes from the popular Electronic Arts video game called The Sims(TM). Many types of Sims-style games have been created using Agentsheets including simulations of people following a hierarchy of needs and ecosystem simulations.

Game Play

Sims-like games may allow the player to make changes to the simulation while it is running creating a dynamic simulation, while others may simply allow the player to set up the initial environment and watch the results unfold.


Sims games that students and teachers have built:


To build a Sims-like game, you can follow the Sims Tutorial.


Any simulation design should focus on the following steps:

  • Choosing the Sims Model Subject
    • Each student should choose a subject to model in their Sims game. The instructor may create a short list of subjects to model based on course standards or previous discussion topics. For example if the course is about Asian cultures, the short list may include Chinese Businessperson, Japanese Rice Farmer, Korean Fisherman.
  • Preliminary Research of Subjects
    • Students begin doing research around their chosen subjects. Initial research is done on a search engine. Students should create a preliminary hierarchy of 3-5 needs based on preliminary web research. Sources should be sited and a conclusion statement should be written and turned in with the preliminary hierarchy.
  • Research Validation and Online Collaboration
    • Students will collaborate with local and global partners and content experts via forums, online chat, or web conferencing to validate their hierarchy. If possible, students should communicate with people that closely represent their chosen subject.
  • Build Sims Game
    • Students will create a Sims style game using Agentsheets. See the Sims Tutorial.
  • Compare Subjects/Game
    • Students will review at least two other students' simulations and post comments comparing and contrasting their own subject to those of their fellow students. Students then write an essay about what they have gained from this project. Instructors may choose to create prompts for these essays or may choose to use a reflective class discussion forum instead.

Student Artifacts

  • Step 1 - Choosing a Sim Model Subject:
    • - Short description of chosen subject and why the student chose this subject.
  • Step 2 - Preliminary Research of Subjects
    • - Preliminary hierarchy of needs/motivators
    • - Sited research sources
    • - Conclusion statement (A few reflective paragraphs explaining how the hierarchy was created, how the research supported the student's choices, and what predictions the student may have about their simulation.)
  • Step 3 - Research Validation and Online Collaboration
    • - Excerpts from the forum/chat, or summary of web conferencing with online partners.
    • - Final hierarchy of needs/motivators
  • Step 4 - Use Agentsheets to build Sims Game
    • - Sim game submitted to the Scalable Game Design Arcade.
  • Step 5 - Compare Subjects/Game
    • - Compare/Contrast Comments
    • - Final Essay or Discussion Forum


This an intermediate to advanced level design. Students should already have some knowledge of tracking variables and boolean logic. Depending on the complexity of the agents created, a single agent's behavior may have many rules tracking multiple internal and global variables.

Computational Thinking Patterns

  • Collaborative Diffusion: Agents that represent a need such as food will radiate a "foodness" to allow sims to find it.
  • Collision: When a sim collides with an agent representing a need the collision will cause some effect such as reseting a variable (example hunger = 0).
  • Hill climbing: Sims will climb toward what ever need is most pertinent at the time.
  • Multiple Needs: Each sim agent will have multiple needs defined in it's behavior to tell the sim what to do.
  • Seeking: Agents may need to follow other agents that are not always in the same place for example a lion agent's need for food may require it to "hunt" or seek a zebra agent.


ISTE National Educational Technology Standards:

  • Creativity and Innovation
    • Independently research a complex real-world topic using online resources (e.g., websites, databases, e-mail, and online forums).
    • Summarize the state of knowledge about a challenge related to that topic.
    • Analyze existing knowledge and develop and capture new ideas (e.g., using search tools to analyze text, spreadsheets to tabulate and chart numerical data, or graphic organizers to create concept maps).
    • Outline existing knowledge and pose questions to facilitate extending knowledge by creating digital artifacts that:
      • demonstrates conceptual understanding
      • expresses the student's opinion
      • creates predictions of possible outcomes based on digital information
    • Extend knowledge by developing new products or processes.
    • Use simulations, databases, graphic organizers, and mathematical models to depict and predict the behavior of complex systems.
  • Communication and Collaboration
    • Collaborate with peers and field-specific experts to research a critical issue applying effective research strategies, appropriate digital tools for the task(s), field-testing component(s); and publication of results to interested individuals and through appropriate networks.
    • Collaborate with local and global partners and content experts to develop multimedia presentations incorporating a variety of media elements (i.e., clip art, movie, animation, graphs, concept maps, etc.) to clearly illustrate, explain, explore, and demonstrate an assigned concept, principle, or procedure appropriate for specific audiences.
    • Engage in collaborative research with students and experts from other countries to develop cultural understanding by exploring sophisticated global issues. Create a product that increases global understanding for others.
    • Collaborate to research, select, and apply advanced technology resources (e.g., expert systems, intelligent agents, real-world models and simulations) to investigate a real-world problem or issue. Share findings through real-time and/or recorded demonstrations to classmates and a broader audience online.
  • Research and Information Fluency
    • Define a research thesis or issue for investigation. Describe diverse strategies for gathering information, analyzing data, reaching a conclusion or making recommendation(s). Reflect on results from above step. Justify your selection of strategies for guiding inquiry.
    • Apply efficient and effective search strategies for locating digital resources for use in a collaborative real-world research project. Organize and synthesize data to support conclusions. Document sources using techniques appropriate for digital publication.
  • Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
    • Apply technology-based problem-solving strategies (e.g., simulations, visual representations, modularity). Select appropriate tools to solve a problem and report/disseminate results.
    • Apply targeted research, sampling techniques, simulations, and critical-thinking skills to determine how varying circumstances, resources, beliefs, and other factors related to specific locations or communities may affect decisions and/or solutions/practices.
  • Digital Citizenship
    • Lead, organize, and facilitate use of collaboration and communications tools among group members to achieve team goals.
    • Select and apply technology resources to support personal growth, lifelong learning, and career needs.
    • Explore the social, ethical, and legal issues related to the use of technology resources locally and globally.
  • Technology Operations and Concepts
    • Routinely apply a variety of technology systems related to specific subject-matter learning (e.g., electronic microscopes, probes, and multifunction calculators, robotics, MIDI, e-books; geographical information systems, electronic databases). Actively interface with technology at both the hardware and software levels (e.g., programming, robotics). Use fundamental algorithmic thinking strategies (e.g., conditional branching, modularization, recursion).
    • Adapt and use advanced skills to make efficient and effective use of current technology resources.
    • Support and assist others in learning new technologies and advanced features of current technologies.

Grading Requirements