Jul 26, 2010: The Valley of the Sun is a completed story told through the Sims 3. I read Alice and Kev a while back, and while both stories use images from the game for illustration, VotS is not a simple observational story. It has an author generated plot. The story begins with a reporter named Lilith being given the assignment of researching an old abandoned house that has had mysterious lights on at night. Soon people begin dying, and Lilith is the prime suspect. Someone or something seems to be invading her mind and controlling her.
The story is told primarily through pictures with only minimal text. There are many instances of just images narrating the story. I am intrigued by the whole Sims storytelling process. I’m not sure how the story is exactly generated. Alice and Kev is simple straight observation. The author watched what her Sims did and narrated their actions and feelings. Here the author must have directed each character’s actions, created the settings, and then took snapshots. I don’t know how difficult that is, though I imagine it takes some skill. This style of storytelling seems fairly robust and highly adaptable. I continue to be intrigued by this format, though it is not something I feel capable of mastering.
I cannot comment on the game manipulation to create this story, only on the end product, and while I don’t know Sims, the game well, I do have some understanding of story. Much of the story has Lilith in a dream-like trance which is interesting and well presented, but there is not much in the way of plot, background, or general explanation. At the end, the story just stops, and we are left to interpret what might have happened. This is dangerous because thinking back over the story, I began to wonder about things like how the villain gained so much power, what his ultimate endgame was, what did life fruit do, did he ever harvest some, and what exactly happened at the end anyway are all questions left unanswered. A good mystery has a big denouement at the end, but none happens here. At the end, I couldn’t tell what was happening from the silent images: what was real and what wasn’t were lost on me. It seems the villain was thwarted, but I didn’t realize it until reading over the comments on the last chapter.
At the end of the story, I was left with a hollow feeling that answers should have filled. I read this story eagerly with the hope of finding out what was going on. When no explanation materialized, I was quite disappointed. Reading Valley of the Sun was an interesting experience using a dynamic format, but the story did not gel. I appreciate what the author was trying to accomplish, but it shouldn’t require reading the comments to understand.
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