Suspend Your Disbelief

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Sims, meet literature. Literature, meet The Sims.

NMAs depiction of Chris Brown on Good Morning America.

NMA's depiction of Chris Brown on Good Morning America.

Perhaps you’ve seen the work of Next Media Animation, which animates recent news stories into (unintentionally?) hilarious Sims-style 3-D video clips. (Seriously. If you haven’t seen these before, check them out now. Go ahead. I’ll wait right here.)

Anyway, now this 3-D technology is being used for something educational. The New York Times reports that college literature classes are using 3-D animations to bring literature to life for students:

Prof. Katherine Rowe’s blue-haired avatar was flying across a grassy landscape to a virtual three-dimensional re-creation of the Globe Theater, where some students from her introductory Shakespeare class at Bryn Mawr College had already gathered online. Their assignment was to create characters on the Web site Theatron3 and use them to block scenes from the gory revenge tragedy “Titus Andronicus,” to see how setting can heighten the drama.

Lord of the Rings skins for The Sims 3

Lord of the Rings skins for The Sims 3

I wondered if 3-D renderings of other works of literature would also help relcutant readers immerse themselves in books. Or if writers might use 3-D renderings to brainstorm new ideas for their plots, in the same way that some writers like to sketch or doodle their characters. So imagine my delight when a quick Google search showed me that both of these things are already happening.

Lit-loving Sims fans have created skins (think of them as costumes for your character) based on their favorite books—like these Lord of the Rings–based skins or these based on the Twilight books.

Elizabeth Bennet skin for The Sims 3

"Elizabeth Bennet" skin for The Sims 3

And it’s not just sci-fi and fantasy novels, either. Sims players have created in-game houses based on those in Pride and Prejudice and skins for characters. Here’s one player’s take on Elizabeth Bennett. (Another’s Mr. Rochester has the in-game characteristics “Grumpy, Heavy Sleeper, Brave, Charismatic, Hopeless Romantic.”)

One Sims player even admitted to using her Sims to reenact her favrite books:

I’ve spent hours creating new Sims families or recreating my favourite book/movie characters as Sims.

Honest ! I had my Jane Eyre Sim (married to my Edward Rochester Sim, of course), my Charlotte Brontë Sim (together with her sisters and most of my favourite authors), most of Jane Austen’s characters as Sims (ah… Captain Frederick Wentworth…), and that is only to speak about the Sims I mainly have played with.

And, conversely, some gamers are using the game to help them generate fiction of their own. The “Well Read Sims” group on LiveJournal is

a community for people who’ve created Sims stories of characters from books, movies, or any work of fiction. Photographs of Dolores Umbridge being hit by a satellite, Aragorn being electrocuted, the ghost of Christmas Past scaring the @%$# out of Scrooge, Jack Sparrow walking around starkers, Spock getting snogged by the mailman, the vampire Lestat scrounging a midnight snack (in the fridge, not that!), Buffy marrying Tarzan, Lady Macbeth having a catfight with Catwoman…

Members have posted links and excerpts to their own original fiction based on their Sims, including fanfiction like lost chapters of Harry Potter novels and literary mashups. There hasn’t been much happening there the past few years, but I bet there are more sites out there like this one…

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