Monday, August 4, 2014

The Sims 4 Creators Camp Overview

In July, I received an invitation to participate in The Sims 4 Creators Camp at EA's headquarters in Redwood Shores, California just outside San Francisco. I could not believe my eyes. I literally had to catch my breath, read, and re-read my email twenty plus times to believe this was really happening. After all the concerns I expressed in various forums and even directly to EA itself. After all of that, they actually extended their hand and invited me there. If anything, I expected to be served with a restraining order! First, I was incredibly humbled as I've learned so much about being a creator from other artists in the Sims community. Second, it has given me quite a different outlook on EA as this ambiguous corporate entity. The Sims 4 team is made up of so many warm, extremely talented and thoughtful people who don't just want us fans to suck up to them and say what we think they want to hear. They are genuinely interested in our opinions and perspectives. And many of you know, I have some pretty strong opinions! It's just nice to know that voicing my opinions (and voicing yours) matters to them. It really does. That means a lot to me--to know that I can express my feelings, and that makes me all the more welcome in this community I'm so honored to be a part of, of which all of you are included.

I flew out to San Francisco on Monday, July 28 from Newark, NJ. I was so excited on the flight, I couldn't sleep. So I jotted down some thoughts and questions to ask during the week knowing I would forget them otherwise in all of the excitement. Once I arrived at the airport and found my missing suitcase (long story), I rushed for a cab to get to the hotel in time for our welcome reception. There, I immediately ran into several familiar faces from my time at Sims Camp the year before including my friends from SF Magazine, Sims VIP, and Sim Supply. I dropped off my suitcase, then made my way to the reception in the lobby where I met even more friends from the year before, friends I had made online in the Sims community over the years, and new friends. I even met the legendary SimGuruHydra, the wonderful, supportive force behind so many in the Sims creative community including the magazine I work on, SF Magazine. Drinks, hors d'oevres, and plumbob-shaped cake pops awaited us on the terrace as all of the invitees convened for catching up, meeting, and getting to know each other before the big week. Sara De Moor surprised me with a box of Belgian chocolates, so I figured my diet could always start afterwards. Ruthless_KK treated me to a shot glass wrapped in the colors of the Texas flag that said, "Don't Mess with Texas." Minraed from Simatography gave me a very thoughtful card and a magnet for the Sims International Film Festival (SIFF). And Daniel from gave me a … oh wait, he actually didn't give me anything. Not to worry, I didn't expect the gift exchange and came empty-handed myself. 

Photo courtesy of MM from The Sim Series
Photo courtesy of MM from The Sim Series

Belgian chocolates from Sara De Moor, a "Don't Mess With Texas" shot glass from Ruthless_KK, and a thoughtful card and SIFF magnet from Minraed

After stuffing our faces, many of those who had never visited San Francisco before left for an excursion to see the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. I had seen all of that before, so I stayed behind and went with some friends to the nearby supermarket to pick up some refreshments for the week. It was a fun time to catch up with friends. With many of us jet-lagged, we went to bed early that night so we could wake up early the next morning for the first day of Creators Camp.

All of us met in the hotel lobby that morning where we took a group photo and SimGuruHydra led us on our way to the EA Studio. EA was just a short walk away, and I marveled at what a paradise it was for whoever was lucky enough to work there. Video screens, large action figures, and a huge green-glowing plumbob were on display in the lobby. When the CEO of EA strolled by in jeans and an oxford shirt, unnoticed by all but me, I knew this was a casual and laid back place to work. Working our way through the campus, we made our way past displays of concept art, more larger-than-life action figures, a Starbucks, office windows with plumbobs and mischievous garden gnomes, a large lawn, gym, and cafeteria. There was even a garden where staff could grow their own vegetables. Our home for the next week was in the gym, decked out with dining tables with green table cloths, a large breakfast buffet, huge screen and platform for our speakers, a step-and-repeat photo backdrop like you might see at a movie premiere, and numerous computer terminals where we would get our hands-on experience with the game.


James from Sim Supply


Photo courtesy of MM from The Sim Series

I see a plumbob and garden gnomes.


SimGuruRiley, one of the animators for The Sims 4, could not contain her excitement and gave us the most heartfelt welcome. Meeting her gave us a glimpse of what an enthusiastic team there was behind the game. And every person from the team that spoke with us and met with us afterwards during the week proved just the same. Every single person I met on the team was truly passionate about making the game the best possible experience for all of us. They would continuously check in with us to see what we thought, good and bad, about the game. There were feedback forms and even a feedback session at the end of the week. And many of the team members spent their evenings with us, too, sharing stories and laughs over dinner. We had several masterclasses including Create A Sim with Jill Johnson (SimGuruJill), Building with Aaron Houts (SimGuruHouts) and John Berges (SimGuruJohn), Animation with Marion Gothier (SimGuruMarion), Modding with Darren Gyles and Lyndsay Pearson (SimGuruLyndsay), Screenshot and Video Capture with Todd Stallkamp and Jonathan Richardson, and How to Toy with a Sims's Emotions with Grant Rodiek (SimGuruGrant). 

Aaron Houts and John Berges 
Rosie from The Sims Network with Rachel Franklin

Lyndsay Pearson

Somehow, I made it onto a local news program featuring Creators Camp and other attendees! I cringe to hear my voice, but check it out if you so desire: A look at The Sims 4 through shared content creation.

Photo courtesy of Luana Tavares

After the first day of Creators Camp, we were treated to delicious grilled cheese varieties with Sims-inspired names. More great dinner gatherings followed throughout the week including a trip to a local Tex-Mex restaurant and bingo night on the EA Campus. The bingo games came with fun Sims prizes like plumbob headbands, vintage games and paraphernalia, and a juice pong set. 

I'll have the Plumbob.

Photo courtesy of MM from The Sim Series

I didn't want the week to end. I remember watching the clock as I scrambled to finish my mammoth mansion project. I could have stayed there all night. And it was tough to say goodbye to longtime and new friends. Some of us even shed a few tears. That's how much the week and the entire experience meant to us. I will always treasure the memories from the week and being able to spend time with so many creators and artists who continually inspire and teach me. Many thanks to EA and the Maxis team for making the week possible. It meant the world to me.

Me with Ange from Simsoucis. Photo courtesy of Simsoucis

Other Participants:

Sim Supply (Australia)

Sara De Moor (Belgium)

The Sim Series (Brazil)

Simatography (Canada)

Dark Funeral (France)

Garry's School (France)

L'UniversSims (France)

Lesime (France)

Sims Artists (France)

Sim Cookie (France)

Simsoucis (France)

Gronkh (Germany) (Germany)

The Sims Times (Germany)

Babylonia (Korea)

Salamul Heyo (Korea)

Sims Network (Netherlands)

Sasha Spilberg (Russia)

Pekesims (Spain)

ChrillSims3 (Sweden)

EnglishSimmer (United Kingdom)

Rachybop (United Kingdom)

The Sims Resource (United Kingdom)

Ehaught58 (United States)
Ruthless_KK (United States)

SF Magazine (United States)

Sims VIP (United States)

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