I’ve recently been looking at TV Tropes, which everyone says is an addicting website, and they’re right. One entry that particularly caught my eye is the one on Video Game Time, explaining how distorted the conception of time can be in some games. The Sims games are one of the examples provided, with a mention of how building skills takes place over a matter of hours, but it can sometimes take half an hour to walk across the house to the bathroom. Also, in the first two games, time really only operates properly for the household you’re currently playing, which can result in family members becoming much older than their old classmates, or even their parents. This is fixed in The Sims 3, although this is a mixed blessing; it’s more realistic, but I sometimes liked setting a household aside and coming back to it just the way it was. One element of Sim-time that isn’t addressed is how quickly Sims grow up.
In the first game, most Sims don’t age, but a baby will grow up in three days. Mind you, they’ll be three of the most stressful days of gameplay, with the social worker just waiting for you to make a mistake. In the next two games, there are both infant and toddler stages, but it’s still a little easier overall because: 1) you can hire a babysitter, and 2) you can check a baby’s mood instead of having to listen for its crying. There are indications that a Sim day is roughly equivalent to a real day, especially in terms of work and school schedules, yet a Sim progresses to the next stage in its life cycle in a matter of weeks. Even if you set a Sims 3 game to the maximum lifespan, a Sim will still only live a few years of game time (unless you cheat).
It’s pretty much necessary for the game to work that way in order for the player to observe the aging at all, but it does seem kind of funny when your childhood is only a few weeks long. It really DOES slip away quickly, doesn’t it?
Interestingly, with a lot of console role-playing games, it’s pretty much the opposite. No matter how many nights you spend at the inn, the people will still be in the same places, doing the same things, and discussing the same topics. Sometimes this is altered by a significant plot event, but even then they usually stick to the same routine after that. If you think you’re stuck in a rut, trying being an NPC. I do like how the Dragon Quest games often have day-night transition, with people going home at night, and some businesses (bars, clubs, special shops) only open then. Of course, the same thing happens every night just as it does every day, but there’s more of an illusion that these characters have something to their lives beyond telling passers-by rumors of treasures in nearby caves.
I believe this is the case for every DQ game from the third one on, with the exception of the seventh. DQ3 does have a bit of a Video Game Time element in the new town that an old man founds in America, which becomes bigger when you reach various points in the plot. I’m still not sure what these points are, though, so I usually end up seeing the town not change at all for a long time, then suddenly go through a new stage every time I leave and then enter again.