Sims 3 Primer Guide

Playing God isn't easy. Get the scoop on how to manage your virtual family in The Sims 3!


Life is hard. Between school, work, friends, family--it's a lot to manage. And now you'll get the chance do it all again virtually with The Sims 3! In short, it's up to you to provide guidance to your family of Sims. You'll be there every step of the way, from the day they move into their new home, acquire a job, find their true love, have kids, it's all in your hands. Now playing God isn't easy, so our Sims 3 primer will help get you up to speed with the ins and outs of life in Simville.

Here's what you'll find in GameSpot's Sims 3 Primer Guide:


Before you can move in and start living your virtual life, you need to create your very first Sim (or Sims, up to eight, if you so desire)! This little guy or gal will depend on you for guidance throughout their life, and that guidance begins now, in the Create-a-Sim mode, where you can mold them into the exact type of person you want them to be. However, if creating a Sim isn't quite your thing, you can select one of several pre-made Sims by clicking the large "Pre-made Sims" button along the bottom toolbar (the one with the six silhouettes inside). Alternatively, you can also have one created at random by clicking the bottom button of the left toolbar.

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There are five main in categories in which you can customize your Sim, and several more sub-categories for each. Here's a quick rundown of the options available:

-Skin Tone
-Body Modifiers

-Hair / Hair with Accessories
-Eyebrows and Eyelashes
-Facial Hair (males only)

-Head and Ears
-Topical Details


-Traits and Wishes
-Favorites and Voice

Now here's the most important thing: the only categories that affect gameplay are "basics" and "personality"--everything else merely relates to your physical appearance, which is entirely superficial. In short, other Sims will judge you only on how you act, and not how you look (if only the real-world were the same), so feel free to go nuts and design your characters however you like.

Basics (Gender, Age)

The Basic section is where you change the very fundamentals of who your Sim is, such as their name, skin tone, and physical body size. The two remaining options, Gender and Age, are the only ones that impact the choices available to you during the game. For instance, only adults can get jobs and fall in love. Your age also impacts how many traits you can assign; adults and above can be assigned five traits, while fewer traits can be assigned to younger Sims. But age isn't constant, as your Sims do grow older--you can check when their birthday is via the "Simology" panel. In addition, you can also force a Sim to the next stage of their life at any time by hosting a birthday party! To host a birthday party, purchase a birthday cake from either the grocery store of the "outdoor activities" set of "Buy Mode" (more on that later).

Note: If you choose to create either a toddler, child, or teen, as your first Sim, you will have to create a second, older Sim as well to act as a guardian. And if you ever wish to leave the house without toddler in tow, you'll have to hire a babysitter (which costs money!). So keep this in mind.

Hair, Looks, Clothing

Once you've determined your Sims gender, age, and body type, it's time to get on the particulars! As the names suggest, "hair" allows you to change not just their hair style, but color as well! You can also choose to wear a hat, if you so wish. "Looks" is where you go to change your Sims' facial appearance, allowing you to change their eye color, nose shape, makeup, and more! Finally, "clothing" allows you to deck your Sim out in the latest fashions...or fashion faux pas! Hey, who's going to stop you if you want to run around in a swim suit while wearing boots all day?

Personality (Traits, Lifetime Wishes)


As mentioned, Personality is the only other category of the Create-a-Sim process that actually impacts how the game is played, and as such, is the one of most importance. This is where you decide your Sim's traits, or in other words, what makes them who they are. These strongly impact how your Sim goes about their life, how they socialize, their skill set, and what they desire. Each Sim can be assigned between 2-5 traits, dependent on age. The older they are, the more traits that can be assigned from the get-go. However, as long as you keep your younger Sims happy, you'll be able to assign new traits as they grow and enter new stages of their life. In addition, Sims might even pick up other's traits simply by interacting with them!

While there are dozens of traits, they all fall within one of four main categories: Mental, Physical, Social, and Lifestyle. While the vast amount of traits available to you might seem overwhelming at first, the game provides a handy description for each one as you mouse-over them. It's crucial that you choose these traits carefully, as again, they will strongly impact how your Sim behaves. For instance, if you want your Sim to live an active life, it's probably not a good idea to assign them the "Couch Potato" trait. But then again, mixing and matching can be part of the fun! However, do keep in mind that some traits cannot be combined if they directly conflict with one another, such as "daredevil" and "coward."

Once you've selected your traits, you'll notice the "Lifetime Wishes" just below have been automatically filled out! These are the longterm goals that your Sim most desires--fulfilling them will award your Sim with Lifetime Happiness Points, allowing you access to new objects or traits.

Mid-Life Crisis! Are you unhappy with how your Sim has turned out? If you garner enough Lifetime Happiness Points, you'll be able to purchase the "Mid-Life Crisis" reward, which allows you to reset your Sim's personality to whatever you like.

Traits Impact on Careers

Okay, this is where it can get slightly confusing. Although traits don't directly impact your career choice, they do affect your ability to acquire new skills. And since different careers emphasize different skills, the traits you choose should be treated as the building blocks on which you will base your career.


Everyone has their favorite something and this is where you determine your Sim's favorites, such as food, music, and color. Exposing them to their favorite things can enhance their mood more than similar things, which aren't their favorites, otherwise might. You can also change your Sim's voice too, though this is purely superficial.

Relationships of the Sims

Once you've built your Sims family, you can assign assign relationships on the next screen by dragging one Sim's icon over another, which will bring up a menu letting you define how they're related.

Build / Buy Mode

Alright, now that you've created your Sim (or perhaps a whole family of Sims), it's time to move into your new home! The map screen presents you with every available house or lot. Homes are pre-built and ready to go (and you can even choose to have them automatically furnished!), so it's recommended for beginners. However, lots are cheaper, but you'll have to build the home yourself (which can be costly, in the long run). If you just want to get started, choosing a home is your best bet, but if you want to try out the creation tools, the lot's the way to go (check out our "Build Mode" section for more information).

Build Mode

Build Mode is where you go to--get this--build things! And if you purchased a lot as your first property, your first task should be to build a home. To access "Build Mode," simply click the icon on the bottom toolbar with a picture of a saw and paintbrush. The pane to the right should now display several icons, such as a house, tree, pool, etc. Clicking on any one of those icons will open up a sub-menu allowing you to choose a specific item or style of that selection. For instance, if you click on the door icon, you will then be able to select from one of several different doors to choose from, though the fancier ones tend to be more expensive, but we're getting ahead of ourselves...

When it comes to homes, it's usually best to start off by building the walls, to lay the blueprint for the house. Simply click the wall portion of the 'house' icon to get stared!

Building Tip! We found it's easiest to layout your house by looking directly down upon it. So try moving the camera directly overhead either by holding down the click-wheel and moving the mouse, or using the camera-buttons on the left-side of the bottom toolbar. And remember, you can zoom in by scrolling the mouse-wheel.

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Having selected the wall tool, simply click and drag to create your first wall! (just make sure to stay within the green tiles, marking your property line.) Pretty easy, huh? Now go ahead and create a few more to establish your home's footprint. Just try not to make it your home too large (use your neighbors homes as a good size-gauge), as you're short on cash, and you'll need some left over in order to furnish the place! With the walls in place, your next step should be to create the individual rooms. Select the "Create Room" icon (looks like a box), just below the wall tool. This will allow you to easily create rooms, which are automatically walled-in.

Alright, so you've laid the foundation, but it still needs a roof! Click the large "back" arrow to return to the "build" screen and select the "roof" icon. Now the absolute easiest method, and the one we recommend for beginners is to enable the "auto roof" option, in the bottom-pane. This allows you to simply select the style of roof you'd like, without having to worry about actually building it. But if you want to take a more hands-on approach, you can do so as well in a manner similar to building walls.

Okay, so your house now has walls and a roof--you're in pretty good shape. But there's still a few things it's missing, like doors. Adding doors couldn't be easier: simply click the "door" icon in the "build" menu, choose your style of door, then drag it to the wall you'd like to place it. Remember, you're going to need a door not just to get into the house, but also one for each individual room, otherwise your Sim won't be able to get inside! You can also add windows and other elements the same way.

Buy Mode

Finally, your house is more or less built! But it still needs to be furnished, otherwise your Sims are going to lead a very unhappy life. To access "Buy" mode, simply click the chair & lamp icon, just above "build" mode. The panel to the right will now display several tabs, allowing you to easily move between furniture types, as separated by room. You'll find stuff for the Kitchen, Bathroom, Bedrooms, and more! To get you started, here are a few essentials you should pick up to ensure your Sim begins his life somewhat comfortably: beds (or a crib for toddlers), toilet, sink, shower, stove, fridge, couch, TV, and lights for each room!

A Sim's Life

You've got your Sims, you have your house, it's time to start living life vicariously through your Sims! You see, The Sims is different from most games in that, just like in real-life, there is no ultimate goal. That is, there is no way to "win" or "lose" the game proper--the "goals" you aim for are whatever you want them to be, and those goals are really only limited by your imagination. Want to become a popular movie-star, or perhaps build the world's most extravagant house? Or maybe you simply want to be the biggest jerk in your town? It's all free game, and it's all up to you. With that said, the game does provide some basic guidance when it comes to making your Sim happy, and while you can choose to ignore this facet, it's what we'll be focusing on.

A Happy Sim is a Productive Sim

You know how when you're feeling down, it can be difficult to even get out of bed in the morning? Well, Sims are the same way. If they're happy, they'll acquire new skills faster and obtain more Lifetime Happiness (more on that soon). But if they're upset, they'll grow distant and unresponsive. Thankfully, the game makes it easy to see how your Sim's feeling, and provides guidance on what you need to do in order to make your Sim even happier. Everything you need to know about your Sim is displayed along the bottom toolbar, with perhaps the most obvious tell being the "Mood Meter"

Mood Meter

The mood meter provides an at-a-glance view of how your Sim is feeling. The fuller the meter, the happier your Sim is--it's important you keep your Sim as happy as you can, otherwise they may become antisocial and unresponsive to your commands. In addition, by keeping your Sim happiness in the upper-portion of the meter (the portion slightly separated from the rest), they will acquire new skills faster and obtain Lifetime Happiness points (more on that soon). Now the Mood Meter is directly affected (and in fact, entirely dependent upon) something called "Moodlets."


Moodlets are activities or events that directly affect how your Sim feels. Each Moodlet currently affecting your Sim is displayed in the "Moodlet Panel" just right of the Mood Meter--some improve your Sim's mood (the green ones), others hurt it (the red ones). You can mouse over any of the currently displayed Moodlets to find out more about them.

Now each Moodlet only affects your Sim for a limited period of time, which varies depending on the exact Moodlet (the time remaining is shown below each Moodlet). For instance, if your Sim is sitting in a comfy chair, they'll experience a large happiness boost for as long as they continue sitting. But the moment they leave that chair, the effect will cease to take place. However, that activity Moodlet may be replaced with a new one, such as "having a blast" which provides a lingering happiness effect for several hours.

As such, it's important to find and maintain as many "positive" (green) Moodlets as you can, as your Sim's happiness depends on them! Thankfully, there are tons of ways to earn Moodlets--here are some examples of more positive ones: Brushing teeth, having a nicely decorated home, listening to music, visiting a park, among many many others. On the other hand, there are countless "negative" Moodlets as well. Negative Moodlets can be the result of something bad that happened to your Sim (such as embarrassement, not eating, or not going to the bathroom) or even as a result of some of your less desirable traits. It's important you resolve these "bad" Moodlets as soon as you can--mousing over them generally provides a good indicator of what you need to do to fix it.

Thankfully, many negative Moodlets be easily prevented by tending to your Sims' needs, and that's where the "Needs Panel" comes into play.

A Sim in Need is a Sim indeed

Needs Panel

Your Sim's "needs" directly affect its "Moodlets"--that is, if you're negligent of their needs, negative Moodlets will start to appear, and impact their mood in a negative manner...and that's a best case scenario! Ignoring your Sims' pleas for food, for instance, will eventually result in death! Thankfully, the "Needs Panel" provides a quick overview of how your Sim is feeling in each of six categories: Hunger, Bladder, Energy, Social, Hygiene, and Fun. The fuller each meter, the better off your Sim is! As such, it's important to keep a close eye on your Sim's needs, and tend to the ones marked yellow (caution) and red (danger) first, as these are the ones that will affect your Sim the soonest! To access the "Needs Panel," click the "Sims Panel" arrow, just right of the Moodlets Panel, to extend a second panel containing several tabs--click the "Needs" one on the far right.

Here's a quick rundown of your Sim's six needs:

Hunger: Have your Sim cook a meal periodically to avoid going hungry!
Bladder: Even Sims have to go to the bathroom, so make sure you have them make a pits-top every once in a while to prevent an embarrassing accident.
Energy: The best way to regain energy is to go to bed on a regular schedule and get a full night's rest. However, a caffeine drink canwork in a pinch for a quick boost.
Social: Maintaining friendships will ensure your Social meter doesn't drop, so get out there and meet some Sims! You can check on the relationship status your Sim has with others by clicking on the "Relationship Panel."
Hygiene: Just like in real life, hygiene is important! While regular bathing is the best way to keep up your hygiene, smaller tasks such as washing your hands and brushing your teeth help too!
Fun: All work and no play makes your Sim a dull boy (or girl!). Make sure your Sim has a life outside work by having them engage in recreational activities now and then, such as playing games, reading, watching TV, and more.

Wishes & Lifetime Happiness

While keeping your Sim happy is crucial to long-term development, the "Mood Meter"and "Needs Panel" only provides information on how your Sim is feeling at that very moment in time. For anything more long-term, that's where wishes and lifetime happiness come into play.


As your Sim goes about their life, their desires take the form of "wishes"--these can come from almost any event, whether it's walking around town or interacting with other Sims. Fulfilling wishes adds to your Sim's lifetime happiness (more on that shortly).

Whenever your Sim desires something, a "wish" will appear in the top box of the "Wish" panel--if there's more than one wish, they can be scrolled through by clicking the arrows on either side. Now it's up to you whether you want to fulfill a particular Wish or not--if it's a task you'd like to take on, simply left-click the wish to add it to the queue below. If you want to remove a wish from the queue, simply right-click it. To find out more about a particular wish, mouse over it for information on how to fulfill it, as well as how many Lifetime Happiness points you'll earn.

Lifetime Happiness

So we've mentioned "Lifetime Happiness" a few times now, and you're probably wondering "what the heck is it?" It's easiest to think of Lifetime Happiness as a longterm version of the "Mood Meter"--in short, the happier your Sim is, and the more wishes they fulfill, the more Lifetime Happiness points they'll earn. These points can eventually be cashed in for "Lifetime Reward," which can take the form of both desirable traits (such as a "steel bladder!") or special objects. To check out the rewards, click on the "Lifetime Happiness" panel.

A Day in the Life...of a Sim

Remember, The Sims 3 is a completely open game, with no central goal or objective. You can play the game however you want, pursue whatever career you life, or try to hook up with whomever you desire. However, before we dive headfirst into everything your Sim can do, it's best to cover a few of the basics, such as how to assign tasks.

Action Queue

There are countless options available to any of your Sim at all times. You can eat, sleep, mingle with others, visit the store, check out town hall, tackle a new career--the list is endless. Thankfully, every single one of these tasks is a mere mouse click away. Now if you have more than one Sim living in your house, you'll first have to select the Sim that you want to perform the task. Thankfully, each Sim in your control is listed along the left-side of the screen; simply click the picture of the one you wish to direct! With your Sim selected, simply click on whatever you want them to interact with. A menu will then appear showing everything you Sim can do related to that person, object, or destination.

After assigning a task, it will get added to the "Action Queue," at the top of the screen. This shows every task that you've assigned, and is displayed in the order in which they'll perform them. You can assign up to nine tasks at a time (including the one they're currently performing). However, being as your Sim is a living virtual entity, they'll often decided to perform tasks for themselves, such as eating, sleeping, etc, so don't fret if you see them doing something you didn't assign--they're just trying to live their life, man! However, if you do wish to stop or remove a task, simply click on its icon in the Action Queue!

Note: If you're not a fan of your Sim being a free-thinker, you can prevent them from taking tasks on themselves by disabling "freewill" in the options screen. Doing so will put you in complete control of their every task, so make sure to pay ultra close attention to their needs!

School, Work, Bills

Depending on your Sim's age, they'll either have to either go to school or work (technically, work is optional, but it's practically required if you want money). Either way, both function very similarly in that you don't have much direct control over your Sim when they're away, however, a drop-down menu in the upper left corner does allow you to loosely control your Sim while they're learning or working. For instance, you can instruct your Sim to make new friends, work really hard, sleep behind the copier, etc.


Unlike in previous Sim games, children must now attend school during the week. Children attend from 9am-3pm, while teens are off an hour earlier. School is an important time in their life, as their performance will affect many things in their life. Throughout the school day, you can change what the Sim does by using the drop-down menu in the top-left corner to dictate how they go about their school day.

Jobs and Careers

Sims needs money, and having a job is how you do it! It's also an easy way to meet new friends and build skills, keeping your Sim happy! You can look for jobs or careers either by reading newspapers, checking the computer, or by applying in person via the Map Screen--the buildings marked with red icons designate available jobs. Now not every Sim is fit for every job, so you should make sure your Sims traits align with the career you choose. For instance, if you wish to become a journalist, it helps if your Sim is charismatic, allowing them to get the proper facts from the people they interview.

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If you can keep your Sim happy, and nurture their skills, they'll eventually be promoted, netting you more cash for the same amount of work! There are numerous ways in which you can gain new skills, such as by reading "skill books" (available in the book store) or attending classes hosted in many of the town's local shops or schools.

Tip! Perfect attendance is not required! So long as you don't miss work for three consecutive days, feel free to take a day or two off whenever you like without fear of being canned! You can use that time to build skills or relationships instead.


Ugh...even Sims have to deal with bills. They're dropped off in your mailbox in the morning, at which point you then have three days to pay them. Now the amount you owe is proportional to the value of all the goods you own (such as home, furniture, vehicles, etc), so you may want to think twice before purchasing that nice flat-panel display! Thankfully, managing your bills is easy--simply interact with the mailbox to take care of them. However, if you're negligent and fail to pay your bills, expect the repo-man to pay your home a visit and to start taking your goods as payment!


Having friendly relationships with others is crucial to your Sim's development. Not only will it make them happier, but it's also crucial to earning promotions related to their career.

Meeting Sims

Meeting other Sims is easy! Practically any Sim you come across during your travels, whether it be a neighbor, coworker, or a weightlifter at the gym, can be interacted with--simply click on them to begin interactions! Having a Sim with positive social traits, such as "outgoing" or "charismatic," is quite helpful when it comes to building relationships. You can check who your Sims' are friends with at any time via the "relationships" panel at the bottom of the screen.

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Now when speaking to a Sim, a bubble in the top-left of the screen displays exactly what the other Sim thinks of you at that moment in time. If things get awkward, or they find you boring, change the topic by clicking on them and selecting one of the alternatives that appears!

It's important to maintain friendships by hanging out with your friends regularly, whether it be hosting a party, or just chilling at your house for a few hours. You can invite Sims over by calling them on your cell-phone, found in the "inventory" panel at the bottom of the screen. Keep in mind that other Sims have wants and needs too, and these can interfere with your ability to become friends with them. For instance, when inviting guests over, other Sims will often require a bathroom break and food before they'll be comfortable enough to begin building deeper friendships.

Note: Sims are a bit bladder-shy and will generally only go to the bathroom if they're the only ones in the room, so it's important you have the toilet in a room of its own (otherwise known as a "bathroom"). Or, if you have the money to spare, consider building a couple of small bathrooms, so you won't have to worry about not having enough to appease your Sims' needs.

Now if you do invite some friends over, you need to be a proactive host! This includes walking outside and greeting them at the door (otherwise they won't come in!) and then keeping them them entertained and comfortable! Make sure you have some comfy furniture for them to relax on, and ensure you have several group activities they can partake in (such as stereos, sporting goods, etc).

Building Deeper Relationships

Just because you've made a friend doesn't mean you can go and do whatever you want--they might still be offended or put-off by your actions, damaging the friendship. Instead, you need to take things slow, careful of what you say and do. For instance, when you first make a friend, it's best to start with "talking" about low-level things such as books, computers, etc. As the relationship builds, you'll want to delve into more risky interactions, like jokes or compliments. And from there (if you wish to pursue a romantic relationship), hugging and kissing. Now it's important to carefully monitor how your friends perceive your actions--if they don't like you joking around, that means it's time to back off and take things a bit slower.

Now all friendships will decay overtime (albeit, slowly) if you don't interact with your friends regularly--this also includes anyone your Sim has fallen in love with (as indicated by hearts appearing over their head), if it drops too low, they'll revert to mere friends.

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