The Sims Online
The Sims Online was a Massively Multiplayer Online Game that creates a virtual environment meant to mimic the real world. Participants were given the ability to design everything from their homes to themselves, with the ability to create an avatar possessing any traits that the user might see fit. In its attempt to mimic the look and feel of the real world, The Sims Online also mimicked some of the ethical dilemmas seen in the real world. Some examples included online identity, the creation and enforcement of behavioral norms, and censoring users who break those norms. The game was renamed to EA Land (after Electronic Arts, the creator of The Sims series) in March 2007, however it was shut down on August 1, 2008 due to a lack of users.
The Sims Online was created in 2002, as the first online community segment of The Sims virtual environment game. In the past, users were able to create their own online environments, however there was never any multiplayer interaction. The Sims Online allowed users to interact with others for the first time in this game's series. In this virtual world, users can participate in many activities that are associated with real world life, including making money, going to dances or weddings, hosting a party, or attending a party. These functions helped to give substance and purpose to the players in the virtual environment.
The game consisted of four cities that each had unique objectives that players could have chosen to partake in while playing in that city. Sims could obtain skill points that were necessary for in-game employment and for some Sim interactions. Unlike the PC platform, human players could interact with other players and were allowed to trade items and properties through the online market. Besides these special features, the Sims Online functioned as a primitive version of the actual game.
See also: Avatars
Identity online is often something that the user creates for themselves. On most online communities, users can choose a user name--one that is often misleading of user's true personality. Some people choose to represent themselves as similar to their true self, often acting in a polite and civilized manner because they feel a sense of personal attachment to their online self, regardless of the fact that their online identity cannot be traced to or associated with their true self. Others choose the opposite path, often times creating an online identity with only malicious intent for that community. These users create their identity sometimes as the opposite of their true self, taking advantage of the anonymity of the internet and removing any filters they may have on their behavior in the real world.
In The Sims Online, users were permitted to choose their own identity from a set of standard avatars in the game, or were allowed to create their own avatar by choosing from various features such as body type, hair color, eye color, skin tone, and clothing. Once the avatar is created, the user also chooses how to control the avatar, or how to act in the community. One main difference in this community than others is the ability to use physical cues such as dancing, hugs, or arm movements to express emotions beyond the usual text interface.
See also: Cheating
The most popular form of cheating is the unique mods/hack that players can install to enhance their gameplay.  These modifications might not affect others as much, but hacking another Sims account alters these players to experience the game more negatively. Additionally, the community experiences several bugs during the time that the game was active. A majority of these bugs are deemed harmless, but economical bugs such as the clothing glitch has given advantages to some players over others through monetary means. The major clothing glitch of 2005 inflated the economy to the point that the game was replaced by a new version of the game, called the "EA-land". 
See also: Behavioral Norms
New users to the community generally have to undergo a short period of learning during which they identify the norms of the community and seek to conform to them. For instance, one of the functions of The Sims Online was the ability to host a party at which other guests could enter the user's home and eat food, lounge on couches, and interact with other users who are guests of the event. One of the behavioral norms of this online environment was the idea that the host of the party was expected to act as any real host would in the real world. He/she was expected to cook or otherwise ascertain food, make beverages, provide furniture for the guests to sit and converse, clean up after dinner or other mess made by the guests, and generally police the party to make sure that the standard norms of any real world dinner party were being followed; those standard norms for guests included being polite to the host/hostess, saying please and thank you for the hospitality, and occasionally offing to help the host with either making or serving food or cleaning up after the meal.
See also: Censorship
Censoring is a collective action taken by a group of users in the online environment to ignore or otherwise block the counter-productive actions of any user who breaks the mutually agreed upon norms of any particular environment. In a particular space in which identity is anonymous, it becomes increasingly important for the collective group to enforce their own behavioral norms, as there are often few boundaries for a malicious user who wishes only to disrupt the community.
On occasion, as shown in Rosa Martey's article, "The Digital Dollhouse: Context and Social Norms in the Sims Online", guests would enter the house and act impolitely to the host or other guests. When this occurred, it was the accepted norm for guests to always ignore the impolite person and also for the host to ask the guest politely to remember his/her manners and act accordingly. In Martey's example, the "troll" at the dinner party was completely ignored, and eventually got bored and left the party.
- Ethics in Computer & Video Games
- The Sims 3
- Virtual Community
- Virtual Environment
- Online Identity
- Wikipedia. "Release Date" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sims_Online
- Wikipedia. "The Sims Online" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sims_Online
- forum.thesims3.com http://forum.thesims3.com/jforum/posts/list/604090.page
- wikipedia.org http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sims_Online
- Martey, Rosa Mikeal, and Jennifer Stromer-Galley. The Digital Dollhouse: Context and Social Norms in The Sims Online. Games and Culture. Issue 2:314. Sage Publications, 2007. http://gac.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/2/4/314