Simlish is a fictional language featured in EA Games' Sim series of games. It debuted in SimCopter, and has been especially prominent in The Sims franchise. Simlish can also be heard in SimCity 4, SimCity Societies, SimCity (2013), and SimCity BuildIt but far less frequently. Civilized Creatures in Spore can also be taught to speak Simlish. It is also featured to an extent in Firaxis Games' Sid Meier's SimGolf. Simlish was created because Will Wright, creator of The Sims, knew that the game needed dialogue, but thought that using real life languages such as English would cause the dialogue to be repetitive and would be expensive translating the entire dialog Sims may say.
Initially, inspired by the Navajo code talkers of World War II, Sims creator Will Wright and language expert Marc Gimbel suggested experimenting with the Navajo language to create Simlish. However, they ultimately decided against this because of the difficulty in finding Navajo voice actors. They also decided that Simlish worked best as a "language" made up of gibberish words that could not be translated, so that its meaning would be left open to the imagination of the player. Wright later commented that using "nonsense language" turned out to be the right development choice, as people were capable of imagining it more realistically than a computer could simulate a real one. The actual sound of Simlish was created improvisationally by voice actors Stephen Kearin and Gerri Lawlor.
One of Wright's biggest concern while developing The Sims was that giving the characters actual dialog would have gotten extremely repetitive, because even if Wright were able to fit five CDs worth of voice clips in the game, players would eventually start hearing the same voice clips over and over again. He found that this problem persisted even when using Navajo or Estonian, but because the gibberish of Simlish was so far removed from any existing human language, it is very difficult for players to find repeats in it. The team went out to record hundreds of voice clips in Simlish, each with their own unique cadence and emotional nuance. Wright wanted the player to be able to tell whether a Sim was flirtatious, upset, laid back, or tired, based entirely on their tone and tempo.
In The Sims: House Party and The Sims: Vacation, Sims sing campfire songs. They are sung to the tune of "She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain", "Michael Row the Boat Ashore" and "On Top of Old Smoky". Lyrics for these songs were posted on the official website. A free full-length soundtrack album for The Sims: Superstar has also been released for download (complete with cover art), with several tracks sung in Simlish.
Signs in The Sims games usually do not contain text, but consist entirely of graphics. For example, a pet shop sign in Unleashed displays a paw, a stop sign in Hot Date displays a white hand, and in The Sims 2 the sign for a grocery store depicts a cornucopia.
In The Sims 2, most text is only distinguishable at very close zooms. On book covers, newspapers and Nightlife's "Sims Must Wash Hands" sign, the lettering is all nonsense characters that bear about as much resemblance to Latin characters as they do to Cyrillic. Almost no actual characters from any known alphabet are used. When Sims are writing novels or term papers, dingbats from the Wingdings font appear as text on the screen. The notebooks used for homework contain writing composed of random lines.
In The Sims 2, Simlish words occasionally appear on television screens. They are written in the same Simlish alphabet described above, or using the font Wingdings to produce symbols like Aum or Zodiac signs. In The Sims 2 University, eight "SimGreek Letters" appeared as signs intended for fraternity and sorority houses. University also contains the most unambiguous existence of actual English language in the whole The Sims 2 series; the words "Open house" are shown on a decorative noteboard on the top right announcement various times. It can only be seen at a very close zoom and is slightly garbled because of the DXT compression used. Most other appearances of English are logos for Maxis, Electronic Arts, or GameSpot. Also, the video games SSX 3, The Sims Bustin' Out, SimCity 4 and The Sims 3 (available exclusively in Mr. Humble's Computer object in FreeTime, brought by Mr. Humble, a Rod Humble Sim character), found on the Sims' computers and TVs have numbers and English letters and a rug from the H&M Fashion stuff pack features the letters H&M. The marketing of The Sims 2: FreeTime contains excerpts from phony "hobby magazines" with front cover texts bearing some resemblance to the Latin alphabet. For instance, one magazine about car restoration has a title which can be read as "skitbil", meaning "shit car" or "shitty car" in Swedish. In Create-A-Sim some of the clothing has writing on it too.
Sleeping Sims are illustrated by Zs floating around their heads, as is usual in comics.
Also when a vehicle arrives on the lot, the number plate shows real numbers; similarly, police cars in the game have the numbers 329 on top of them. Helipads also have an H written on them, as in real life. When a Sim plays on the electronic entertainment, "EA Games" is mentioned in English, but "Challenge Everything" is in Simlish.
Even though there is no official and consistent Simlish alphabet, many independent custom content creators have been using letters of the Greek alphabet instead of English ones. The Greek letters that replace the English ones are similar in form, sound or usage. For instance, the word "example" would be written as "εχαμπλε" or "εχαμρλε".
In a trailer for The Sims 3, a billboard in the town shown in the video depicting a local celebrity displays the words Coming Soon, with the letters only being turned to different directions. The rest of the text on the billboard is in the usual Simlish, and is unreadable.
Outside of The Sims
Throughout the 'Sim' genre created by Will Wright, nearly all games will use Simlish in the same manner that The Sims did. For instance, in SimCity 4, SimCity Societies and 2013's SimCity, citizens can be heard conversing if one zooms close enough. In a similar manner, creatures created with a primate mouth in Spore will also converse in Simlish, and hovering above a city will inspire gibberish conversation from the masses below. During the Civilization stage, this can be heard when the player selects active vehicles. Also, in other regional versions of the game Spore, Steve, an entity you find in the center of the galaxy, will speak Simlish instead of the chosen language, although in the American version, he speaks in the chosen language.
- "The Sims Bustin' Out Designer Diary #3". Archived from the original on January 6, 2006.
- Celeste Biever (24 September 2008). "Interview: The games master". New Scientist. Reed Business Information. 199 (2675).
- "Gonna Play the Sims? You Gotta Speak Simlish". Savvy Gaming. 2008-09-08. Archived from the original on April 13, 2012. Retrieved 2009-02-15.
The voice actors who were working on the Sims are credited with actually giving voice to the Simlish language. These voice actors were Stephen Kearin and Gerri Lawlor.
- Rouse III, Richard (2005). Game Design Theory & Practice. Second Edition. Wordware Publishing, Inc. p. 431. ISBN 1-55622-912-7.
- "Make Your Own Superstar Soundtrack CD!". Thesims.ea.com. Archived from the original on September 30, 2011.