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Create, Play and Share in ‘The Sims 3’

If your friends, family and co-workers have been walking around in a daze since June 2, maybe you can attribute it to multiple personality disorder brought on by "The Sims 3."

You see, that's the date Electronic Arts' launched the hotly anticipated sequel, which has already sold more than 2 million units for the PC and Mac, making it the best-selling computer game launch in EA's 27-year history. The game lets you create virtual people, each with unique personalities, skills and desires.

But before we cover what's new, here's a quick primer on the 9-year-old "The Sims" series: These games challenge you to micromanage the lives of little simulated people, simply known as Sims. This includes nurturing their relationships, advancing their careers and buying items for their houses (with in-game currency known as "simoleons").

More so than with its popular predecessors, "The Sims 3" pushes the boundaries of character customization, which then leads you down different game play paths - and ensures high replayability in the process.

For example, you start the game by creating a Sim from scratch, with seemingly endless physical choices including facial features, body types, hair color and style, skin color, clothing options, and so on. More importantly, you then select five character traits for this Sim, ranging from "ambitious" and "charismatic" to "mooch" and "kleptomaniac." Finally, you'll also choose a lifetime wish, which might be to have a large family, be a famous painter or master chef, soar into space or even become leader of the free world. The career path you choose will likely be necessary for you to reach this desired goal (for instance, you must reach level 10 in the law enforcement career to become an international super spy).

The game play begins when you move into a home in the neighborhood (one you can afford with the simoleons you start off with) or you might choose a lot and build it from scratch by choosing floors, walls, fences and trees, furniture and appliances, and so forth. Click on items in your home to interact with them and mingle with neighbors who drop by. And you never know what might happen: one of my Sims inadvertently started a kitchen fire and when the firefighter came, they hit it off and then became romantically involved.

Unlike past "The Sims" games, you're now encouraged to explore the town. You can visit stores, the park, the library, neighbors' homes, and even a graveyard - all without having to sit through any load screens. Hop into vehicles to expedite your travel, accept missions from townsfolk and use the computer or newspaper wanted ads to get a job.

Those who didn't like micromanaging every detail of their Sims in the past will be pleased to know you'll no longer have to visit the bathroom if their bladder is full (they'll find the toilet when they need to), plus they'll nap when they're fatigued and eat when they're hungry. In other words, you can now spend your time getting to know the city, its inhabitants, and work on your career, family and home decor.

Sharing is also a big part of "The Sims 3" as players can create, edit and upload movies, trade neat items or download content to import into their games. Also, check out the many videos on YouTube including "machinima" creations, where gamers have made their own stories using the computer game characters and environments.

Between its unprecedented amount of character and home customization, myriad career and lifetime goal options and huge digital sandbox in which to play, there is enough engaging game play in "The Sims 3" to keep you entertained for months.

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