Sim Nation

The Sims Online is a new virtual frontier. Is a video game just what this divided nation needs?

Let's imagine the most boring video game possible. Instead of crashing spaceships and trigger-happy aliens, you would have suburban houses, leaky faucets and chatty neighbors. Instead of fighting evil, you would do the dishes, watch a little TV, then call it a night. Instead of saving the world, you would be saving for a bigger split-level. It's the opposite of fun--like an '80s family sitcom without the jokes or Clark Kent without his secret identity.

Now open your eyes: you've just invented the most popular computer game of all time. It's called The Sims (short for simulation), and the premise is...

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