At first, you think, it's just like a Tomagotchi. Feed it, clean up after it, and maybe it won't die. But with 8 little meters to keep at maximum levels (Hunger, Comfort, Room, Energy, Bladder, Social, Hygeine and Fun) things can get a bit tricky. Decide to have a snack before going to the potty, and you could have an embarrassing little accident on your hands. Don't give them enough fun things to do, or enough time to sleep, and they turn and yell at you. (Thank goodness they speak that weird language like the grownups from the Charlie Brown cartoons and not English.)
If nothing else, The Sims fosters a healthy respect for how difficult it is to run a household. If you miss your carpool for work, you lose your job, and will have no income to pay for food. Your plants will die if you don't remember to water them. Buzzing flies start to collect around food that hasn't been cleaned up. And forget to pay your bills and the repo man will show up to take away that fabulous new t.v. you just bought. Coordinating all these efforts in a virtual world where the minutes are literally ticked off in seconds requires the management skills of an M.B.A.
But despite the coordination involved to keep your Sims happy, there is a certain godlike feeling of power you get from being able to boss around two pseudo-humans. My Sims, a couple named Frank and Kitty, didn't even know each other when they moved in together. And they absolutely refused to sleep in the same bed. (As with many real-life couples, Steve often found himself on the couch.) But I encouraged them to talk and joke with each other, and soon they fell in love. Now they greatly enjoy each other's company, give each other gifts, and even sleep in the same bed. And no, they don't do that.
The game is so complex and nuanced, it's very simple to sit for 3 hours at a stretch, glued to the monitor. In fact, utter obsession with The Sims is easily accomplished after only one encounter with the game. You start to know the little songs that play on the t.v. commercials. You think you can understand their strange dialogues in blah-blah language. You find it endearing that your loving couple actually dreams about each other at night. You might even forget that you have a real life outside this little digital world.