How The Sims Attracted Charting Musicians To Sing In Its Gibberish Language Simlish
It’s been nearly 15 years since Katy Perry delivered her early 2000s banger ‘Hot n Cold’ in Simlish for The Sims 2 series Apartment Life.
It was Katy Perry’s follow up in 2012 with her chart-conquering ‘Last Friday Night’ Simlish version that was arguably even bigger though.
The cover went gangbusters and actually kicked off a stream of other Simlish covers that have continued over two decades.
So what is it about this made up gibberish language that is so ridiculous yet legit enough to attract charting musicians to perform versions of their songs in it?
A Lil History On Simlish
If you played The Sims then “you’ll remember various eccentricities of its community-simulating antics” NME’s Larry Bartleet writes.
Like “without a toilet, Sims would wet themselves” and if in “a swimming pool without steps, Sims wouldn’t be able to get out, would drown and then summon the Grim Reaper”.
But perhaps one of the most entertaining parts of playing The Sims was the characters speaking to one another in their own language of Simlish. This fictional language was created by the creator of The Sims himself Will Wright, and first debuted in SimCopter in 1996.
Wright wanted the game to have dialogue but needed a language that wouldn’t be repetitive and that couldn’t be translated. He wanted the dialogue’s meanings to be left open for interpretation and to the imagination of the player. Not only has Simlish underscored The Sims ever since, it has become inextricably linked to the game’s universe and to fans outside of the game.
The Sims’ audio director since the game’s inception Robi Kauker said that “from the very beginning, it was about serving gameplay”.
“The more abstract something is, the more you can insert yourself into it,” said one of the game designers Mitu Khandaker.
Stephen Kearin and Gerri Lawlor became the first two voice actors to improvise the first iterations of Simlish in the game. Both actors would watch the animations of the characters and make up gibberish words and abstract sounds that they believed suited the characters.
English Songs Translated Into Simlish
But a made-up language for characters simply wasn’t enough: enter the Simlish brain-melting music.
The Sims’ composer and audio director Jerry Martin created the game’s generic music but also needed songs from a bunch of different genres for Sims radio. So he trained studio musicians to sing in Simlish. The key, he said, was to mumble but it wasn’t all that easy.
Since the game’s origin, over 210 songs have been recorded in Simlish language. Katy Perry, The Black Eyed Peas, and Soulja Boy all released Simlish versions of their own hits.
Then Carly Rae Jepsen, Jason Derulo, the Pussycat Dolls, Lily Allen, and Rita Ora jumped on the Simlish bandwagon too.
For a trend that started in the early 2000s, it’s impressively still attracting musicians today. Glass Animals created a ‘Heat Waves’ Simlish song just last year.