Virtual fashion from The Sims in physical H&M stores

Dutch marketing blog Adformatie writes that an outfit designed by a player of virtual life game The Sims will be sold in almost 1000 H&M stores in Europe, starting July 6 2008. The outfit is the result of a design contest in which all Sims players could participate. The challenge was to design a piece of clothing in H&M style. Uploaded creations could be viewed during ‘virtual fashion shows’ on Yahoo. More than 100.000 people voted on the 1000+ submissions, according to EA (creator of The Sims), H&M, and Yahoo. The winning piece will be recognizable in the H&M stores by a special Sims2 label.

Increasingly the virtual (game) world is being used to create and market physical products, abrogating the former strict distinction between the physical and the digital. Interesting is how new alliances are forged between companies that formerly operated in their own realm: either the physical world or the private world. More and more ‘traditional’ businesses do a little ‘user generated content’, adding in a little ‘virtual capitalism’ we already know from Second Life.

Glancing at The Sims website, I also stumbled upon the inverse. Apparently you can decorate your home in The Sims game using Ikea furniture. Here the physical reality is imported into the game environment.

The slogan “Home is the most important place in the world” in this promo clip seems to celebrate a kind of virtual burgerlijkheid, a term difficult to translate into English (something like ‘petty bourgeois homeliness’). This goes against the idea of games as the inverse of normalcy or seriousness, an escape from everyday life. Just like game experiences of place and space blend into everyday life, the everyday experiences of places enters into game worlds, with ‘home’ as the ultimate meaningful ‘lived space’. It balances one-sided visions of ‘mobility’ or ‘liquidity’ as the new paradigm. As our physical world becomes increasingly mobile, transient and blurry, perhaps we seek anchoring and moorings in these virtual environments?


Michiel de Lange

Michiel de Lange (1976) is an Assistant Professor in New Media Studies at Utrecht University, researching mobile media and urban culture and identity. He is the co-founder of The Mobile City, an independent research group founded in 2007 that investigates the influence of digital media technologies on urban life and the implications for urban design and policy. Michiel is trained as a cultural anthropologist, and holds a PhD in philosophy (2010) with a dissertation about mobile media technologies and urban identities. He collaborated in a locative media art & science project ( He worked for  Kennisland, a Dutch think-tank that aims to strengthen the knowledge-based society. Here he worked on several projects at the intersection of ICTs and the city, e.g. co-organizing the Creative Capital conference. He also volunteered and worked for Cybersoek, a computer neighborhood center in Amsterdam. He is advisor e-culture at Mediafonds.
Michiel is on Twitter and LinkedIn.