If there’s one thing guaranteed to wound the very soul of someone who plays video games, it’s a corrupted save file. All the hours — days even — of work and it all goes down the drain in minutes. It’s one of the most devastating things that can happen to your game.
In 2010, at the peak of The Sims 3 hubbub, there was a secret virus, transmitting from player to player, corrupting save files and destroying countless in-game legacies without even showing up on-screen. It infested people’s games, creating extreme lag and unplayable lots.
And it came in the form of a creepy, haunted-looking doll.
At this time, The Sims was — as it continues to be — a haven for the modding community. From its earliest iterations, modders would create in-game items, clothes, traits and more. Upon creation, they’d be uploaded to popular modding download websites like ModTheSims, The Sims Resource and The Sims Exchange. The latter, however, was known for being a little less reliable — and it’s there that the doll first made its appearance.
The doll had its start as a piece of custom content called Girl Doll Dressed, cloned from the in-game teddy bear and designed to look as though toddlers were playing with realistic dolls. It was uploaded to the Exchange as an exciting piece of content from a reputable creator and was quickly downloaded by keen players.
Unfortunately, however, the original file was faulty and, as a result, would “infect” games that it was downloaded into. The creator who unknowingly unleashed the doll didn’t realize it was corrupt until two months after uploading. But by this point, the doll had spread over dozens of games.
From lag to corrupted save files to game crashes, the doll was inadvertently responsible for countless hours of lost gameplay. To make matters worse, the file itself was visible neither on the Mods screen nor in the downloads folder for the game. Removing it was a challenge.
Over time, the doll’s bug would spread. Any lots or packages uploaded from games that had the doll present would find themselves uploading with the doll attached. There was no escaping it — subsequent downloads of “infected” packages would spread the doll even farther.
Eventually, the tide of this corrupted doll became so strong that EA itself had to step in. Modders and developers alike worked to find a solution, with modder Glitzyangel eventually discovering a way to wipe the doll’s existence from the game.
Popular Sims YouTuber Jesse McNamara — known online as Plumbella — recently published a video on the topic as part of her “Entire History Of” series, retelling stories from the early days of The Sims and explaining the lore of the game.
She states in the video, “An invisible virus that would break the game attaching itself to custom content randomly and you have no control over knowing if you’re downloading it or not? I’m not surprised it turned into a little bit of a moral panic.”
As a result of the corrupted doll incident, players became a lot more savvy when it came to the custom content they chose to download. And sure, the incident would have been a whole lot less creepy if it hadn’t been in the form of a haunted doll figure.
But The Sims has always leaned into the paranormal, and with Halloween rapidly approaching, it feels appropriate to remember one of the biggest, creepiest modding scandals of the game — and remember to always double check your mods.