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Art Students Compete to Produce 'Sims'-Based Work

Irish playwright Oscar Wilde once said, "Life imitates art far more than art imitates life."

Students participating in a novel design contest might rephrase the famous quotation to something like, "Art imitates video games that imitate life."

Students at Parsons The New School for Design in New York, Academy of Art University in San Francisco and Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles are teaming up with Redwood City-based Electronic Arts Inc. (ERTS) to produce exhibitions that celebrate "The Sims."

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The strategic simulation game was the brainchild of EA designer Will Wright. Players create their own homes, businesses and social networks using virtual characters, or Sims, who live in suburban SimCity.

Since the title's debut in 2000, fans have bought more than 85 million copies of "Sims" games, which are starkly dissimilar from the violent "first-person shooters" popular with hard-core gamers.

The game is credited with greatly expanding the market to include girls, older adults and other nontraditional gamers.

Artists in the EA contest, sponsored by Ford Motor Co. (F), will work in media including paintings, sculptures and clothing. Another category is "Machinima," films with computer-generated imagery based on the video game.

Judges will award $36,000 in prizes.

"Putting a creative tool like The Sims in the hands of emerging artists opens up a whole new world of possibilities," said Nancy Smith, an EA executive vice president.

The exhibition will take place April 19-May 12 at the Chelsea Art Museum in New York, June 26-July 19 at Gallery 79 in San Francisco, and July 14-Aug. 11 at Ben Maltz Gallery in Los Angeles.