The Sims 2 is as close as you can come (in this country, anyway) to keeping people as pets. In the sequel to the biggest PC hit of the last five years, you manage every aspect of a virtual family's intricately detailed lives as they eat, sleep, go to work, make friends with the neighbors, fall in love, get married and have children. It's a lot like running your own reality show, but with more believable characters.
Each Sim has a unique and complex set of genes handed down from their parents (or assigned by you in the Sim creator) that determines their looks and behavior. In addition to basic personality traits, they are born with deep-seated aspirations, such as success with romance or money. Helping them achieve goals while avoiding their fears makes them happy and unlocks the special things in life that money can't buy, like a money tree.
Sims go through a lot of interesting events during their lifetimes, from throwing birthday parties to sexy misunderstandings in hot tubs to alien abduction. Most of it is done with a great sense of humor that will have you laughing the whole time, even the sad things like when a badly depressed Sim starts seeing hallucinations of clowns and psychologists. It's worth abusing a Sim sometimes just to see how he'll react.
A large chunk of the gameplay involves building and decorating a home for your Sims. It's easy to spend hours just playing with the hundreds of options in construction, furniture and home appliances - more than enough to keep any amateur architect or interior designer satisfied. You can make pretty much any kind of house you can imagine, as long as your Sim is successful enough at their job to afford it.
Eventually, your original batch of Sims will grow old and die (or, if you mistreat them badly enough, they'll skip the growing old part). But, if they've raised a family, the game goes on with a new generation who you'll manage through their whole lives, which will certainly unfold quite differently from those of their parents. It's the circle of virtual life - and it's insanely addictive.