Wishes and Desires
The Wish system is exclusive to The Sims 3 so if you are new to the games or are just discovering the third series after playing one or both of the others, here is a new system for rewards and interests to help you along! The wish system and the desires that your Sims feel are an important -- one might even say integral -- part of the game, but probably not for the reason you are thinking... Just like in real life they serve a valuable function -- they keep your Sim focused upon some goal that both gives them something to work towards, and adds interest to their life. In that respect you can also view them as a bonus because as you work towards them and complete them you earn various amounts of Lifetime Rewards Points, and believe it you will need plenty of those if you are going to purchase all of the really useful rewards that are available!
The Wish and Goal system should no be confused with the Lifetime Wish that is specified when a Sim is created/born. That one is picked by the player, and more or less represents the raison d'etre for the Sim -- and usually it corresponds to the career that you want your Sim to pursue. No, the Wish and Goal system is a product of the whole view of your Sim. What I mean by that is that these opportunities crop up largely based on the past activities and interests of your Sim.
For example if your Sim starts working out, jogging, lifting weights, and doing sports, you will start to see wishes and goals that relate to those act ivies appear in the game -- for instance if you spend a lot of time on the weights, you may get a Wish/Goal to lift weights for six straight hours! That particular wish pays off with 1,000 Lifetime Happiness Points, so it is one you may very well want to complete!
If your Sim is an Artist they will see Wishes and Goals that relate to whatever art they are pursuing -- so a Painter is likely to get a variety of painting-related wishes early on, and as long as they continue to level their painting skills and participate in the profession they will continue to get more. When they register as self-employed in that profession they will end up getting different ones as well.
You have seen me use the words "Wishes" and "Goals" but they are not interchangeable -- they have different meanings and results. Wishes are the pop-up actions -- like to Paint a Masterpiece painting that pays off in 1,000 Lifetime Reward Points -- while Goals are defined as a sort of mini-job or task that is associated with the same sort of progress. Examples of the latter include hanging X number of paintings in your home, or participating in a test for the Science Lab in which you acquire additional Logic Skill points and then report in to the lab to be evaluated.
Putting in the time to fulfill a Lifetime Wish pays off big!
The previously given Goal examples pay off in Lifetime Reward Points or a combination of Lifetime Reward Points and Money, but the Goal system is not restricted to just plain skill leveling -- every so often when one of your Sims has advanced the level for a utility skill -- like Repairing for example -- they will be asked by other NPC Sims in the town to do jobs for them. Repair a stereo, paint a specific size or quality painting, that sort of thing.
When your Sim does these mini-jobs they may be paid in money or money and Lifetime Reward Points, but there is also a hidden leveling system in the game that is reputation-based. When your Sim completes the Goals they have been offered in a timely fashion, they increase the hidden level for their reputation in that area, and this leads to more frequent offers.
Another important aspect of the Wishes and Goals is that accepting them gives your Sim something to work towards, and completing them, in addition to paying off in Lifetime Rewards Points, also pays off in providing positive moodlets and an increased good mood!
Unlike in the previous games where declining (dismissing) a Wish/Goal could have a negative side-effect and impact on your Sim, doing that in The Sims 3 has no effect at all -- you are free to accept or dismiss any of the offered wishes or goals without fear of consequences!
-- The Skill Factor --
One of the side-effects of the Wish/Goal system is that it promotes the leveling of skills -- which in turn is important because some of these are absolutely required for obtaining promotions in your careers. Basically the stick is the leveling, and the carrot is the Lifetime Reward Points and the Levels you pick up in the process, for what is clearly a win-win situation!
Almost all of the Skills (save for Collecting) have ten levels, and as you progress to the higher levels unlock additional perks or actions/abilities. Some of them -- like the fitness-related skills and activities -- have hidden effects, like increasing your Sims endurance and making them stronger and thus, in a fight, more likely to win. Raising the Logic Skill has tremendous side-benefits, and in particular in the Science, Inventing, Investigation, Military, Medical, and Law Enforcement careers. In fact the Logic Skill helps almost every career, so playing chess (whether on a chess board or the computer) is never a waste of time.
One of the benefits you can find in the Wish/Goal system is that they break up the process of working on skills by promoting a variety of activities -- and that really helps you avoid repetition boredom in working the same skill over and over just to get it capped-off. It really is all in how you view it I suppose, but working for incremental progress tends to improve your view of the game, those skill-raising actions, and the entertainment potential that they contain.
-- The Big Picture for Wishes and Goals --
Viewing these as opportunities to improve your Sims and succeed in acquiring the special rewards is the best way to look at this part of the game, and considering that they offer a combination of new skills, abilities, positive mood, and valuable rewards -- and play a significant role in the career system -- focusing upon completing as many of these individually as you can during the active part of your Sim's life is probably a really good idea!