The lights are on
For more than a decade, The Sims’ pull on me has been so strong that I can never truly abandon it. The premise is simple: live out all the boring parts of life on screen – go to work, use the bathroom, and save up to buy better items for the house. I’ve never completely understood what keeps bringing me back to controlling little pawns in the game of life, but I can’t stop. Whether it’s a new expansion or just checking in on the families I’ve created, I invest a great deal of time. I often try to reason with myself that I should be playing new, exciting games instead of doting on my virtual family’s familiar scenarios. And yet I can’t. So I’ve been trying to put my finger on why Will Wright’s opus keeps me coming back, and I realized it has to do with my imagination.
First off, I’m an extremely imaginative person. I know I’m going to lose some cred here, but I was that girl who played with Barbies and action figures far past the point I should have. I constantly imagined new stories and scenarios for my little plastic dolls. A number of years later it dawned on me – that’s what I’m doing with my Sims characters. I’m creating my own stories through them, whether it’s making a love connection, watching creatures swoop in on the neighborhood, or seeing my teenager named prom queen. Every time I play, I am authoring a story on what they do and what they strive to become.
Fate is something mostly out of our control, but in The Sims I have control over my characters’ destinies. If I want a character to succeed, I can put them on track to have it in their grasp. Or I can force them to fail and be the town slacker. Sometimes it feels like I’m the writer behind my own TV show, and the stage is set for my Sims to the play the roles. Even more exciting is that every time a new expansion releases I can tell a new chapter in this story I’m crafting. Although I find it’s more about the story I’m creating in my head rather than what’s actually happening on screen, and that’s perfectly okay. For instance, if my character takes a trip to France, I’m mapping out the backstory in my head: Kim Sim works too hard and needs to have a vacation before she ends up having a nervous breakdown.
That’s the other part of The Sims that I love – you can live out an alternative reality right before your eyes. Sometimes seeing a version of a potential life for yourself is appetizing. I often play The Sims using a character based off myself and watch Kim Sim take on tasks that I’m not currently ready for in my life, like children and becoming the editor-in-chief of a publication. Watching an idealized life I’ve thought about many times play out of screen is quite inspiring. It keeps me motivated for the little “what ifs” that might happen in the future.
Another part of what I like about The Sims is that it doesn’t have real-life boundaries. It sends the message that if you want something in your life and put in the hard work, it’s entirely attainable. Yes, maybe it’s a tad unrealistic to think that by reading books and practicing writing that’s all it takes to become a top journalist, but it does send a message about hard work. Sure, talent takes you places, but motivation is just as important, and I enjoy having a character who can do anything she puts her mind to. A sense of accomplishment fills me by taking these virtual beings from birth all the way to a successful member of society.
Every time I grab the mouse and start to fill my Sims’ lives with something deeper than just living in chaos, I take comfort in knowing I’m authoring stories and inventing lives with every click. I’m living through these characters just as much as I’m writing their fate along the way. A refreshing sense of creativity hits me as I take the wheel, and this is why I will keep playing The Sims.
Email the author Kimberley Wallace, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.