I’m unsure of precisely why it can be so thrilling to watch someone eat a rotten plate of spaghetti against his own will. In real life, determining the status of edible matter can be quite grey in terms of judgment, but in The Sims, there is clear visual indication of expiration, usually the display of a plate with green fumes and buzzing flies hovering over it. It takes one click of command, and your Sim will be sitting in front of it, apprehensively taking bites, gagging here and there. Because you commanded him to eat his expired entree, he shall willingly obey. Usually then, he will most likely run to the toilet and vomit, after which, you will command him to scrub the toilet clean—and he will do so accordingly.
Playing The Sims has been a hobby of mine for several years. It was my favorite game as a teenager, and is currently the primary reason I procrastinate from responsibilities. I’ve just recently been guilty of sitting in the university library—on the couch with my back facing a wall—pretending to be engrossed in research, an essay for class, a hunt for jobs. But in reality, I’m watching two Sims make out with each other on a couch, groping each other’s perfectly round asses, wishing mine looked that good, or finding the perfect shade of wallpaper for the new baby’s room, or trying to achieve my Sim’s aspiration of “WooHoo-ing” (for those of you unfamiliar with Sim terminology, this means making love) with four different Sims.
I’m not proud that I play the Sims. The Sims is something high school girls do on the weekends before they get their driver’s licenses or before they try alcohol for the first time. It used to be cool to play Sims—to keep the calendar updated with the upcoming expansion packs. In fact, some of my fondest high school memories take place on the couch downstairs playing The Sims beside my two best friends, a giant bag of Haribo gummy bears and a jug of honey twist pretzels. We’d fall asleep sitting up with our laptops open on our laps. One time I woke up at 4 a.m. with the game still on in my lap, sinister elevator music chiming while the Grim Reaper stood claiming the souls of each family member that starved to death, all because I simply dozed off.
Well, similar to my acne, I have not outgrown this game as most people do after high school. Today, I often play the Sims before bedtime, as a reward for getting through another toilsome day of real life. Once I launch the game, I know I am now in complete control once again.
* * *
I frequently find myself playing the Sims in ways that reflect current experiences I’m having in real life. The following are real life scenarios I’ve been in, followed by my suggested instructions of gameplay.
Have a bad teacher? Create Sim version of teacher. Move into ugly house with ugly spouse. Command teacher to eat rotten pancakes. Remove toilet to make teacher piss pants. Remove pool ladder to drown teacher. Save and quit game. Return to school the next day feeling you got revenge.
In a long-distance relationship and missing your boo? Spend hours staring at a photograph of you two, memorizing each facial curve and feature. Create Sim version of yourself. Create Sim version of your partner. Put the two Sims in a house together. Make them fall in love all over again. Command them to get married. Make them have tiny Sim babies together.
Dad committed suicide and life seems unbearable now? Create Sim of Dad and you. Don’t let Dad Sim consume alcohol. If he seems depressed, use cheat code (Press Shift+Ctrl+C, type “maxmotives”) to meet all of his Sim needs. For as long as you do this, Dad Sim will be happy and healthy.
* * *
Now, I will admit that things like instigating rotten feasts and controlling my love life through simulations are not my worst crimes as an EA game player.
The ultimate low I’ve reached while playing this game is my fascination of finding different ways to kill Sims. Assasimation, I’ve coined the nasty habit. One time, I locked my Sim in a tiny room, and removed the door so he starved to death. Another time, I purposely distracted my Sim while dinner was on the stove. The fire spread throughout the entire kitchen, killing off Mom and cat.
The worst thing I ever did? I had my Sims’ family adopt a baby, but I wanted a boy. The adoption agency came again each day to my door, at my request, bringing a new baby—all of which were girls. I took each infant girl and starved her until the social worker returned to reclaim the neglected child. (Disclaimer: Baby and child Sims cannot actually die in the game, a limitation I fully support).
* * *
If I could control everything that happened to me, I wouldn’t need a game like The Sims at my fingertips to keep me occupied on quiet days. While I enjoy the creative purposes in the game such as interior design and building homes, I think my pleasure extends far beyond that—I like to control it all—and not so everything is perfect; rather, I like to be the inflictor of chaos, of tragedy. It makes me feel powerful.
Wreaking havoc in The Sims world to add pleasure to my life is like picturing an audience in underpants to make a speech less daunting. By visualizing and putting into action evil doings not acceptable in the real world, I find relief and pleasure. For in The Sims, crime comes without punishment. Misfortune comes without true misery. And once the computer screen is shut, real life resumes.
But I can’t help pondering, is it so bad to mess with Sims and even kill them, just because that sense of control and invincibility is so satiating? Is it wrong to inflict harm on digital bodies with green halos, posing as humans? Why can I murder a Sim with a smile on my face, but I can’t even squash a caterpillar on the sidewalk? Am I a sociopath?
The Sims may awaken the darkness within me, but it’s what allows me to live contently in a life with no control.
STORY IMAGE PROVIDED BY AUTHOR.