In this column, we deliver hot (and cold) takes on pop culture, judging whether a subject is overrated or underrated.
Picture this. You’re 14 years old and your body is in the awkward stage between child and adult, all gangly limbs, pimples and one breast larger than the other (the latter may not be a universal experience). You never had a video games console as a child – you were a books and board games family – but recently discovered a PC program called The Sims. After much pleading, your mother graciously buys it for you. You place the disc in your very large, very hot and very noisy family computer, and enter another world.
With the ability to create and customise individual Sim people and homes, the possibilities are endless. You create unique Sim characters for your town, some with unruly red hair and a penchant for rummaging through rubbish bins, others completely bald with an exclusive wardrobe of Hawaiian shirts. You calmly pour yourself a bowl of cereal and make your Sims couple go to bed and Woohoo (that’s Simlish for getting to know one another in the nude/biblical sense) over and over. You have few friends in real life – you’re a books and board games teen – but when you’re in this simulated world, it doesn’t matter.
Playing The Sims is the antidote to everything.
Got that? Great. Now picture this. It’s 20 years later, and you find yourself once again playing The Sims. Is this indicative of an intrinsically cool personality, or kicking goals in life? The answer is both and this person is me. So, as I casually make my Sim neglect their child who I find annoying in the hopes Child Services will take them away, I wonder why this game isn’t talked about more. With the release of countless films and movies based on games, including the critically acclaimed The Last of Us, why doesn’t my beloved Sims get the same recognition?
As I understand it, most video games have clear goals: a mission you must take, whether it be winning a race or a long journey filled with challenges. The Sims is fun precisely because there aren’t real objectives, especially once you have the easily accessible cheat codes, so your Sims have unlimited funds and do not have to do yucky things such as work. It’s like playing with dolls as an adult, except less pathetic, probably! And with no goals or mission, you have full autonomy to play however you like. You can’t be a loser if there’s nothing to win (I’m saying this out loud to a mirror.)
After a long hiatus, I’ve rediscovered the joys of this game and feel more people should get on board too. Hours can be lost designing a dream house with teal bathrooms and a 70s conversation pit or creating a Sim that looks exactly like Julianne Moore. Could these hours be spent completing other tasks and responsibilities? Sure, but look! Julianne’s dancing.
During the global psychic breakdown known as “the year 2020”, I purchased several expansion packs that allow my Sims to turn into mermaids, vampires, or werewolves. Modern psychology emphasises the importance of tapping into our inner child and sense of play for increased creativity and relaxation. This is a surefire way to do it, even if you choose to make your Sims drown in swimming pools when you get bored. It’s just playtime!
A thrilling day in the life of Sim me.
One fun element of The Sims is the number of musicians who have rerecorded their songs in Simlish that can be played on radios and speakers in the game: Kimbra, Depeche Mode, Jessica Mauboy, My Chemical Romance, and my personal favourite, Nelly. According to online sources like the probably very credible Daily Rap Facts dot com, Nelly titled his 2002 hit Hot in Herre with an extra R to emphasise the fact that it is really, really hot. We assume it is this creative open-mindedness that encouraged Sims developers to reach out to him to record his song in gibberish.
Even while playing God, the Sims you create do have some degree of autonomy, which adds a fun element of mystery and intrigue. I created a Sim for my partner and I (which look very accurate, except my Sim has a symmetrical bust) and they organically started a conversation about sexuality. Sim me asked Sim partner what his sexual preferences are and he replied, “I’m still figuring it out” and then went for a jog. I have been side-eyeing my partner ever since.
After watching The Last of Us, I realise I don’t want there to be a Sims movie or TV show because it would be a passive experience, compared to how intrinsically powerful one feels being the player. And with many of us feeling powerless in this crazy world I recommend playing the Sims if you haven’t before, creating a universe and designing your own version of a conversation pit. And if you think I’m foolish? Well boobasnot! (That’s Simlish for, “I don’t like you”.) Gotta run now, I think Julianne Moore is on fire.
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