The school summer holidays; Forty plus days of no work and having time to catch up on lost sleep, half-read books and to get out exploring.
But despite being in the midst of a storm as I type, which has brought some much needed rain, for weeks the whole of the country has experienced soaring temperatures which has seen me retreat to a darkened room faster than a vampire evading a crispy death!
I don’t do hot.
So I’ve found myself (among other, cooling, lets-not-use-much-energy activities) returning to video games. I’ve always considered myself a gamer – not a proper one, with a multi-platform set-up, a swivel chair and my own Twitch channel. More that I’m someone who likes to dabble in different games, dip a toe in and move on to something else when I can’t conquer a level.
You know, like every other hobby I’ve ever had. 😉
Recent games have included Minecraft, which I quickly realised I’m not creative enough for and Fortnite Battle Royal, which I love but you can only come 2nd place so many times before it becomes demoralising.
Still, being able to talk at length about Boogie Bombs, Tilted Towers and mastering the Floss and Orange Justice have earned me many cool points with the kids at school! (And you earn them too if you have any idea what I’m on about!!)
So when Sam downloaded a well known game that had become free on Xbox, he thought I would want to play it.”Meh,” I said. “Can’t say it’s ever appealed to me, I might give it a go…”
Because the game in question is The SIMS, version 4 to be exact and it’s been around forever. If you don’t know the premise, you basically create your character/s and then play out their life, forming relationships, working on a career and building a home.
Or none of that. You could just sit on your bum and eat pizza. Just like life.
But who wants to play a game that mimics life and gives you chores to do, heartbreak to get over and where there’s a chance you’ll become bankrupt and have your electricity cut off?
Me, me, me!
Little did I know I’d find it seriously addictive – from choosing how you look, your career goals, personality, aspirations to what the colour of your walls will be. The design aspect alone has easily eaten up an entire day of my existence (in actual hours).
And then there are the goals, just like ‘IRL’ – make friends, form a relationship, make a family, leave a legacy. Or simply gad about town having a whale of a time and flirting with everything that moves…
My first SIM took my go-to fictional name of Luchia DeHavilland. An adult with a cheery personality, being a quick learner and someone who likes the outdoors, she had the Renaissance aspiration, meaning she wanted to be good at, or try out, many different activities.
She looked nothing like me – I think I got carried away with the fine detail editing and sliced at her cheekbones once too often. But we were of to a start.
A modest house and budget, I selected a career as a writer and started on the bottom rung of the ladder…as a blogger! All was dandy to begin with: she visited libraries, museums and nightclubs. Luchia made friends at the park, watched a lot of cookery channels and became quite adept at preparing gourmet dishes.
Her career was on a roll and she was promoted within days. A small group of close friends had been formed, a few suggesting the possibility of romance, and I had enough money from her to do some home improvements.
And then, horror of horrors, I found out she was soon to become an elder. Apparently, SIMS age up to the next milestone in 24 days. But I didn’t know if that equated to human time or a SIM clock.
It was the latter. A notification flashed up to say it was her birthday – let’s have a party!
Yes let’s. And let me try to establish a man for her before it’s too late to create a SIM lineage. Unfortunately, I wasn’t aware the party was a timed event and merrily sent my character off chatting, flirting and eating her way through a neighbour’s house, who had kindly hosted the shindig.
Then, all too soon, it was over and a huge notification flashed up to tell me it had been a failure. I’d neglected to serve cake to anyone (my culinary level didn’t allow me to bake) and my friends were losing interest.
Oh, and by the way, you’re now old.
Sure enough, Luchia awoke the next day with a head full of grey and needed frequent naps throughout the morning. She also started washing dishes in the toilet and throwing food on the floor, in an apparent demise of her faculties. All of which resulted in more mess and tense moodlets (emotion indicators).
No matter. She had become an advice columnist now – something that would surely benefit from a mature outlook and had money in the bank. I just didn’t want her to miss out on romance and die alone.
So I sent her off flirting. Mercilessly.
I mean, she still looked pretty damn good for an octogenarian – I hadn’t bothered to change her outfits so she was still rocking the bikinis and jumpsuits…and totally pulling off the look!
But the romance wasn’t as successful. Her good friend Luis, who had always harboured feelings for her, moved in. But things became tense – above all else he refused to use the bathroom and I was forced to take him on trips to the gym in order to wash and relieve himself! (I later discovered I’d locked the door to everyone but Luchia…)
Their friendship dwindled and he slept on the sofa, often starting arguments for no reason,
Oh my…this was getting a little too real and not much fun. Hmmm…
So I moved him out and went out hunting like a cougar.
All. Kinds. Of. Embarrassing.
Luchia didn’t see herself as 80-something. But everyone else did. And while she hit on anything with a pulse, drinking at bars and staying out until the early hours, her ‘friends’ were grossed out by her behaviour and she found herself having to apologise frequently, often crying herself to sleep.
What had I done to her?
I’m pleased to say she did experience some sexy time, or WooHoo as it’s known in the game, just the once with a man of suitable age. Losing her virginity at 90! Unfortunately, he turned out to be married but actually dumped Luchia because she was flirting with someone else. I’m sure she was just smiling sweetly…
Desperation set in and I set about adopting a child for her. After paying a fee, her son, Reed, turned up on the doorstep and all was rosy again in the DeHavilland house.
However, time was running out and at 95 years old, I decided to create another SIM, who would take care of Reed when she was gone – I didn’t want him being sent back to Child Services after all.
In comes Sasha – a sister from another mister. Although, it’s more likely they shared a father as it would be a stretch to believe the age gap of around 75 years saw them born from the same womb…
A tool to allowing genetic make-up to be added to a character enabled her to have a look of Luchia. But this time, I started her younger and gave her a career of Secret Agent. Let’s have a fantasy lifetime instead this time. Plus, the hours fit around Reed’s school day…
The day after Sasha arrived, Luchia keeled over after washing the dishes. The Grim Reaper arrived, reading some kind of sermon from his iPad, took her soul then hung out in the kitchen, listening to the radio for an hour (??)
Sasha and Reed mourned and comforted each other then moved on. I discovered I’d let Luchia live in a drab house, with only plasterboard on the walls, so set about a complete overhaul of the home. Another human day gone!
A new chapter has begun and where it will go, I’ve no idea. Will Reed become a delinquent in his teens? Will Sasha find love and have to lie about her vocation?
Whatever the outcome, I was happy to discover that Luchia’s spirit visits in the night and after messing around with the furniture, hangs out watching TV, chatting to her family and still cooks gourmet meals and takes the rubbish out!
Honestly, I’m not sure what this game, and the way I’ve played it, says about me – if it hasn’t been studied already, it should be. It could be one of the greatest social experiments ever!
And I’m acutely aware that, even as I’ve typed this, the way I’ve talked about Luchia makes her seem like a real person. Completely sucked in, I tell you!
Dag-a-dag! (Did I forget to mention they have their own language too…)
So what about you? Have you ever played SIMS? Would you create an utter contrast to yourself or stick with what you know?
And of course, I’ll let you know if I ever get promoted to Diamond Thief!
IMAGE CREDITS: My own, plus