how a video game helps you understand life

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illustration by Harriet Lee Merrion

As a kid I used to play the Sims. When I think about it now it really is such a strange game that makes you ponder about life’s control, purpose and existentialism in general. I remember being inclined to use cheat codes in this game for comfortably and effortlessly (not paying attention to money) making this perfect house with the perfect garden and the perfect sim with the perfect personality features and personality. And I remember how dull it was once you accomplished your flamboyant wishes. It seemed like I preferred to play the role as a house designer instead of a sims controller, and once the house was built, it wasn’t even functional/practical or adding to the whole point of the game. The sim seemed truly boring at that point and didn’t need any attention from me. As there it is: defeating the goal, having no challenges left. When you think about it: once you reached perfectionism the purpose is defeated. And it’s only when you experienced the accomplishment of having everything you want and desire, that you can truly see how boring and unsatisfying it all is.

I remember after a while how I would prefer to start with a small budget and building the house gradually up an how it was more satisfying to only buy a television once you worked really hard to save money. And with the little money you had made you let your sim eat a good dish and that was a real treat. How meeting other sims from the neighborhood was more exciting than having already created this well arranged couple. How you would actually hope for them to be friends or lovers or even enemies.

I know today’s Sims are a little less controlling and more advanced with details. Such as growing older, putting on weight, getting pregnant without any intention. And my first reaction to that feature was a slight disappointment; “how did my sim get obese and pregnant and freakishly old, I wanted her to stay in that good shape and remain the same robotic perfectly boring creation”. But now I see it differently, thankfully.

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