The day-to-day grind can be a bit of a slog sometimes. This is why so many of us turn to things which help us unwind at the end of the day, like books, TV, movies, and video games. These things break up the monotony and allow us to detach from the difficulties of real life and escape to somewhere far away. It’s the time when we get to switch off and not think about work or cleaning or any of the other inconveniences life gives you.
This is what makes The Sims kind of a weird game.
Now don’t get me wrong; I love The Sims. I played the original on a computer running Windows 98 back when I was in middle school. I spent hours on it with my friend. But we never played without cheat codes.
Back then, there was a built-in cheat where you could type in “rosebud” and the game would give you thousands of
dollars simoleons. You could then type a semicolon to repeat the cheat until you had all the money you wanted.
Really, we didn’t care much about the characters in the game. Sometimes we would make facsimiles of ourselves, but ultimately we could let them die in a fire or drown in a pool after removing all the ladders and we couldn’t care less.
All we actually cared about was making a cool house. But to build houses, you needed a lot of money. And there’s really only one way to legitimately earn money in The Sims: Getting a job and earning promotions.
I found out the hard way that this is much more difficult than it sounds.
As an adult, I figured, Hey, I really like The Sims, but I always cheated in it to build houses and never actually played the game. I’m going to forego my usual cheater ways and play it the right way.
I booted up the most recent game at the time and created my happy little family. I moved them into a modest house that they could afford and furnished it only with what they needed, like a responsible adult. I got them jobs that seemed interesting and then let them watch TV until it was time to go to bed before their first day at work.
This is the point where the first difficulties begin to show themselves.
Like real people, Sims need to eat, bathe, and tinkle. They are also prone to sadness if their home isn’t full of art and other aesthetically pleasing furniture. So on the first day of work for a Sim, you get a notification saying the carpool will be arriving soon. And since no one ever thought to include an alarm clock that could be set to a certain time in the game, you had to click them and make them get out of bed yourself. Sometimes (more often than not) there would be a delay, because Sims hate getting out of bed. Then they had to use the bathroom or they would (and I’m not joking) go on the floor.
This isn’t necessarily a problem. At least their bladder is no longer full, and they can hone their cleaning chops by producing a mop from mallet space and cleaning up after themselves.
But then they have to make food, and that takes time. Bathing also takes time. Thankfully, when it comes to changing, Sims have magic powers and can swap out their PJ’s for their work clothes with all the effort of a heel-turn.
With all this done, congratulations, your Sim is probably going to miss the carpool. If, however, they made it to work on time, chances are they went hungry, tired, dirty, or in a bad mood.
Then there’s the time when they’re actually at work. First off, you don’t go to work with them (at least not in the earlier games) so you’re forced to sit there staring at an empty house as the game automatically switches over into triple-speed. And all those gauges which mark their hunger, tiredness, mood, bladder, etc. don’t just stop when they’re at work. And you have no control over them. Luckily, your Sim will use the bathroom at work, at least, but if they left hungry, they’re going to come home even hungrier.
As you’re sitting there staring at this empty house, there might be trash lying around—mostly dishes—and the sink might be broken, or the toilet might be clogged and flooding the bathroom. So you do the only thing you can do and click all these things to ensure your Sim takes care of these things as soon as they get home.
But Sims are especially stupid, and they will do all these things before handling anything else. They may come home ready to pass out and it’s not uncommon for them to keel over on the bathroom floor in the middle of mopping.
Your Sim’s job has certain qualities which can help them succeed at work and get promoted, thus earning a larger paycheck. So now you have to invest in a bookshelf or some device for them to practice on if you want them to get the money you desperately need to upgrade your home or hire a cleaner to take care of the mess while they’re away, thus freeing up time for studying or watching TV.
Oh, and did I mention the skills take forever to learn? You can instruct your Sim to grab a book on anything and start poring over it to improve a skill, but then you have to sit there while they read and a little green gauge fills up over time until they’ve improved their abilities. This can sometimes be more boring than the empty house, and is more distressing because you have to watch their hunger and bladder levels fill and remind them to get up off the couch and go do something about that. Worst of all, sometimes they’ll get bored and just put the book down, even if they’re only a little bit away from earning that one point that will get them a promotion the very next day.
But Sims, like real people, also need to unwind. And sleep. So you can only push them so far without letting them jam out to their favorite tunes or take a nap. And sometimes these naps can completely screw up their sleep schedule so they wake up hours before work yet manage to be incredibly tired by the time work begins anyway. This often results in your Sim having a bad day at work.
Meanwhile, in the real world, hours have passed. Your own apartment is a mess, and you’re sitting unwashed over a keyboard ensuring this digital character gets to work on time and gets a promotion. Also you’re a bit hungry.
I played The Sims like this for about a week before I realized my Sim had become successful, gotten a girlfriend, and was able to afford a cleaning service and upgrade his house, while I had done nothing but play The Sims for a week straight.
I became depressed during this time, and I learned no new skills, read no books. I played until I went to work and played as soon as I got home. Real-life obligations like cleaning and taking the dog out became a nuisance because I couldn’t just point and click and make the problem go away. My own life had somehow become objectively worse than the Sim I’d obsessed over, and now I’ll only ever play it again with cheat codes on.
At least I never went on the floor.