Thursday, July 29, 2010

Why I Enjoy Pretend Stress

I enjoy playing The Sims 3. Sure, lots of people like computer games, so my liking The Sims isn't a big deal. I play it in the afternoons while my son naps, or sometimes in the evenings if I can sneak away.

I always make a Sim of myself and my husband. I make (or buy) a house that looks like ours (though usually a little bigger and always better decorated). I'm a journalist, he's a musician, and we have a family. It's all just like real life!

Except for the stress.

You see, every emotion a Sim is feeling—happiness, anger, loneliness, etc.—is shown via "moodlets." I know all the time exactly what my Sim is thinking and feeling, and there are a variety of things I can do to change those feelings. It's my job, as the omniscient being to these little computer people, to "fix" any bad feelings the Sims might have and to promote good, happy feelings.

Here's the thing: I have a family in real life. I have a baby who toddles around and gets into trouble and needs to be fed and changed. I have a husband who wants to talk to me and spend time with me. I have chores to do and responsibilities to take care of.

Why on earth do I want to play a game where all that is not only required of me, I am scored on it?

Part of it is the whole "perfect world" thing. I can make myself look prettier and thinner as a Sim. I can change my hair and my clothes without spending a dime. I know exactly how to fix whatever ails me. I have cheats that fill my bank account repeatedly. Heck, that feature alone makes my game play so much easier. My babysitter is always available. I get Lifetime Reward points for things like reading or cooking, and then I can spend them on things like always being interesting in conversation or getting to take longer vacations. Part of me wishes life was more like The Sims.

On the other hand, there are things that make the game challenging. If you don't raise your kids well, they can develop terrible traits that will affect them in later life. There are burglars and repo men (which you can't get rid of once they've shown up) and all sorts of tasks to complete in order to move up in your career. It's actually kind of stressful to make sure you get everything done and raise your family before you age too far.

Unfortunately, life is like The Sims in many of these respects.

Life goes by quickly. We have a lot of things to do. Sometimes it's stressful. While we don't have a little panel to tell us what's wrong and a set system of how to fix these things, we have to get by somehow. 

That's where our Omniscient Being comes in.

He keeps a close eye on us, despite all he has to mind. He doesn't magically fix things for us or fill our bank accounts to overflowing, but he does respond to our needs. He rewards us for the things we do well and gently reminds us to try harder on the things we don't. He can give us peace, joy, and comfort, the best "fixes" for our negative experiences. Sometimes we have to go through things we would prefer to skip, but he's there on the other side of those events, waiting for us and helping us get back on track. He's really, really good at all of it, too. 

So all of this is going on in real life. A life that's pretty good, by all accounts. Remind me why I play The Sims again?

1 comment:

I wrote the thing. You read the thing. Don't be too lazy to comment!