07 August 2011

a benevolent dictator?

Perhaps I am alone in this, but I have often wondered what would happen if I were given complete, omnipotent control in a world without restraints. Luckily, for like-minded people of my generation, there is an outlet through which we can see just what kind of ruler we may be. I am talking, of course, about the Sims franchise.

I have been an avid player since the inception of the game; my first exposure to this experiment occurred at the tender age of ten. I didn’t realize it at the time, but by playing, I was beginning to answer the age-old conundrum: does great responsibility necessarily come with great power?

She looks pleasant.

At first, I was purely pragmatic. The choices I made affected the lives of these people in concrete ways, and so I did everything in my power to make it as easy for me as possible. Did I want them to die of starvation? If not, I should probably make them build their Cooking skills. Similarly, it made sense that they should pursue careers in which the skills necessary were skills that the Sims would need to survive anyways. Hence, during the first phase of my gameplaying years, my Sims were all chefs.

But that quickly became boring. And, as you probably know, a bored me is a dangerous me.

It should also be noted that my game experienced a glitch around this time, permanently disabling the save function. In other words, there were literally no lasting repercussions to the actions I decided to take. There were no consequences and no responsibilities.

Sure, I would do my best to make my Sims the best they could possibly be. But, after a couple of hours of succeeding without any challenge, my Sims would ultimately find themselves in a tiny carpeted room with no windows or doors being forced to play with fireworks for hours on end. Or, if I decided to draw the inevitable deaths out further, I would simply remove the ladders from the pool (before the Sims creators upgraded the game so it wouldn’t matter) and watch as they circled the metaphorical drain. Also, I considered it an achievement to have a social worker take away the children or for the Tragic Clown to attempt to ameliorate the situation. The levels of cruelty I exhibited were unprecedented, and luckily, have yet to reappear.

Once I upgraded my game, however, my sense of responsibility returned. Instead of committing horrifying acts of sadism, I devoted my energy to making my Sims extraordinary. They strove to master every skill, befriend every citizen, and reach the top of their careers as the indisputable best. Not only were they capable of taking care of themselves, but they were cultured and interesting to other Sims. Some even became Celebrities. These SuperSims were the fruit of all my efforts and wasted hours. They were no longer my playthings. They were individuals, and they deserved the best.

I have to wonder, now that I have a bit of distance, if the change in my attitude reflected what was happening in my development. As I matured, I put increasing value in merit, and less in senseless violence that I knew would be absolved the next time I logged in to play. I suppose I figured that being pimped out was a much more favorable option than dying repeatedly with no recollection of the previous death.

I know I’m not the only one who has subjected their Sims to oddities. But I do know that I am far less inclined to do so presently. It is quite upsetting to watch a Sim to whom I have dedicated a large amount of time fry from electrocution. Especially when that Sim was just about to achieve her Lifetime Goal. I’m not bitter.

I really must be growing up.


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