Life Can be (More) Beautiful

by francine Hardaway on December 27, 2002

Who knew? I thought computer games were the province of teen age boys, and I ignored the gaming magazines, companies, products, and even hot stocks until I read the review of “The Sims Online.” For some reason, the idea of playing a game online appealed to me and I decided to try it. I ordered it for myself as a Christmas gift (on the theory that I should give myself something no one else would give me) and it arrived on Christmas Eve, having been officially released December 17.

Gleefully I inserted the first disk into my CD-ROM drive, only to find that the game wouldn’t install unless I ran Disk Cleanup and Defrag first. I can’t believe that teen age boys are so disciplined as to be able to defer gratification for the five hours it took me to defragment my hard drive.

When TSO (that’s what they call it) installs, it still isn’t finished working on itself. Because it’s an online game, it changes constantly, and every time you sign on to play, you have to get the updates. (The first thing that updates on a new install is the updater itself!)

Right now, I’ve launched the game again and it is running through its update cycle. I really haven’t started to play in earnest yet.

On the first day, I got hung up for hours creating my first Sim. For those of you who don’t play games, creating a Sim is creating a character, and you do it just as if you were going to write a novel. My Sim’s name is Chauncey Woofka, and he is a good looking guy with medium brown skin, orange hair, shorts and sandals. I was able to choose his skin color, his hair, his facial expression, and his outfit from a long list of possibilities, all of which can be tried out on the computer screen.

I read in the New York Times today that some religious group has announced the birth of the first cloned human being. The group, followers of some race driver named Rael, also believes that human beings were created by aliens from outer space. TSO is far more logical than this, and thus, far more dangerous.

For me, being part of TSO is much more exciting than just cloning a human being. With cloning, you merely get more of the same. Here in the wonderful world of Electronic Arts, I get the opportunity to make someone far better looking than myself, and walk a mile in his moccasins. I can finally see what it’s like to live as a man. I’ve had my suspicions…

After I gave birth to my Sim, I got to choose where he would live. There are many different cities, all of which have their characteristics: they’re like a frontier, or they are made up of lagoons, or they’re beaches. Chauncey, however, has chosen to live in the Test Center, a city where all the new technologies are tried and where your Sim and all his possessions could be wiped in a single moment.

Why has he been stupid enough to do that? Probably because his Creatrix isn’t creative enough to get outside herself and let him live in a place she wouldn’t enjoy. She condemned him to live in the same state of urban uncertainty she lives in. This taught her a huge karmic lesson: it’s not easy to imagine yourself as someone else.

Today the Creatrix will help Chauncey find a place to live in his chosen city. This is where she stopped on Christmas Eve, because she found out that empty lots cost 3000, and her Sim’s entire budget is 30,000. Although the Creatrix knows that it’s traditional to spend 25-30% of one’s income on housing, she doesn’t know enough about the game yet to see what else Chauncey will have to do with his money, and she was unwilling to commit to buying anything without research. Anyhow, a hint pop-up box told her that it was better to start out by being a roommate.

The Creatrix still doesn’t understand the object of the game, if there is an object beyond just surviving. Should Chauncey try to end up with all of his money? If he develops skills, he can get jobs and make more money. He can also be voted “best liked.” Right now, he’s trying to decide which direction to take with his life.

If Chauncey fails, the Creatrix has two more Sims she can play with. She’s going to wait a while before designing these characters.

The Creatrix has figured out that she might be as bad at this game as she was at PacMan, which required hand-eye coordination beyond her means, and convinced her it was safer for her to swear of games forever than to keep being disgraced by her ten-year-old daughter.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: