The Sims is a game that is really close to my heart. Ever since I borrowed the first game from my friend Simon a decade ago, this franchise has been with me and grown up with me. Aside from just the obvious fun factor of living out fantasy lives and creating scandals and drama in a neighborhood, the Sims was a way to reflect on my own life in its various stages, and see it from a different perspective.
Here are a few things I learned from The Sims, going in chronological order:
The Sims 1 – Get your life and home in order.
When I first started playing The Sims, I was in college, living in an apartment away from my parents’ home for the first time. Then, I had a level of freedom which I just didn’t have before. I could eat whenever and whatever I wanted to, sleep in, skip breakfast, eat crappy cereal for dinner, and so forth. My daily routine was completely random, and the uneven meals and sleeping habits probably wasn’t the best way to treat my body.
If you re-enact that in The Sims, you’ll end up with a bad dysfunctional family who won’t go up the career ladder very far. They’ll be whinging and complaining all the time about being hungry, or throw tantrums about being stinky and unhygienic all the time. The friend that lent me the game had actually complained that he hated the game for this reason: Sims just can’t seem to get much done everyday.
However, I managed to work out a way to maximize their time, by making sure that they got up early, and started the day with a proper breakfast and shower. In managing their time to an ideal schedule, I realize just how messed up my own routine was, so I started taking notes from my Sims and trying to control my own daily schedule in the same way. It led to a more fulfilling lifestyle, where I didn’t just spend my time either at uni or playing The Sims.
Another thing I learned was basic housekeeping. Before I played The Sims, I didn’t make my bed. When a light-bulb fizzles out in my apartment, I was too lazy to fix it immediately, and would just leave it be until enough light-bulbs pop that I’m left completely in darkness. It made for a pretty dreary place to live, and it wasn’t until I saw how much a shit-hole home could affect the Sims that I decided to be more pro-active in keeping my home clean and properly lit.
The Sims 2 – Stay in touch with your friends.
By the time The Sims 2 came around, I had finished college and started working, and was in a serious relationship with someone. At this point in my life, I had a routine going that involved pulling shifts at a video store, playing video games and going on dates with this person.
Even though email and instant messaging services like Messenger and ICQ were around to make communication easier, I had de-prioritized this stuff in favor of my girlfriend, work, and World of Warcraft. And to think I used to write snail-mail letters to friends and a pen-pal in Denmark that I’ve never met before!
Socializing is an important aspect of The Sims 2‘s gameplay, and you can’t progress far in many career tracks without a certain number of friends. But beyond that, your Sims will often get depressed if they don’t hang out with their friends or at least talk to them on the phone every now and then.
Where this differs from real life is this: in The Sims 2, the game will prompt you when your relationship levels with your friends are dropping. You might not get such notifications in real life, and you might just drift apart from your pals without a notice or sign.
After this, I made a bigger effort to keep in touch with my friends, through emails or otherwise. It was a bit harder since I’d moved overseas after college and was in a different continent from most of them, but it was still manageable. You just gotta force yourself to sit down and write a quick email every once in a while.
The Sims 3 – probably the most important lesson of them all.
About a year before the release of The Sims 3, I married that girl that I was seeing during The Sims 2. We’d progressed along with our careers, and were pretty busy with work responsibilities and so forth.
When I started playing The Sims 3, I was incredibly caught up with trying to advance the careers of my Sims. Their regular routine was working, and then developing the skills they needed to aid their chances for a promotion. Even though The Sims 3 allows you to go out and visit places in a virtual town, my Sims were pretty focused on their careers.
Then one day, I got a prompt from the game that my Sims were about to reach the elder stage of their lives, and that I should get a birthday cake or plan a party for them.
My Sims had reached old age without me realizing it.
I was horrified, because there were so many things that I had wanted them to do, like start a family, go on a vacation, or master the gardening skill etc. But I had left all of that out in favor of career, and that really put my own life in perspective.
I mean, here was my own life projected on an accelerated timeline, and I really did not like what I saw.
My wife and I don’t have kids yet, and I still haven’t taken her to that vacation in Greece that I promised her oh so many years ago. So when are we going to do this stuff?
That vacation won’t be the same if we have a child to look after. But on the other hand, if we put off starting a family for much longer, we’re going to be old parents.
When I was in high school, I had a friend who had old parents. On parent-teacher days, everyone mistook them as his grandparents. I don’t want that! I want to still be able to toss a ball around with my kid without snapping my back, or play a videogame with him/her without going into an epileptic fit!
So yeah, the big lesson learned: don’t put things off for too long. Anything you want to do or achieve, do it now!