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Livin' With The Sims
theAntiELVIS explores the wild and wacky world that is Will Wright's The Sims, asking the inevitable quesiton, "is The Sims the first step toward a virtual life where everyone is Swedish?"

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Livin' With the Sims

Vol. 2, Issue 15
March 13, 2000

Here's a telling point. No one has tattoos or piercings. While sims may sport orange hair and a bit of leather, for the most part they are identifiable as yuppies at 1000 yards. Pacifist yuppies, at that. So far I have not seen them murder each other. They can get into some pretty nasty shoving matches, but not so much as a broken arm or bitten-off ear for injuries. They don't own guns. They don't own a lot of things real people own - like cars, businesses, pets (well, the stupid tropical fish), stocks, bonds, mortgages, or even a washer/dryer combo. In fact they seem to have no concept of "laundry", as we know it. This is an interesting alternate reality. Maybe if there had been just a few more degrees Kelvin accumulated before the Big Bang went-off, and so a few more charmed quarks and a few less strange ones in the primordial cake mix, a new physical law would make laundry impossible. Wouldn't that be great?

The point is, sims aren't thinking about the Big Bang. Sims think along the following lines:

WOW AM I EVER HUNGRY JEEZ THAT WAS GOOD WHOA I GOTTA PEE WHAT'S ON T.V.? I HATE THAT SHOW I HATE THAT SHOW I LIKE THIS SHOW WHOA I GOTTA PEE WOW AM I EVER HUNGRY I SURE AM LONELY I SURE AM LONELY I SURE AM LONELY I'M BORED I'LL WATCH T.V. I HATE THAT SHOW I HATE THAT SHOW I LIKE THIS SHOW WHOA I GOTTA PEE THE STOVE IS ON FIRE THE STOVE IS ON FIRE WHOA I GOTTA PEE MAN I'M TIRED I THINK I'LL HIT THE HAY SNORE GOD I HATE MY JOB WHOA I GOTTA PEE….

So your average sim is just a bit below the collie-dog rung on the intelligence ladder. Sure, they can fetch, but would one swim a river, climb a mountain, cross a desert, and help some nuns along the way while fetching a doctor for your burst appendix, Timmy? No, a sim would just step over your pain-wracked body on his or her way to the refrigerator. They have no moral awareness to guide their actions. That's your job as the player. Moral awareness is something technical people call Hard To Program. Whenever they come across something that falls into the Hard To Program category, they delegate it to the wetware. Personally I would be delighted if Ulysses T. caught Otto in bed with Barbara, and shot them both in a fit of jealous rage. I wouldn't be killing them - another sim would, in a reaction to his environment. But Maxis (wisely) left-out this level of detail because it's Hard To Program, and because they want to sell this game to kids.

Likewise sims are a little blank to the passage of their life because they don't get sick, they don't age, and they don't die unless it's by starvation or fire (which is bad enough, I guess). They have effective immortality. So for them life must be like watching that episode of the A-Team where they visit B.A.'s mom for the 200th time. You know at the end they'll get away in the van. And so it's no wonder a sim would push past a burning friend to get to the bathroom when their peanut-sized bladder is full. Immortality is a pretty selfish thing by definition. It dooms their kids to always being kids (they have to go to school forever).

So what happens when The Sims meets the Quake III:Arena engine on the Internet? Will the dividing line between our real lives and our virtual ones not just blur, but disappear altogether? If that happens, how much of the real world do we take with us into the virtual one? Do we take our laws? Will we worship god in our persistent simulation? Will we need radiation treatments there? And how much will come back the other way, from the virtual life into the real one? Will we become as blank and unaware of each other as my sims are? Will we be happy in an anti-depressant Ken and Barbie world? And how are we going to work Capture The Flag into a world where you score points by maintaining your interpersonal relationships? There are a lot of practical matters to be worked-out.

It may have been Marshal McLuhan, or perhaps his brother Tony, who said something about how the means we use to communicate and express ourselves, provides a form of feedback that in-turn molds our awareness of self, and thus the things we express. Yeah, I'm pretty sure it was Tony that came up with that one. Anyway, if that's the case, and if our future is engulfed in a virtual reality wherein we are all a sort of benign Borg sim, will we become like Otto and his kind: Immortal, bored, and selfish? And how real will it be? When the carpool comes to pick me up, will it really take me to my job off on some other server somewhere? As we squeeze more of ourselves into thought bandwidth, where will the physical us go? Maybe we'll be stripped-down to some pickled-menudo-looking ganglia floating in a jar of tepid gray liquid or something. I'm sure whatever they come up with will cost about twenty bucks a month, and they'll debit your ATM card for it. And it will have lag. And for some cryptic legal reason, your thought uploads will be slower than your thought downloads. Some things never change.

-tAE-

- If the legends are true, theAntiELVIS lives in Gracelessland and spends his time eating anti-peanut butter and banana sandwitches.

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Credits: Illustration © 2000 Tinusch. This article is © 2000 theAntiELVIS. All other content is © 2000 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited. So don't do it, or we'll deport you.