Back when I was a youth, few things compared to the indescribable joy that came with a Friday afternoon, 2 hours of parent-allotted screen time, and the Sims 2.
It was sheer bliss. For those two hours I was in an alternate universe where everyone had to listen to what I said and do what I wanted (thanks to cheats that removed my Sims’ free will). And for the bossy little brat that I was, that was heaven.
I took immense pleasure out of spending hours creating custom dresses for my Sims that they could wear for practical matters such as burning pasta (EVERY TIME, MARGARET THE SIM, EVERY TIME) or jumping around doing some weird cultish dance every time the Christmas tree burned down instead of, I don’t know, calling the fire department.
The Sim world was a complex one. It was completely unrealistic and made up, yet I loved it because I felt it was a realistic portrayal of what my perfect world would be. A world where teenagers could be independently wealthy and re-design their rooms completely on a whim. A world where mac and cheese could be eaten for breakfast and pizza could be ordered on a Wednesday because parents refused to parent unless directed to do so by The Controller (who was, conveniently, me). A world where an hour on the Sim treadmill would take one from morbidly obese to crazy fit almost instantaneously. Everything went my way, which I loved because in real life, my brothers wouldn’t obey my dictator-like rules and we weren’t allowed to have dessert any night but Sundays.
Yes, there were unforeseen downfalls to the game.
It was always annoying when you had twins crying, a kid in serious danger of being removed by social services, a dog who refused to stop eating the sofa, a baby who wouldn’t grow up, and no parents to be found to help anything. This is because the parents were either MIA pruning in the pool because I had forgotten to add a ladder or passed out from exhaustion, face-down in their toaster pastries.
And it was a minor setback when the mother of a single-parent family had an unfortunate accident involving roaches and died, while the Grim Reaper stood on the front lawn and gloated for half a Sim day because the teenage members of the family didn’t have enough Charisma points to bargain for their mother’s life back.
But all in all, it was weirdly satisfying. Though it was a game that made little to no sense, I adored it. And I was good at it, too. I knew all the cheats, could save anyone from anything in the game, and had a budding talent in creating custom clothes in BodyShop. Life was good.
In reflection, I should probably have spent more of my adolescence nurturing marketable talents and finding “real” interests. But I don’t regret it, because it gave me some valuable insight as to what to do (and, more typically, what not to do) if and when I have a family of my own.
For example, don’t hire a live-in nanny. They won’t go away, no matter how many times you dismiss them, and you will find them cackling in the hot tub at 3 in the morning while eating your leftover pork chop.