How The Sims helped me come to terms with my banal existence

Lily talks about the bleak reality of downscaling your dreams with the help of a best selling PC game, even if that means disappointing your younger self.

 In the most recent version of The Sims, which was released in 2014, you are presented with some fantastical opportunities. You can go to space in a hand-built rocket, you can transform into a vampire and you can even grow a Sim-eating plant that’s in the shape of a cow(?) These far-fetched aspirations aside, the first thing I find myself itching to build when I open up The Sims 4 is… a two-bedroom house, with a bathtub, a washing machine and a dishwasher. I furnish these homes with perfect colour schemes and tchotchkes on every available surface. I sit back and relish in this suburban world I’ve created for my flawless Sim children, and let them enjoy a life unburdened.

The first thing I find myself itching to build when I open up The Sims 4 is… a two-bedroom house, with a bathtub, a washing machine and a dishwasher.

When I was a child I would spend countless hours in Ikea (probably when my mum was looking to replace something I’d broken) wandering around and daydreaming about all the things I would have when I moved out properly. And then I did move out. I quickly learned to down-scale my daydreams. “I’ll have a light-up vanity mirror, on a special dressing table all for me, and it will have this and that and…” No, my sweet innocent child, you’ll have a desk. This desk will be for work, and applying make-up and eating and sewing and crying and falling asleep on (on those occasions where you’ve had too much wine at a house party).

I’ll say now that I am absolutely happy with what I have, and I have absolutely nothing to complain about. I love my living situation and the things that I own. Yet, my mind strays, and I sometimes think about the environment I would create for myself if I could pause my life, zoom out and start all over again. It’s not grand, it’s not plush. It’s an attainable dream. I have a bed that isn’t second hand. My fridge is tall, and my freezer is separate. There’s a dishwasher and I don’t live so close to my neighbours that when their washing machine is on, I can feel it vibrating the worktop in my kitchen. In this new world, I am able to languish in a bath that is accommodating of my 6ft frame and maybe, just maybe, I’ll have enough Simoleans (the in-game currency) to buy my own washing machine instead of exchanging bags of dirty laundry with my mother in Aldi’s carpark (thanks for doing my washing mum love you.)

What did you dream for as a child? A sports car? A trip to Disney? A swimming pool in your backyard? And when you realised you had to adjust to your own means, how did they change? Did they flip to a second hand Corsa, a weekend getaway to Cornwall and a decently sized paddling pool to dip your toes in? Dreaming is an integral part of life. It’s wishing for a situation uncontrolled by the invisible barriers imposed on us by society. To quote the musical theatre troupe Starkid, ‘Wishes are dreams, and dreams are pretend’ – a statement that provokes an unreasonable amount of despair as it quashes any hope of owning the items you yearned for as a child. I, myself, have had to admit that with my size 10 feet and lack of basic coordination, I’m never going to own a pair of Heelys.

Dreaming is an integral part of life. It’s wishing for a situation uncontrolled by the invisible barriers imposed on us by society.

If your six-year-old self asked if you were doing the job you wanted when you were their age, maybe they would be disappointed that you didn’t become a spy, or a doctor or an astronaut. Well, count your lucky stars, as in the Sims you can become any of these things and without the need for A*s in all of your exams! There’s not even an interview process – you give them a call and hey, presto, you’re a spy. And yet… you can still become a babysitter or gardener. There are so many outlandish opportunities presented to you but we often choose to stick to our own realms of relative possibility.  At this stage in my life, I’m probably never going to learn how to play the violin, but the virtual version of myself could max out the skill in a mere 15 in-game hours. And as much as I wish I could, there’s no option to become romantically involved with somebody by spamming the ‘flirt’ interaction. Shame. The Sims implements a simplified social system; people either like you or they don’t. There aren’t any two-faced interactions or complicated hierarchical structures that induce anxiety-triggering conversations with your manager.

 For many, including myself, The Sims appeals to an ultimate need for control. You control every aspect of your avatar’s life, including who they fall in love with and when they get to sleep. It’s an astonishing exposure into your own need to micromanage these little lives, in ways that you’ll never be able to control your own. As much as we try we can’t influence the impact we have on other people’s lives and it’s impossible to know what’s going to happen tomorrow. The only things in life that are guaranteed are death, taxes and your father’s inevitable obsession with how green his lawn is.

As much as we try we can’t influence the impact we have on other people’s lives and it’s impossible to know what’s going to happen tomorrow.

Do I wish I was a Sim? To some extent, probably. I’m not religious, but I think I’d find comfort in the idea that there is somebody up there looking out for me, and guiding all my choices. At least then I’d know that when I thought it was a good idea to dye my hair blue when I was 16, it wasn’t my choice. On the other hand, I’m very glad that nobody is going to make me get into a swimming pool and watch me drown after they’ve deleted the pool ladder, and I’m not going to starve to death after somebody has locked me in a room and deleted the door. But until the day it’s proven that somebody is up there controlling everything I do, I’ll keep thinking about that impossibly long bathtub while standing in my 70cmx70cm shower cubicle.

Lily’s Origin ID is Queenpumpkins 

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