How The Sims 3 Soothes My Broken Millennial Soul
(This piece was originally written by Meleah Bennett on December 9th, 2017 on our old host website, Medium)
I don’t know much about video games. Can’t do FPS for shit. But you bet your fuckin’ ass I play Sims.
Sims was an integral part of my childhood and adolescence. It brought my older sister and I together like nothing else ever could. I distinctly remember the two of us cramming both our tiny asses into the computer chair, firing up Sims, and then building a house together that was just one room, unpainted, dirt floor, but dozens of magic lamps: the only thing worth buying in Sims 1. We’d take turns having our Sim (which was usually a girl who looked like a cross between the babysitter we idolized and Lizzie McGuire) go around the room, rubbing the lamps and making wishes over and over, only ever asking for more money or love.
Sims 3 came out in June 2009, right before my 11th birthday. While the entire Sims franchise is special to me, Sims 3 occupies a disgustingly large place in my heart. And now, as a young adult beginning to “grow up”, I’m coming to realize why.
In my personal opinion, Sims 3 is EA’s best work. What sets 3 apart from every other generation of Sims is the level of specificity that you can achieve for virtually everything. The customization feature was drastically expanded between 2 and 3 (and then taken away for 4, hence my distaste) to allow you to manipulate the colours, materials, and textures of literally any item in the game at no extra charge. If you want the soles of your Sim’s shoes to exactly match their kitchen countertops, they will. If you want to change it the next day, you can! And it won’t cost you a penny! It brings peace to my anxious little heart to know that nothing ever has to be slightly off because I didn’t have to choose its design from a predetermined shortlist of options.
Additionally, the level of customization for the personality of the Sim is incomparable. At a basic level, it is the only version where you can determine their favourite music genre, food, colour and of course astrological sign. Then there are more than 60 different character trait options to mix and match to build a unique personality for your Sim that will influence their goals, wishes, and style of interacting with other people.
The attention to detail in The Sims 3 is unparalleled.
Playing as a kid, I relied on cheat codes, entering “motherlode” so many times that eventually I’d max out the amount of money you could possibly have. I’d build humongous houses with miles of empty space and the most expensive option possible for every item, even if it was ugly. And I wasn’t just a player… I was a player: kissing, marrying, and then leaving people within the span of a day (woohooing was probably my sexual awakening honestly). I lived what I naively assumed to be the ideal life.
Over time, my goals became dramatically different. Now whenever I play, I always buy the starter home, and instead of boosting my Simoleon stockpile immediately and moving to the nearest mansion I stay, sell some of the more useless items for a bit of extra cash, and work on surviving on an entry-level job paycheque. I keep making the same types of characters too; artsy young adults, usually a gf/bf that plan on getting married in the future (the boyfriend usually still somehow resembling my crush du jour). I started purposely including negative personality traits to make the characters more well-rounded.
I realized that I’m still living my ideal life, but what i consider ideal has significantly shifted.
When you’re playing any game, there’s always a clear and achievable goal. In The Sims, you make that goal AND achieve it. If you read the right books, sharpen the right skills, befriend the right people, you will succeed: no question. You’re guaranteed your dream job by simply opening up the newspaper.
There’s a lot of great things like that in The Sims. You never sleep in past necessary. You literally can’t push yourself to do things if you’re too hungry, or too tired, or unhappy. You never need to eat more than one plate to feel satisfied. The fridge is never empty. You never have to worry about changing your clothes.
The Sims gives me something that I desperately crave: certainty.
Right now, being a young adult is fraught with uncertainty. Will this degree (that I’m neglecting to play Sims 3) actually lead me anywhere? Will I ever be able to even afford to buy my own property? Will I ever achieve, or even discover my lifetime goal? These are very real feelings and anxieties that I, and many others like me, have to deal with every single day. And sometimes it can get so spooky! So being able to actually visualize a life where you are in control, and hard work leads to success and happiness — it’s comforting.
None of us are even close to figuring any real world shit out. But in the meantime, catch me playing Sims, living the sustainable middle-class life of my dreams, with my devoted and super hot boyfriend.