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Playing House in The Sims 4

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Or, what happens when my being sick coincides with 48 hours of free Sims 4 on Origin.

You know the Sims. The game’s slogan might as well be “removing doors from closets and ladders from swimming pools since 2000.” It’s been many years since I relished in murdering my sims in new and exciting ways while looking up cheat codes on the internet, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be lured back to indulge in its ridiculousness from time to time.

Enter Elsa Arendelle, my first character in the new Sims franchise, following in the time-honored tradition of replicating fictional (and real life) characters in a video game. I had a lot of fun simply picking out blue and white-themed outfits and considering which personality traits would best suit the Frozen-esque princess. I ended up selecting Creative, Gloomy, Loner, and Bookworm (which have nothing to do with my own personality traits, OKAY?), and I chose the Bestselling Author aspiration because hey, what better way to procrastinate on with my writing than to live out a fictional life of a writer in a video game?

The first playable phase of her life was Young Adulthood. Elsa was perfectly happy to avoid socializing for the most part, which allowed her to focus on launching her career in journalism and landing her first couple of publishing contracts. It didn’t take long for her royalty checks to eclipse her day job’s earnings, but she was able to balance both fairly easily. Eventually her social needs did get to the point where she had to get out of her pajamas and leave the house, at which point she befriended a very nice older man.

Elsa was also basically my tutorial character, so I was learning as I went. It seemed a little strange to me that she became awkward or embarrassed whenever she tried to flirt with this man, but that didn’t dissuade me from having Elsa become good friends with him and eventually ask him to move in. Only then did I realize—in horror—that he already had a wife and three grown children. So Elsa kicked him out and redoubled her focus on her writing.

It wasn’t long before Adulthood crept up on Elsa—what was all this stuff about “getting around to fulfilling life aspirations” and “worrying about retirement”?! Meep! I realized Elsa’s window for having biological children was short-lived, and so Elsa started husband-hunting with all the zeal and desperation of a media stereotype of a late thirty-something woman. She wouldn’t make the same mistake again, so I made sure she looked for someone younger than her, since I discovered that many adults her own age already had marital ties.

Sure enough, she was able to meet someone (read: the first non-douchey person I saw at the nightclub), go on her first date, and have her first kiss in the span of a few hours. The next day, he asked to come over, and he went from boyfriend to fiance to husband to father before he had a chance to go home that day. No worries that his character model wasn’t exactly what I was looking for in a partner. Luckily, sims don’t protest to having their wives give them a near-complete makeover from clothes to hair—even personal aspirations. A treadmill in the living room would also help trim away that excess body weight. The only thing she couldn’t change was his personality, which she wouldn’t know until after he moved in.

Sims discover each others’ personality traits naturally during conversation, but Elsa hadn’t been able to uncover more than one of his traits before she popped the question. Luckily, he ended up having the “Childish” and “Goofy” traits, which actually meant he was perfectly suited to raising children! (To date, I’m pretty sure he’s played with the kids’ toys more than they have.) Elsa was able to have her first baby and turn over the reigns to her husband, whom I never bothered to have apply for a job. In an eerily accurate representation of real-life parenting, Elsa and her husband rarely had time to see each other from that point on: he was busy tending to the first, then second baby, and she was still concentrating on bringing home the bacon.

When trying for baby number three, I discovered that Elsa had apparently reached the end of her childbearing years (probably because she would have had gray hair before bringing her baby to term, because that’s how science works in the sims). Both babies soon aged up to children, and two was more than enough, I quickly found out. Not long after her husband aged up from Young Adult to Adult, Elsa had a birthday of her own to mark the transition into Senior-hood.

In my current save state, she only has one more writing level to go and one more bestseller to write before fulfilling her life goals. She’s accrued enough vacation days and parental leave that she basically doesn’t need to go to work anymore, but she still makes plenty to cover the family’s day-to-day needs. She has two more promotions to go in her journalism career, but I’m not sure if she’ll be able to see them through. It’s almost as if having a family had an opportunity cost, but in-game at least, it was worth it.

Now I’m counting down the days until she dies. She’s been able to earn considerable money with her writing, but I don’t know if those royalty payments will continue to go to her family after she’s gone. Her husband has never earned a dollar in his life, so hopefully they’ll have enough saved until little Anna and Kristof can grow up and get jobs of their own. Then I can continue to play the two of them as they pursue careers as an Entertainer and Tech Guru.

Perhaps the game is so funny to me now because of all the self-help books I’ve read in the last two years, and it’s amusing to see just how much my sims’ lives simultaneously reinforce and contradict the issues and advice presented in those books about careers, marriage, and parenting. In a way, it’s a place to experiment and roll the dice, and boy does it lead to some hilariously true and comically ridiculously situations. For now, though, it’s back to the world of Sims 4.

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