The Sims, admittedly, is not the most exciting addiction on offer.
Neither can you stand inside the smoking chamber at Mighty Mighty and inhale it, nor can you run the risk of it leading you down a sordid road which inevitably ends in dumpster habitation. Right?
Don’t be so naive. I’ve been a Sims addict for the past sixteen years and, to this day, am in no way clean. My addiction began, as many do, in the rancid pit of youth that is the schoolyard. It was during those hazy days of the 90s that an object of awe and power entered the classroom; a computer (or ‘cumpooper’, as the less articulate so enjoyed calling it). Despite being deprived of the internet, dial-up or otherwise, this beige box of mystery was installed with Sim City 2000 and that, I’m afraid, provided me with a taste of the heady delights which power over virtual beings could bring. Although my classmates and I experienced joy in founding these tiny, gaudy cities and setting them up with infrastructure, economy and a plethora of public parks, there inevitably came a time when the civilisation’s harmony offended us. What we had so painstakingly created was too perfect: it had to be destroyed. Flood, fire and famine were sent to erase all evidence of our achievements and, sated, we would begin again.
Fast-forward a few years and, having been deprived of all Sims-related activity for some time, I believed myself free of the urge to build, control and annihilate. Then Sims Life Stories was thrust upon me by some well-meaning relative. Within that brief exchange of “Merry Christmas, Louise—I hope it isn’t too much like playing with Barbie Dolls” I was sentenced to nights spent in front of a laptop screen filled with the lives of carefully constructed, aesthetically magnificent and blissfully happy characters. Their destinies were my responsibility and it was a charge which I was powerless to ignore. I have a rough idea of how many hours I clocked on that game, shackled by my own weakness and god-complex, but am too ashamed to reveal it. Suffice to say that the generations of Sim families under my care were experiencing more successful jobs and relationships than I was. A moment of terrible realisation came to me at 3.20am, while trying to balance one recently divorced Sim’s relationship with her estranged daughter and the demands of her business career, that I might have some sort of problem. With shaking hands and a heavy heart I removed the disk from my laptop, stowed it away in the case which once shone with such promise, and placed it in the kitchen draw labelled ‘miscellaneous’, which might as well be a black hole for all the luck you’ll have finding anything you place in it ever again.
Despite not having touched Sims in the past seven months, and I have support people who can attest to that, I’m still an addict. The cravings never really disappear, you know? When The Sims Medieval became available earlier this year I nearly relapsed, and that’s something I’ll have to combat for the rest of my life. If any relative should offer you a taste of Sims at some celebratory family gathering then I urge you to refuse. Learn from my sorry tale because it isn’t at all like playing with Barbie Dolls.