My partner recently moved into a new place, so, like the dutiful boyfriend I am, I volunteered to help get her set up. This includes all the normal stuff you’d expect like ordering furniture and figuring out how the heating works, as well as some unexpected things like finding out she keeps a rag on the kitchen floor to quickly mop up spills. Genius. What it isn’t, is cute and quirky and fun like that lying rat-bastard game The Sims led me to believe.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been doing The Sims challenges to try and reignite my love for the series in anticipation of Project Rene. Don’t know what that is? It’s what Maxis is, for reasons known only to the developers and God, calling The Sims 5. The 100 babies challenge was a bust and showed me just how awful it is finding love in The Sims, but the rags to riches challenge was a blast. Slowly turning my small patch of land in the desert into a wonderful home filled me with pride – pride I thought I’d feel last week, but I was wrong.
First of all, life doesn’t simply stop when you enter build and buy mode. In the real world, you have to get up from your desk during a meeting to grab the shower caddy you ordered online that’s just arrived, or take time off work to stay home waiting for that new sofa to appear. Deciding what to buy also takes a lot of time after work when you’re tired and just want to watch TV. But wait, you don’t have a TV yet, better figure out what the best one in your price range is. Why are there so many? What’s HDR? Do I really need 4K? Why don’t they just have easily comparable metrics like an entertainment rating?
So, the way we order things is different, but what about assembly? In The Sims, the answer to that question is another question: what assembly? You buy an item and it shows up, pre-built, able to fit through small doorways and into tight rooms. You don’t need to worry about construction or missing a screw or misreading an important instruction, you just click and place. Last week we spent three evenings building a single chest of drawers. Three! Then, as we were putting the final two drawers in we realised we’d attached some runners upside down. It’s a wonder we didn’t smash the whole thing to bits right then and there.
Finally, we have placement. One of the greatest joys in The Sims is rebuilding your home to suit your needs. Want an office? Boom. A new room has been made and desks and computers have been moved in. There’s no such thing as planning permission or dodgy builders or dickhead neighbours who won’t chop down their tree even though its roots are causing the foundations of your shed to buckle. Almost choked on my own rage there. When you move somewhere in real life, you have to make do with the space you’ve got. That means spending half an hour discussing and visualising various lounge layouts without half of the furniture you need. “The fake sofa would look lovely there, but that would mean the standing desk needs to move. Get the tape measure out, would it fit that corner instead? Oh but that doesn’t get much natural light.” On and on until you settle on a room that finally has everything you need.
I thought the 100 babies challenge was a chore, but it turns out moving IRL is way worse than anything The Sims has to offer. I should have learned after my camping escapades that everything in video games is just easier. The upside is, due to the tremendous effort involved, I won’t get sick of the bedroom design and change it every week as I do in The Sims, I’ll just play that instead of lugging the bed halfway through the room.
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