By Eden Grape
“Heading home at 2PM every day with another 400 simoleons in my pocket gives me the time and freedom I need to really improve my chess skills.”
19th July – I built my new house today! A few of my new neighbours came over so I cooked up a big plate of grilled cheese and got to know them. After talking for a few hours, I started to get a feel for them. Suzy is sporty, Garth likes science, and David is far too grumpy to bare even casual conversation with. Logging onto my computer, I began to browse the jobs board. There’s an opening for a coffee runner at a local firm that looked promising, so I applied. Within seconds, the job was mine.
23rd July – I’ve already been promoted twice, and now, I process reports instead of just carrying drinks around for the higher ups. Heading home at 2PM every day with another 400 simoleons in my pocket gives me the time and freedom I need to improve my chess skills.
24th July – To celebrate becoming Vice President, I invited my friends from the office and the neighbourhood over. Suzy, Tim, and I watched a cooking show on my new flatscreen. I think I’ll stay after work tomorrow to earn some extra cash—and try and worm my way up even higher.
2nd August – It’s only been a fortnight since I moved in but so much has happened already! I’m set to get married to Suzy this weekend. I’m now a CEO, and I’m finally bringing home some serious bread. My house has been refurbished floor to roof. I’ve read countless books on multiple subjects and taken up gardening. What’s more, I’m also an exceptionally accomplished painter. The only downside to my life? I am stuck inside a video game.
This is the average life of a Sim in the eponymous video game series, The Sims. It only recently struck me how bizarre the idea of the Sims is. No, not the idea of controlling a person as if you’re their personal god. No, not putting people in swimming pools without ladders. Not even becoming CEO of a business in two weeks.
What I realised is that The Sims isn’t utopian. You can be fired, people dislike each other, and NPCs have the freedom to starve to death. The Sims is capitalism working as promised. It has no structural issues; no racism, no sexism, no class relations.
Obtaining a job is easy; promotions are based on merit. Careers exist, rather than just drifting from minimum wage job to minimum wage job. Even the lowest waged jobs pay enough for a person to afford to rent an entire house, feed themselves, and still have some left over to save.
After you finish work, what do you usually do? Go home, eat something cheap and easy, and slip on a show you like—or even load up The Sims—while pretending tomorrow morning doesn’t exist. Sims, meanwhile, get home and work on themselves. They develop their bodies and their minds; sometimes for a promotion, sometimes just because they just feel like it.
People can, of course, better themselves and study from home, but the majority of day to day life under capitalism is so taxing that significant amounts of our time is spent de-stressing and engaging in self-care.
There comes a disturbing moment of epiphany when 5 hours into a game of the sims you realise that you’ve created a true renaissance man; someone with a good career, social network, who spends his spare time painting and philosophising, whilst you in real life sit hunched over in your underwear blindly thumbing Doritos into your mouth at 3 am.
“Perhaps if I’d spent these past 5 hours learning the oboe or reading Adorno I’d feel better about my miserable life?” I ask myself as I continue to sit glued to the screen desperately awaiting the next pay day so I can buy a better fridge.
The true dystopia of the Sims is the world of capitalism that contextualises it. Easy employment, decent wages, and the ability to better oneself should not be a utopian aspiration—especially in a world that promises these things as the bare minimum.