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The Sims: A Personal Memoir

Happy birthday, Sims! 20 years ago today, I stopped by Best Buy on my way into work to buy The Sims. I had read about The Sims on Slashdot, and made a mental note to pick it up on release day.

At the time, I didn’t play video games. I wanted to, but it seemed like every video game was about either killing stuff or driving cars, and I wasn’t into either of those things. I felt like they didn’t make video games for people like me.

But when I read about The Sims I thought, “Hmm… this sounds like it could be a lot of fun.” It was ground-breaking and weird at the time, and I was all about that.

I was on my second year of working night shift, doing escalated technical support for Unix web servers (mostly FreeBSD). Unlike most people, I took well to night shift in the biological sense. I slept well during the day, and didn’t get sleepy during the night. I never once took a nap during night shift, which probably puts me in, like, the .0001 percent of night shift workers.

It looked a lot like this, but without the sunlight coming through the window. Image courtesy Flickr/Daniel Tuttle

However, I felt increasingly disconnected from humanity in the social sense. I lived alone, had few friends, and worked on a silent, mostly-empty floor all night with a handful of coworkers, all of whom spent the night in various stages of dozing off.

On my nights off, I went grocery shopping at 3 a.m., pushing my cart through the empty store, dodging the person pushing the floor-polishing machine. I got used to having to ring the bell at the check-out counter when I was ready, then standing there waiting for the clerk to show up. As isolating as it was, I enjoyed the feeling of having the whole world to myself.

Image courtesy Flickr/Working Image Photography

Perhaps this profound loneliness and sense of social disconnect is why I fell so hard for The Sims. Certainly my job situation helped encourage my Sims addiction. We had the floor to ourselves (I was the closest thing to a manager during our shift) so I started bringing my laptop to work and playing The Sims in between calls.

Remember when blogs had buttons? Remember blogs?

I put hundreds (maybe thousands) of hours into that first Sims game. I played Bob and Betty Newbie, except they had broken up, and Bob had married Bella Goth. Bob and Bella lived together in Bella’s mansion, along with little Cassandra. I played their household for over 100 in-game days, which was a big milestone at the time.

Then my laptop’s hard drive destroyed itself, and I lost everything. I didn’t play The Sims for many years after that.

Eventually I started blogging about The Sims on my knitting blog. The Alphabettis were my legacy challenge, and I finished the alphabet and started from the top again. Then the blog got destroyed by a virus, and I lost everything. (Which is just as big a bummer as it sounds.)

Sims 2 vampire

I still have most of the image files, though. Here’s one of my earliest screenshots. I had twin boys. One of them went off to college, and the other became a vampire. The non-vampire Sim dedicated his life to finding a way to cure his twin brother’s vampirism.

Sims 2 father carrying his infant son

Luckily the Splines were mostly saved from this disaster, although I had to clean all the database entries by hand.

Everybody knows The Sims 2 is a game for chicks.

I still have all my original Sims discs somewhere, carefully stored away with their license keys on slips of paper tucked inside their sleeves. Sleep well, little Sims.

Sims 3 arguing with death
Connor Alphabetti, my all-time favorite Sim.

And here I am, 20 years later, having spent almost half my life with the Sims. It’s my longest relationship with… well, anything, now that I think about it.

Everything happens so much

Not only did I find the connectednesss I sought by playing with my little Sims themselves, I also started blogging about it, and met so many new Sims friends. Many of whom are still my real-life friends today. The Sims has brought so much into my life, I can’t even imagine what the last 20 years would have been like without it.

Here’s to another 20 years of chaos!

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