This new world getting you down? Escape to Sunset Valley! Where you can control it all. Want to become a popstar, a doctor, change your appearance, adopt a pet or interact with a vampire?
Welcome to the Sims.
Originally launched in 2004, the Sims franchise has had millions of downloads, with EA reporting that the latest iteration of the game, Sims 4, had 20 million unique players in their past earning quarter alone. So why does this life simulation game mean so much to people and could it hold the answer to helping me get through the rest of lockdown?
I’m a person who loves control – I’ll freely admit that I can struggle with ambiguity and like to know where I’m heading and what my game plan is. Unfortunately, these past weeks have reminded me that life can throw us curveballs. As hard as I try to map out what the next few months might look like, fear of the unknown has caused me some sleepless nights.
The lockdown has seen many of us return to comforts that offer nostalgia and familiarity – I’ve now made three banana bread loaves, burnt a dozen chocolate chip cookies and one lemon cake, while at the same time watching Dawson’s Creek again.
As well as attempting to become the next Mary Berry, I’ve also revisited my virtual family of four. Currently living in the scenic Sunset Valley, my Sim, her husband and two kids have been inhabiting a modern 4-bedroom bungalow, with all the mod-cons you can dream about.
When she’s not learning to play the guitar, or becoming a world-renowned scientist, my Sim spends her free time often running on the treadmill and lifting weights in the local gym. All activities that I can assure you are not something I’m currently undertaking from the couch of my one bedroom flat in London.
But it’s not just me extolling the virtues of the Sims. Last year a Forbes article discussed how people who played the Sims were thought to be happier and healthier and more creative, as it provides a safe form of escapism. This escapism has helped me for a short time put aside my worry for family and friends, or when I might get to visit my native New Zealand again.
With a few taps of my keyboard and mouse, I’m able to cheer up my Sim with a pep talk in the mirror, or suddenly learn how to prepare better meals by watching the cooking channel on tv.
As we’re entering week seven of lockdown in the UK, what constitutes being productive has changed for me. No one minds if I don’t get out of my gym wear, or if I’m wearing a fleece and have not cooked that new recipe I was dying to try.
But that’s OK – because my Sim has already cleaned her house, mastered lobster thermidor, got promoted at work and taught her child to walk and talk. All in a day’s work!