Back in 2000, a friend of mine convinced me to go in half with him on The Sims, a new PC game which was pretty much unlike anything else I’d ever played. Maxis had success with Sim City, but this game wasn’t about controlling a city, it was micromanaging the lives of simulated characters.
I played the hell out of that game. So did my friend. We created characters just like ourselves. His was described as a "young urban professional" and was constantly busy at work. Mine liked the yuppie quite a bit but had her own characteristics and career. At first, we told our sims when to eat, study and even pee. Eventually, they developed habits and could make it to work on time without our constant prodding.
But my sim had a problem.
Before starting to play the game, I spent a long time on the character creation screen trying to make my sim exactly like me. There were points you could put in different character traits and those traits determined how well you did in life. Someone with a lot of points in “neat” would always look good and remember to clean the dishes. Someone with low points in “nice” might not make friends easily. A player trying to do well in the game might choose to distribute the points evenly. However, The Sims wasn’t something you could win or lose. In this game, you just lived. By modeling my sim after myself, most of the points were put into “outgoing.”
I’m not going to say it was a mistake, but it did make gameplay harder. It was tough to find time to study cooking skills when all she wanted to do was invite friends over. My sim didn’t like exercising because she wasn’t active. She was grumpy and didn’t want to go to work. She dreamed of her simulated relationships and desperately wanted to talk to someone.
In creating the character to resemble myself, I was able to look at my real life and adjust accordingly. I should interact with humans as often as possible. It is healthy to have a social aspect not only in my hobbies but also in my career. Lunch with a friend will help me stay productive. Phone calls with loved ones can keep my brain in a positive place. It takes work. It isn’t easy being a social butterfly and my calendar can sometimes get in the way of what I may think I’m supposed to accomplish. But if I don’t take care of that innate need, I’ll start to fade.
And I learned that from a video game.