Another check-in: I am doing fine. This is my 4th day in a row of staying at home. Right now, it is sunny and quiet outside. Chilly, from the cold air that seeps in through the opened window and the sliding door of the deck. At least it brings in fresh air, but I have yet to step outside to get some sun for my skin. Mother noted that I look pale… (Reminder: “Stay home” should also include “within the limits of my own property”, so I plan to walk around the yard of my house, when it is not so chilly outside.)
Some time ago, I wrote out a list of activities that I could be doing during the social distancing. What was not included–more of a “spur of the moment” decision–was playing a computer game that I used to obsess over, many years ago: The Sims.
There are currently 4 versions of The Sims:
- Version 1 (released February 4, 2000) contained blocky Sims with limited customization of styles and body types. The houses in which Sims could live in (depending on their funds, without cheat codes) could only be viewed in four different angles. The graphics were… very early 2000s! [Here’s a video of the gameplay (YouTube: Plumbella 12m16s)] When I first played the game (I want to say, maybe in 2003?), it was revolutionary stuff! Like playing virtual dollhouse! I remember picking up the sky blue box at Costco, containing the discs for PC. The hours I spent playing the game on a desktop that was located in one corner of my living room, on a small coffee table and small foldable red chair reserved for me. That computer was only used for playing Sims.
- Version 2 (released September 4, 2004) was the ultimate upgrade from Ver1! Better graphics, more selections for creating Sims and building/furnishing houses, and… Motherlode!! I became particularly obsessed with this version because of the many Sims machinima uploaded on YouTube. It was cool to watch how players created their own stories using the game and releasing them as web series! I even tried to create my own series with Sims 2, but was very limited with video editing software (how could I convince parentals that I needed Sony Vegas because Windows Movie Maker was terrible? also, how could I make it school-related, which was the only way I could ask for anything?) and with computer specs that led to many computer crashes… It wasn’t until my computer got a virus that I was convinced that the machinima was never going to happen… (It took several years for my brother to pick up on the game and buy all the stuff and expansion packs, as well as downloading the custom content online, on his computer, which I would occasionally take over until he kicked me off it!)
- Version 3 (June 2, 2009) was more or less an improvement of Ver2. I have some reservations about this one. Again, the various styles, skins tones, hair choices, and personality traits in Create Mode and the expansion of the Buy/Build modes were definite upgrades! But the Sims themselves looked too awkward, like simulated Cabbage Patch kids… The only expansion pack I remember being impressed with was World Adventures, where Sims could travel to places that had uncanny resemblances to Egypt, China, and France. But the most irksome thing about this version was the many glitches in the game! I am not sure if anyone else had experienced or complained about these glitches, but it was a major reason for why I could not like Ver3.
And so, I recently started playing Version 4 (released September 2, 2014) through Origin, which is like the EA-version of Steam. I had told a friend that I was planning to re-install and play The Sims 2, and they later shared with me an Instagram post that The Sims 4 was on sale (up to 85% off, until tomorrow, March 23rd!). I played the demo version for a couple of hours, which convinced me to buy the digital deluxe edition, which included three kinds of digital content + the soundtrack.
My overall review of the Ver4 is that it is yet another upgrade from the previous versions. In terms of making the Sims, they look a little more realistic to how real life humans can look, including finer details to facial and bodily features, wide range of skin tones and eye color, vocal ranges, and walking styles! In terms of gameplay, there are minor details that I am not fond of, like the limited mouse controls (the weird camera movements and angles are as disorienting as in Ver3), the removal of Top-view in Build Mode (which made placing objects easier to perfectionist eyes), the minimized portraits of the Sims at the bottom of the screen (much more difficult to view when switching between Sims in a single household), and the placement of the icons that show each Sims’ Needs status and other attributions (still trying to navigate those icons, but I think the Needs being placed on the far bottom-right makes it too easy to miss).
According to the time tracker through my account, I have played up to 17 hours of the game, in the span of two days. Suffice to say, this game has taken up the best of my time.
I will say that The Sims 4 has brought me back to those days of carefree play. It also reminds me how much my body has changed, so the aches in my knees, back, and neck feel more painful now than when I was younger… But I do not know if this is how I will spend my time during the COVID-19 crisis. Despite being at home, I am still registered as a graduate student in a master’s program. As much as people online tell one another that we should all give ourselves a break and say that it is okay if we are not being as productive as we feel we should be, given current circumstances, I do not want to throw off my own groove that I had been developing since the beginning of the semester.
Whilst I take care of my Sims’ needs, I have to take care of my own. Stay hydrated (water, tea, and coffee), eat regular meals (I’ll go by how many hours since my last meal, instead of fixed hours of the day, in accordance to my sleep pattern…), get enough hours of sleep (hopefully are more reasonable times…), move my body around so that blood circulation flows nicely and joints are not locked in from long periods of stagnation, and communicate with people at home (Mother) and digitally or cellularly (everyone else). Also, watch the news on TV for updates (try to avoid using social media as a means of information, but will check once in a while).
There is a lot more that I can do while in this condition, so long as I am not stuck living in a world of simulation.