Filling the Void

by Samantha Stark

starksa@mnstate.edu

Over winter break, I got a job, received several promotions, moved into my first house, turned into a vampire, got abducted, married an alien, had three hybrid-occult kids and died.

Judge me if you want, but I spent 66 hours in three weeks playing “The Sims.”

The life simulator, developed by Electronic Arts Maxis and published by EA Games, allows players to control simulated people in a household. The game lets people play God. For some, it’s a chance to recreate their own simple (sad) lives. For others, it’s a chance to create a life in which they own a $200,000 car, an exorbitant mansion and 10 love interests. Then there are the psychopaths who mass murder dozens of “sims” via starvation, drowning, burning or freezing. Every player has a personality type, and was every one of them over the holiday.

And it doesn’t just stop at the 66 hours I spent obsessing. In between my 6-to-8 hour Sims binges, I researched the game’s hidden secrets, hints, tips, cheats, glitches, programming, mods, expansion packs, updates, and just about everything else.

That last day of break, when I looked back at what I did with my time, left me questioning the decisions I had made. What kind of space would I have in my brain for more important things if I didn’t know so many of this game’s unimportant details? What would I spend my time doing if I’d never been introduced to this time-sucking game?

It had become an addiction.

I had counted down release dates instead of counting down to Christmas Day. When I wasn’t playing, I heard the faint sounds of my sims calling for me in their native language of Simlish.

Now, when I open my laptop, I go through steps to prevent myself from opening “Sims” the second I log in. Over break, I craved alone time so I could play “The Sims” without judgement. It was a poison to an extent, but was just so satisfying.

At one point, I considered getting a “plumbob,” the game’s logo, tattooed on the back of my neck at the beginning of the semester. At that point, people began saying I was in too deep. I called it dedication.

It makes sense, considering the stage I’m at in life. When I look at myself and realize I should have graduated two years ago, or that people I went to high school with are married and have kids. People I know younger than me have graduated college and started careers.

I have accomplishments in my life I am proud of — studying abroad, making the dean’s list, writing for a tribune, receiving scholarships and holding an editorial position at The Advocate.

But at the beginning of the semester I was asked to say something unique about myself and I froze. I’d known most of the people in that class for a while now, and they’d heard all I have to brag about in previous semesters. So when some shared they went scuba diving, traveled overseas, or were super busy being awesome this break, I had to be honest. Over the holiday, I’d met dozens of long-term goals every night. So how could I choose just one? Was I to share that my sim had had triplets or that I was able to live off a mere three hours of sleep over a span of three days?

Don’t get me wrong. My 66 hours of playing “Sims” over break wasn’t a pathetic attempt at feeling better about myself. It was a reminder that there are times in my life in which I get stuck in a rut — there are moments between big life accomplishments. The lull between semesters was a chance to enjoy the little things in life.

I know I’m not ready for a big, life changing achievements quite yet. Besides, they would just conflict with my “Sims” time.

So, as the sims would say, “dagdag!”

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