General

Sims 2 and A ‘Ville Without Options

Frances in labor with the new arrival, Bonnie.

Frances in labor with the new arrival, Bonnie.

Sims 2 is my biggest procrastination tool.  I love to create characters and play out their lives and use them in stories I write.  But sometimes little surprises come along.  And by surprises, I mean that sometimes I accidentally screw something up.  For example, thanks to my being careless with clicking, a pair of my Sims found themselves “Trying for a Baby” instead of just “WhooHoo.”  It took.  None of us were happy, and since I hadn’t had my earphones on, it wasn’t until after I had saved the game that I learned that my Sim, Frances, was pregnant… and stuck.

It struck me as interesting.  Pregnant Sims are given (forced to take, actually) paid maternity leave, although if they adopt a baby, they don’t get anything.  Paternity leave is nonexistent.  Kids are not allowed to be latch-key.  And the only childcare workers are women.  There are no male social workers, either.  One almost wonders where the paid leave comes from, given the rest of the environment.

But back to Frances… my first thought was, “and you can only adopt-in!”  It’s true.  I did some looking over the rest of the Internet, and the only real way to not keep a child in the Sims world is to abuse it, so the Social Worker will take it away.  And that was off the table.  I didn’t want Frances and Arthur to have that third baby, but I’m not a monster.

I mentioned to a relative that I was unhappy that my Sim was pregnant, and she got upset with me until I explained why.  They had one grown child, and teenager already, and with another pregnancy setting her back, it’s now unlikely that Frances will achieve her Lifetime Aspiration of becoming the Mayor– and Arthur and Frances will probably both die before the little one, Bonnie, becomes an adult Sim.  One of the older siblings will have to move back in and take care of her.  It’s probably silly to get so invested in bits and pixels, but this situation, which seems to be working out for now, made me think.

There are people in my life who have had kids when, in my opinion, they should not have.  But I would never say that to them, and I do respect their choice to ignore doctors’ advice, or to take that financial gamble, or whatever the situation may be.  It’s their autonomous life, after all.  But Sims have no autonomy– it’s the dark side of the game… a side that doesn’t necessarily involve the player intentionally torturing their avatar.  In-game mistakes can be serious, too.

It is admittedly strange to state it like this, but the world presented in the Sims 2 is essentially a world with very limited choice.  There is, presumably, birth control since “Try for a Baby” and “WhooHoo” are separate options, but if that birth control fails, Sims and player alike are stuck.  They can’t give up the baby for adoption, and the idea of abortion is almost a joke.  And don’t cry “it’s a kids’ game!”  That’s almost as silly as my mother thinking she could raise me to be ignorant about candy.  If the player can make the Sims have sex– sorry “WhooHoo”– then there’s definitely an adult element.

So what am I saying, that Sims should be able to give their children up for adoption?  Possibly.  Don’t play Sims?  Of course not.  I’m commenting on the limited insight the game gave me into a situation I, thankfully, have not had to experience firsthand, and how people reacted to my reaction.  If you somehow imply that that bundle isn’t entirely one of joy, you might as well tie yourself to a tree and say “ready, aim, fire” apparently.  Even if the bundle in question is a character in a computer game.  It’s a sign that we need to think critically about the games we play, and the worlds they create.  How do they compare to the outside world?  It pays to be aware– something my dad always emphasized.  There’s more to that picturesque cyber-village than meets the eye.

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