Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Games People Play

I’ve given in to the Other Woman.

She’s not the new roommate, thank you. I’ve heard SWF is shorter than I am. No doubt I could de la Hoya her in seconds. My real nemesis has purple twisty horns and carries a spear. This delicate Southern white gal ain’t gonna mess with that. Plus, her cup size is, frankly, quite a bit larger.

Eric didn’t reveal his World of Warcraft tendencies until a couple of months after we met. I guess by that time he’d seen the look of luv and knew I wasn‘t going anywhere. Or, more likely, he’d correctly deduced that my nerdishness outstrips his, by far. He gave me a perfunctory explanation of the game -- something about multiplayer quests and character alliances and skilled professions. To be honest, I wasn’t paying much attention. Probably “The Bachelor” was on.

As I now realize, I gave the Druid an advantage from the start. Keep your boyfriend close and his mail armor-wearing, blue-skinned vixen closer. Over the ensuing weeks, I got only a few glimpses of Druid (hereafter known as “her”). I could tell when Eric was with her, though, because he wouldn’t answer my instant messages. “How was your day, sweets?” I typed. Three minutes later, no answer. Four, no answer. Five...“You’re with her, aren’t you?”

First, I got restless. Then, moody. Before I hit desperation, I knew I had to act. If I couldn’t beat this virtual hussy, I’d join in.

(Quick aside: in Eric’s defense, and just so this big-boobed computrix hobby doesn’t sound too pervy, I should mention that Warcraft players typically create several feathered-and-festooned characters. Eric insists that he spends far more time with his male Rogue than with her. I‘m not so sure.)

No studly Dwarves or Orcs for me. I missed the Myst wagon as a kid -- too busy trotting along the Oregon Trail. If I was going to revisit my latent gaming obsession, I’d have to reach around science fantasy. My choice grew clearer with every bat of her shapeshifting lashes. It was time for some Sims.

My love affair with all things Sim began around ‘94. SimCity had emerged five years earlier, the first in a long-and-prosperous line of “God games.” With SimCity, players don’t merely aim for the “next level,” they create it. The goal of SimCity is to design the perfect urban environment -- one where pollution and crime are low, tax revenue is high, and happy citizens can’t wait to set up picket fences. In a thriving city, Sim residents routinely lavish the player/Mayor with parades and honorary statues. Mismanaged cities devolve into virtual ghost towns.

Well, Ray Nagin, I wasn’t. My Sim citizens loved me. They threw flowers at my feet. They built a majestic Llama Dome in my name. In fact, I got kind of bored with their accolades. My mind turned to more “real-world” matters, such as acne and junior prom. I set a horde of hairy-legged aliens on my metropolis, then I quit. (Kind of like when Nagin left town during the hurricane, but maybe more excusable.)

A battle against Druid encroachment simply can’t be won in the City. I’m takin’ it to the ‘burbs.

The Sims was released in 2000, when I was a junior in college. Like SimCity, The Sims is a God game -- but if SimCity’s gods are power-hungry Zeus figures, The Sims is more about nurturing, wise Athenas. In The Sims, players attempt to construct peaceful suburban domiciles, not teeming urban empires. After creating and outfitting a Sim character, and endowing him or her with personality qualities, the player plunks the Sim down in a home. Rampant consumerism follows, as the player selects from a large variety of household accoutrements. At minimum, a well-adjusted Sim requires a bed, a toilet, a hygiene source (bath or shower), a food source (stove, microwave, fridge, toaster oven), and a means of social contact (the trusty telephone). The more money Sims earn, through player-selected occupations, the more luxuries they can afford. Home gym? Tiki bar? Yes, please.

The Sims live in a material world, but I’m not much of a material girl. It’s not the acquisition of stuff that drew me to this game. It’s the drama. Like shunned girlfriends, Sims can get jealous. They can also fall in love, marry, host hot tub parties, and set the kitchen on fire. My latest Sim creation has lured zero guests into her hot tub. She has, however, torched the kitchen three times.

Her name is Signthiya Freud. Instead of purple horns, she has Kool Aid-blue hair. She also has extremely toned abs, displayed in a cropped t-shirt, and a noteworthy chest. Bring it, Druid. Bring it!

Befitting my Sim’s moniker, my first purchase for her home was a large, heart-shaped vibrating bed. If I was going to fashion a computerized alter ego, I figured I’d go all out. At my direction, Signthiya invited a neighboring husband-wife duo over to view the bed. You know, just to observe it. Once they arrived, though, she felt suddenly nervous and ordered pizza instead.

God games are unfortunately limited by the psyches of those in charge.

Signthiya’s current conquest is James McIddish, one of the bachelor brothers who lives across the street. James is a computer hacker by profession, and he seems like a nice enough guy. He tells a lot of jokes, and Signthiya always laughs. His ideas about love are pretty conservative, though. Since she’s a romantic at heart, Sigthiya has proposed marriage more than once. Most recently, she proposed right after the toilet overflowed, while vigorously mopping. “Happy disaster,” she (er, I) thought.

James was not impressed. Small negative signs flashed above his head, indicating major annoyance. After he left, Signthiya called the plumber.

Despite some setbacks, I’m confident in Signthiya’s ability to match the Druid, shimmy for shimmy. They may never be bosom buddies (pun only partially intended), but, at the very least, they can swap dance moves. With a typed “dance” command, Eric’s creature breaks into a Britney-style club groove. Signthiya prefers waggling her arms over her head (think House of Pain, “Jump Around”). When these ladies meet, there’s bound to be a party.


Anonymous *jaime said...

I've been creating a Sims world populated by characters from 19th century novels--the Bovarys, Becky Sharpe, et al.

9:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can see those grids right now....where is that Sims City?

9:15 AM  
Blogger Eric said...

Purple twisty horns? A spear? That's a weapon wielding goat, not a druid. Your jealousy has corrupted your memory, lass. And what are you suggesting by saying I spend more time with my male rogue? This is not some Brokeblackrock Mountain scenario, Jesse. Sheesh.

God. I can't believe I've turned into such a dork.

Great post... I think.

9:24 AM  
Blogger Jesseanna said...

You mean I have to be jealous of the goat, too? Sheesh, indeed!

We're not dorks, E. We're nouveau cool.

My Sims are all named after psychologists. James is James Marcia, the identity theorist. His brothers are Erik (Erikson) and Jean-Phillipe (Piaget and Zimbardo). Anna F. just bought the place down the street.

9:52 AM  
Blogger B said...

It's funny -- I think I overlap both your and Eric's enthusiasms. In fact, I'm all excited about my brand-new computer because of how well it handles Guild Wars (which is what I think WoW should have been in the first place) and RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 (yet another God-game). And like Eric, I have two characters: a male warrior and a female monk.

I lost patience with The Sims back in the day, though I'm pretty sure it's the only computer game that K ever truly loved. Must be a girl thing.

1:15 PM  
Blogger Jesseanna said...

Recent update: the McIddish brothers adopted a baby, who showed up mysteriously on their doorstep (where's Tom Selleck??). "Lev" (Vygotsky) is now grown and making straight A's. I'm so proud!

This is way more fun than my thesis.

Sorry this blog is a drag lately. I'm kinda out of ideas.

11:07 AM  

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