By Daniel Hardcastle and Rebecca Maughan

A personal, absurd celebration of the sheer joy of video games.

The Sims

Developer : Maxis

Publisher : Electronic Arts

Platform : PC

Release : 2000

What’s it about : Creating some virtual people and playing with their mundane lives.

The first character I created in The Sims was my Dad.

For reasons lost to time I never made any other members of my family. Just my Dad, alone, in a two bedroom bungalow nestled in a quiet corner of Sim Lane. Beautiful place it was. Sure, the yellow and black wallpaper clashed with the neon brown carpet, but it clashed in a classy, modern living kind of way.

Dad’s only company in this magic eye puzzle of a house was the statue of a pink flamingo that he kept in the garden. He named it Bert. Some tosser stole it on the first night.

The early days were surprisingly hard for Dad. The theft of Bert had hit him hard and he was struggling to find work. I His attempts to do normal, grown up things had resulted in him urinating in the kitchen while setting fire to the only cooker in his price range. Not even the acquisition of Bert II could help liven up his dreary mood. As he settled down that night to watch his tiny TV he gave up all hope for a good life. Channel 5 will do that to you.

Suddenly, there was a knock at his door. Thinking it was the pizza delivery man, Dad leapt to his feet. Sadly it only turned out to be his neighbour and future wife, Bella.

As Bella Goth welcomed Dad to the neighbourhood, she was unaware she’d just met the man she’d leave Mortimer for. She was especially unaware that, due to Sims having loyalty that even Judas Iscariot would think was a touch backstabby, she’d be re-married by the end of the week.

The wedding, like the relationship, was a small affair. Dad wore black, Bella wore white and Bert wore a slim little pink number. Bella moved in immediately, complained about the dirty plates, and fell asleep. Now, happily entrenched in Les Dawson’s idea of a married life, Dad finally got a job.

The security gig was a breeze for Dad. He loved the graveyard shift. It paid well and gave him time in the day to spend with Bella and his hobbies. II He did come back smelling a smidge corpse-y every now and then, leading Bella to suspect that he didn’t quite know what a graveyard shift was, but she let it slide. Besides, it reminded her of Mortimer.

You know, now I think about it, there was something a bit... off about Bella. She was doing a wonderful job of cleaning the bathrooms, fixing broken electronics and waxing Bert II, but every now and then she’d just do something… weird. On one day she simply picked up a bin bag, walked to the center of the kitchen, and placed it on the floor. Neither her nor Dad could ever pick that bag up again. I ended up building a wall around it. It didn’t stop the smell. Or the flies.

Back in the world of late night security, promotions came thick and fast for Dad. Before you could say “one day left until retirement” Dad was a Patrol Officer. The mean streets of SimCity became his territory. Dad was there to serve and protect, be it against robberies, car thefts or even giant green lizards heading for the nuclear plant. For the first time in his life he was happy. Nothing was going to take him away from this.

Pregnancy is weird isn’t it? I mean, you know those countless hours you’ve spent crafting the perfect RPG character? You know, stuff like making sure the nose for Gladius Bigpecs, Hero of the People is the exact right distance from his philtrum? Well having a baby is like clicking the “Randomise All” button on that character. Actually it’s worse because it’s not just the shoulders and bottom you’ll be looking at for the next 50 hours. It’s a person. A person you then have to love and keep alive. Have to. By law.

Bella’s news pierced through Dad’s chest like the bullet that he would be hit by a few days later. Questions oozed out in a very similar simile. How can we afford this? What if the trash smell drives it mad? What will Bert II think? How did this happen considering we’ve only kissed and I’m pretty sure that’s wrong but I’m only eleven so I don’t know? This was set to be a scary and confusing time for all involved.

We didn’t have long to prepare. Mere seconds later a text box announced that Dad Jr was here. Well, a crib appeared anyway. Every now and then it made a noise so I assumed there was a baby in it. Could have been a Furby for all I know.

One thing I did know however is that they’d all need a bigger house. Dad and Bella sold everything that wasn’t nailed down (So long Bert II) and upsized to just down the street. Big plans were laid for the new house. Downstairs would be the Kitchen, Living Room and Pool. III Upstairs would be the Office, Main bedroom and Baby's room. Actually now we mention it… where was the Baby?

Dad Jr was never seen again. He’d vanished without a trace. We’re assuming the moving guy labeled a box wrong somewhere and Dad Jr ended up in Mexico. You always lose something during a move don’t you?

Bella started acting up. That might have been due to the literal loss of the baby or the comedown from lack of trash fumes, nobody really knows. The marriage dissolved soon after and she left to be with the mailman. She was married before the next collection time. A few days later Dad was shot at work. I decided to cheer him up by spending the 2nd floor money on a Swimming Pool in the garden. Lovely it was. Diving board, lights, the whole shebang. No stairs though. Waste of money. He could just climb out right?

He drowned an hour later. The last thing he saw was the newly purchased Bert III. I’m sure he would have wanted it that way.

I feel I let my Sim Dad down. He had all the potential in the world and I helped him squander it on women, TVs and flamingo wax. He could have been the next John McClane but instead he ended up like David Dunn. IV There’s a lesson to be learnt here about your kids ruining your life but, to be honest, it’s vague at best.

The next character I made was my Mum. She burnt to death cooking a salad on day three. The fact I even exist at all is a fucking miracle.

I Well, I say he was struggling to find work, I was the one that hadn’t found the paper on the front porch with the job section in it yet.

II I say hobbies… He just liked to stare at Bert II and think about the weather.

III Due to miscommunication Bella though that Pool meant swimming pool. Dad meanwhile had already bought sticks and numbered balls.

IV If he died in that swimming pool scene that is.

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