Oh, My Pop Culture Religion: House of Sim

screenshot by beggar1015

screenshot by beggar1015

The Sims is one of the most popular god-simulation games on the planet. I’ve been playing it since the original Sims game, when babies were made by passionately kissing a bunch of times in a row and children never grew up. Nowadays, Sims 4 is making progressive strides in the world of inclusive gaming. The creators want everyone to feel like they can see themselves represented in their Sims and tell more diverse stories than ever. Most recently, a patch removed the rigid gender binary in the Create-a-Sim workshop. Now you can customize your Sim’s gender, their ability to be pregnant or make others pregnant, and if they prefer masculine or feminine clothing. It’s not total gender customizability, but it’s a new and significant move in the name of inclusivity and representation. We can customize our Sim’s age, education, occupation, and where they live. Sims now come in all colors of the rainbow (literally). Sexual orientation is determined by the player’s will. There are Vampire-Sims, Zombie-Sims, Fairy-Sims, Witch-Sims, Plant-Sims, Werewolf-Sims, Mermaid-Sims, and Alien-sims. So why haven’t the creators touched religion yet? Well, there may be a few reasons, and none of them are great.

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White House Calls for Research on Links Between Video Games and Violence

The White HouseYesterday, the White House unveiled “Now is the Time: The President’s plan to protect our children and our communities by reducing gun violence.” Super good! I don’t intend to attack the the President, his plan, or even the fact that he calls for more research into any possible relationships between video games and violence. With the trauma of gun violence being so severe in American culture, encouraging research into what many citizens believe to have a causative relationship with violence, i.e. that violent video games lead to violent crime, is the right call. While it is politically unfortunate that the President seemed unable to find a place for video games in his plan than under the section to “End the Freeze on Gun Violence Research,” (page 8), I don’t think that we have much to worry about regarding any lasting effects on public opinion. We know that all good research into the topic, assuming fair distribution and reporting of research results and data, is going to show that video games and their place in society are nothing to be afraid of.

Here is my point; how do we already know that we have nothing to fear? Hasn’t research already shown that violence in video games has a lasting effect on gamers, causing them to be desensitized to violence and therefore less likely to check impulses toward violent behavior? Since video games are more immersive than other forms of media, doesn’t it stand to reason that they affect a greater ability to impact and change the human psyche? Let’s look into why not. Continue reading

On Meeting My 100 Percent Woman One Fine April Morning

Haruki Murakami is a pretty big name in the literary world, especially for those like me. It’s kind of hard to major in Japanese and not have his name crop up about forty times a year. It’s also a bit difficult to not read anything he wrote, and being the lazy couch potato that I am, I did try to avoid him if only to spite my teachers. But that doesn’t mean I never read him. Far from it, actually.

Even before college, I ended up reading his Underground, which was about a gas attack on a train in Tokyo and was comprised entirely of interviews, and liked it. Hell, I was captivated by it. But despite my firm I-don’t-have-to-do-what-you-tell-me-to attitude I carried through high school and college—don’t ask me how I managed to get the credits to graduate—I did read his works. And for the most part, I would recommend them to just about anyone. You don’t even have to be a fan of Japanese literature.

Anyway, the other day, I got to thinking about The Sims again and how relationships work, and that reminded me of Murakami’s On Meeting My 100 Percent Woman One Fine April Morning. This story could possibly be thought of as a slightly depressing, definitely comical, yet potentially realistic, telling of love at first sight. But unlike most love stories, this one doesn’t contain what I would typically expect. There’s no overbearing romance filled with pointless purple prose, or long-winded passages of the characters getting to know each other for the sake of realism before they Woo-Hoo. Instead, the entire story—which is very short—is more of a contemplation of how our nameless character reacts to seeing his love upon first sight, and how he knows she’s his true love.

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Sexualized Saturdays: Gender Bending

So sometime between writing our The Dark Knight Rises review where we briefly talk about making Talia al Ghul a man and discovering a game on Facebook called Dragon City, I’ve been thinking a lot about gender lately. Lady Geek Girl and I used Talia as an example in our post. Someone at one point had mentioned that it was a good thing that her ethnicity and the ethnicities of two other villains had been changed to white to avoid racism. The point we tried to get at was that that wouldn’t solve racist stereotyping any more than changing Talia to a man would have solved sexism.

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Sexualized Saturdays: The Sims

I love this game. I love it so much. I don’t know why; it’s pretty much a computerized version of a dollhouse, and I haven’t touched one of those since I gave up babysitting. You get the house, and you get the personality free avatars to impose upon whatever story your little heart desires. I don’t know about the rest of you, but personally, I always tried to make my families as screwed up as possible. Husbands would cheat on their wives with their wives’ sisters and brothers, while being impregnated by aliens. Women would woo-hoo anything capable of walking. And I would occasionally create characters just to kill for the sake of a haunted house.

And for the record, it’s impossible to kill a kid, because social services will take it away. Even if you delete all the doors and windows, the worker will just teleport inside the house. And hell if your brat fails school, it gets shipped off to the military academy. But I digress.

I also spent a good so many hours trying to make a brother and sister incestuous, and after all that wasted time, I finally had to admit defeat. Brothers and sisters won’t woo-hoo each other. Second cousins will, though.

Anyway, the point of a dollhouse is to more or less play house. Two people get married, find jobs, have a kid or twelve, and they don’t need to do it in that order. But even as a young girl and playing with dolls, I always had to have a story or it wouldn’t be fun. It’s kind of hard to have a story in The Sims. It sounds childish, but you can’t really pick up the people and impose voices upon them or give them any identifying characteristics outside their clothes and hairdo. There isn’t much to do in The Sims other than click “run here” or “eat breakfast” or “stop playing on the fucking computer and go to work, you damn slacker!”

And while one doesn’t need to impose his or her own voice onto the screen when you can simply chose between telling them to make a joke or flirt or just plain talk—the Sims do have their very own Sim language that no one can understand, so it’s like playing charades—you can’t control how they’ll react. If you could, my brother and sister characters wouldn’t be freaking out whenever I make them tell each other something dirty.

Of course, it’s probably better this way. I don’t know about the rest of you, but you know that somewhere out there someone talks into his or her computer screen to make the story more realistic.

But by the very nature of the game, outside family members, it’s possible to hook anyone up with anyone. Anyone. There’s always something about games like this that rubs me the wrong way. Especially because I very rarely ever make a normal gay couple as opposed to trying to see what I can and cannot get the characters to do. I only ever make straight pairings when I want to produce a baby at some point. I never play The Sims to play house. I play it to ruin people’s lives.

However, it doesn’t surprise me that all the characters are bisexual, since I very much doubt that sometime soon we will see an option to choose a character’s sexuality. And even if that happens, the options would probably be only straight, gay, or bi. Sexuality is much too complicated to easily be used correctly in a game like this—then again, so is life. If they ever did that, they would then be obligated later on to make a transsexual option, or an asexual one, and you know that somewhere out there someone would be upset that they didn’t have a homoromantic heterosexual option. And I don’t know about you, but that last one I would still only use to see what I can and cannot make the characters do.

I shouldn’t really compare The Sims to a dollhouse, because it’s designed to be much more realistic than that, but for me realism dies when it comes to the sexuality. I have no problem with gay characters, and as it’s my own neighborhood, it’s my own fault for screwing up everyone and having an unrealistic ratio of gay to straight people. It’s more the fact that I can do that with no trouble at all that bothers me.

But even calling all the Sims bisexual doesn’t sit well. Earlier today, I thought about calling them pansexual, and between the two terms, I’m not sure which one fits best. You see, despite no lack of trying, the amount of non-personality that all the characters have means that everyone is exactly the same. The only thing that separates a character from another character is physicality. You have a man, well, he’s going to be wearing man clothes, but you can make him do whatever the hell you want him to do. Yeah, a man can’t dress like a woman, but you can make him as feminine as fucking possible when you try to give him a personality, which is mostly determined by how much he likes to clean or something similar. Because there’s no identity, there’s also no gender identity. That fact that it’s damn near impossible to have any kind of gender-identity makes me hesitant to call any of the Sims pansexual. But even if there was, it wouldn’t matter because they’d still woo-hoo anyone, which makes me hesitant to call any of the Sims bisexual.

It’s not a world where any sexuality exists, because even if you design a man and woman to be together, both of them would be more than willing to get with someone of the same gender. This is a world where only bisexuals exist. And while I know why game makers do this, I don’t really understand why they feel the need to. Because it’s not there to help show equality between the sexualities; it’s there so you can pimp out anyone to anyone as you play through trying to figure out what’s possible and what’s not.