In preparation for NaNoWriMo, which starts this coming Wednesday, I made the decision to purchase The Sims 4 to work through writer’s block and burnout. Whether or not that was a mistake is still to be decided, but either way, I’m glad I bought it—if for no other reason, then because I know more about myself as a result. It has taught me more about who I want to be, what I prioritize in life, and my relationship with video games.
I’ve noticed a common theme in the “stories” I’ve made in the game. The character I play the most is normally a young adult woman that lives in a smaller home (if not a home that would be considered a tiny house), is creative and a music lover, often achieves the maximum level of the Violin, Writing, Painting, and Gardening skills, is also highly skilled in the Cooking and Handiness skills, and often works as a writer, musician, or painter (to be fair, there aren’t many career options in the base game). I know enough of myself to discern that that’s the “fantasy me”—the person I would love to be in real life. I’ve been missing the violin here in Cili (although I hated practicing in the U.S. because I felt my playing always sounded awful, no matter how I tried), and I have been trying to grow a container garden in my apartment. I’ve even been trying to get back into watercolors, since I can’t easily find acrylics in China, but I’ve been frustrated with my paintings for this past year, so painting is not a pleasant experience anymore (but that’s another story). Also, I don’t dress like my avatar does, I don’t look like my avatar does, and I’m not as brave to publish my writing as prolifically as my avatar does. Why is that? There’s nothing stopping me in real life, much like in the game, so why do I find it easier to live the life I want in The Sims as opposed to real life?
I think part of the appeal of video games in general (and games like The Sims in particular) is because of the escapist element. We can be whoever we want to be, with the impact of failure or other people’s judgment minimized or nonexistent. Just like I can’t cast magic like the spells from The Elder Scrolls, or travel through space like in Ratchet & Clank in real life, I can’t do everything from The Sims in real life (for instance, I don’t have to worry about whether or not my neighbor is from outer space). Fantasy elements aside, however, who’s to say that I can’t be the person I’ve made in The Sims in real life? Who says I can’t hone my skill with the violin, find joy in painting again, have an amazing garden, or be a bestselling author? I think I now have more of an idea of who I want to be through playing The Sims, but now I need to summon the courage to make that happen in real life, regardless of failure or people’s judgements.
Until I have that courage, my time playing The Sims 4 is over. I’ll probably play if I’m burned out or facing writer’s block during NaNoWriMo (as I planned when I bought the game), but even then, I’ll need to be more intentional about why I’m playing. If nothing else, I need to be certain that I’m living my life in the here and now, and not through a computer screen. My goal now is to have it be so that, one day, I can be the person I wouldn’t need to play a video game to become.
If you’ve made it this far, thank you for listening! This coming month will be chaotic with lesson plans, NaNoWriMo, and traveling for Thanksgiving, but I hope to get back into writing articles for this blog on a regular basis. I realize I’ve been putting off my articles about Inner Mongolia, so I hope to have those up later this coming week! See you then! Zai jian!