I’ve been playing The Sims 4 quite a bit lately. Justin got it as an anniversary present for me since I’d wanted it for a while, pretty much ever since it came out in 2013.
One of its many new mechanics in this fourth installment is that your Sims can gain and lose weight. How this happens depends on your Sim’s metabolism, their fitness level, and of course — what they eat.
Basically, everything you eat in the game now has its own calorie count. But the nutrition information isn’t clearly labeled (curiously a lot more obscure than in real life). The calorie counts of individual foods are instead hidden to anyone playing the game. However, some fantastic Internet sleuths did experiments feeding their Sims certain things and have compiled handy databases of estimated calorie counts (ones which I of course tracked down and referenced). The Internet is kind of incredible sometimes.
Anyway, I made a Sim based on me of course. She looked like me but a fit version… because why not? The Sims as a series has long been about wish fulfillment. Tackling things that are often difficult to achieve in real life. Figured I might as well appeal my own curiosity and, yes, my own vanity.
So she’s definitely me, but trimmer.
Or at least she was.
The trouble is that my Sim, like me, is an author. So even though I fed her low-calorie foods, keeping her on a steady diet of grilled tilapia, garden salad, and fish tacos, she’s rather sedentary because of her job. All that typety-type.
Girl, I know those feels. I am those feels.
And so my fit little Sim gained weight. At first, I honestly felt so attacked watching her hips expand in accelerated game time. It was brutal to watch my questionable lifestyle choices play out congruently in a virtual space (as I’m down a lot in weight from where I first began, but I bounce up and down, and sitting and typing for most of the day doesn’t help matters).
But then a funny thing happened. As I watched her go about her day a bit plumper, I thought, “Damn… you know… she still looks pretty good.”
There she was, walking around the virtual town (when she wasn’t chained to her desk), wearing her cool little dresses. Telling her ridiculous jokes. Making friends. Was she plump? Sure. Was there a booty to be reckoned with involved? Most definitely.
But was it a bad look? Nope. She was pretty darn cute.
And it might be a little weird, but it made me feel better about myself, my real non-Sim self.
While I trust other people when they say that they think I look nice, it’s easy to fall into a mental trap of template matching — one for one. To take a blueprint for ideal beauty and compare myself element by element, getting upset when parts of me don’t exactly meet “technical specifications,” if my individual measurements don’t match the protoype, without ever stopping to consider the overall effect.
It took a simulation to get me to step back for a moment and get an idea of how other people might experience my body as it moves through 3-dimensional space, in a way that a photograph never quite captures (as they tend to flatten 3-dimensional objects to fit 2-dimensional media in a way that makes me look like a bug that’s hit a windshield). And it really wasn’t so bad.
Was it the cultural ideal? No. Probably not. But it worked.
I’m willing to bet that most people are way cuter in real life than they are in their own heads.