As some of you may know, I love the Sims. I played the original game for quite a while before losing track of the series until the past few years, when I started playing the newest installment: Sims 4.
Yeah, I missed Sims 2 and Sim 3 completely. What can I say? I missed a lot of fun stuff during those years. Too much adulting, not enough time.
Anyway, my partner gave me Sims 4 as a present and ever since then occasionally gifts me expansions or game packs as other presents.
It’s pretty damn great. It’s the game I play the most these days. I like making up little challenges or playing through ones I find flying around on YouTube. I’ve of course created my own ragtag family. But I’ve also done a lot of surreal things — like run an insane asylum whose residents were all personifications of the Seven Deadly Sins, for an example.
In any event, I love the game and find it an incredibly relaxing way to unwind. I still find most days that I don’t have enough time to really play, but when I do, it’s super fun.
I know a lot of people are less a fan of Sims 4 (for a variety of reasons, some say things have been streamlined to the point of soullessness, that the base game is not hard enough, and that whims and moodlets are overpowered — to name a few). But in general, I love it.
Except for one little quibble: The way you court people in the game is downright creepy.
Spamming Interactions Until the Bars Creep Up
Essentially, all social interaction in the Sims games is fairly straightforward. It involves targeting other Sims and performing social interactions. Sims 4 has these sorted into categories. For example, you have a menu of Friendly, Romantic, Funny, Mean, Mischief, etc.
And the way to win the heart of basically any other Sim in Sims 4 is essentially the same: You spam them with romantic interactions until their pink “love meter” crawls up to the point that they’re willing to Woohoo with you (Sims-ese for sex, intended as a family-friendly euphemism), which shoots the bar straight up.
And then you can do things like ask them to be your boyfriend/girlfriend or to move in. You can even propose marriage.
There’s also a moodlet called Flirty — which seems to both literally mean flirty and be a family-friendly euphemism for “horny” (like Woohoo is to sex). Like when a Sim gets “Very Flirty,” they make a face that screams horny.
Anyhow, there are no options where your Sim asks for consent. Instead, they just try things, and if the other Sim doesn’t like it, they say “nuh-uh,” shake their head, and push your grope-y Sim off them.
This results in your meters going down a little.
But here’s where it gets creepy: If you keep trying and spamming interactions — and particularly if you find a way to manipulate the other Sim into Flirty status (with atmospheric objects, say) — eventually you’ll succeed.
It’s actually really hard to make another Sim despise you in a way that you can’t eventually recover from, if you’re willing to try to control the environment and come on to them enough times.
Oh wow, that’s creepy.
It’s Just a Game, Right?
From a gameplay perspective, this is kind of handy. It means you can essentially custom pick your partners. Mate your Sim with whatever breeding stock you encounter in the wild, have little offspring that look like whatever Sim is in your game (say, 90s Leonardo DiCaprio, as a Simmer I watch on YouTube wanted to do, after she downloaded this fanmade creation).
But when considered in real-life terms… holy Hell is that awful.
The idea that if you want to be romantically successful you pursue someone relentlessly and manipulate their environment until they finally succumb.
And you know. It’s just a game. No big deal, right?
Well, kinda. It IS just a game. But it’s also a life simulation… and one that’s marketed extensively to kids (thus, all the Woohoo and Flirty-style euphemisms).
And while these days I tend to spend my time around consent-conscious people, people who make an effort to make sure they’re not steamrolling other people’s boundaries, and who tend to be pretty good with other people giving them a reasonable no… well, I know that my part of the world isn’t the entire world.
Anyway, I’ll probably always play this game. But it’s something I can’t help thinking about when I do.