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Sex Drugs and Cocoa Puffs: Billy Sim
by rax (raxxq)
at June 26th, 2006 (11:54 am)
working

current mood: working
current song: Talking Heads

Ok, so by far my favorite part of this chapter is the line "As I had long expected, my six-year-old niece Katie is not the former lead singer of the Talking Heads".  This was made only more amusing by the fact that the very evening of the day I read this chapter I ended up in a club that played "Once in a Lifetime".  
I had a *very* brief affair with The Sims the summer before I started college.  I played it somewhat obsessively for about two days and then my interest slowly petered out.  For all I know my little Simverse still exists on my mom's computer somewhere.  I remember trying to make the most absurd people possible, having gained an interest in the game only after my friend Eric told me about making a Sim who was like Tyler Durden.  I went to exteremes.  Maybe that's why I lost interest so quickly.  I certainly didn't get into the deep existential issues that Klosterman goes into here, but then again I was never essentially paid to play the game.  A couple of my roomates senior year rediscovered The Sims, much to the temporary detriment of their work habits (well, The Sims combined with the smoking).

I think the most interesting part of this chapter for me is where he talks about how complacently his niece accepts the world of The Sims.  I recall while I was playing the game I wished I could actually take my Sim through her life as a burglar (and since when do people call you on the phone and offer you a job as a thief?  and what do promotions in such an industry *actually* entrail?  these are questions that briefly flitted through my mind at the time, and i am surprised that i still remember them) but i didn't qeustion the parameters of the game.  Maybe because I was playing the game as am 18 year old, or maybe because in the course of my life I never really dove into the "video game" culture, I accepted that this was a game, its own little universe with its own little parameters, like any other game.  Scrabble is essentially no different than Sims, when you sit down you accept a given set of rules, ie, if you're playing in English you can't use Spanish words (unless you've created rules that allow you to do so).  I never played Nintendo as a child, but *not* having it didn't make me more creative, nor can I say that my friends who did have it were less creative.  I don't look at people and say "oooh, look at you, so creative" (unless you're Erin Burns, which at least one of you reading this right now IS.  Did you have Nintendo/Sega growing up?).  I never really got into make believe, not in the way it seems kids are supposed to.  I remember being about four and making my mom pretend to be a duck with me.  This involved sqatting on the floor, quaking and trying to move around without standing up.  I got sick of this game quickly because a) I was not a duck b) that was a really uncomfortable way to attempt movement, or really even sitting still c) i had a pretty firm grasp of english and it seemed silly to try and comminicate in a different, non-language kind of manner.  Now, there is a young girl in my synagogue who spent about three years of her childhood pretending to be a dog.  I am not kidding you.  And there was a girl I went to elementary school with who swore that her mother was a horse and that she was as well (i am fairly certain that she was abused at home, and I heard a couple of years ago that she ran away at some point in high school).  Were these people more creative, or simply delusional?  I suppose as long as you're under 15 such behavior is considered "imaginative".  Once you get past being a kid, you run into trouble.  I mean really what's the difference between the 7 year old from my synagogue and this guy except about 45 years?

I was imaginative in my own way, sometimes benign, sometimes less so.  I used to imagine being the first woman in major league baseball and would announce my own games.  I would climb the tree in the front yard when it was windy and pretend to be in the rigging of a pirate ship.  But once again, I always knew the difference between these fantasies and the fact that I was *not* actually ona baseball team or a pirate ship.  My imagination was most real as fears.  I was deathly, and very truly frightened that there were snipers waiting outside my window for me to close my shades at night (i would be perfectly framed for the shot as i reached up to pull down the shade), that  there were "bad people" in the basement.

I have always been incredibly skeptical of the claim that video games cause kids to lose a sense of reality and fantasy.  I just don't buy it.  Video games, TV, movies, even comic books may desensitize people to violence, but they are a product of a society which enjoys such things.  They are created because our society WANTS them.  I watched TV and movies, and I still know how serious a car chase would really be, or shooting someone.  We blame video games and movies and such because we don't want to take responsibility for our children (in the village styly "we" since none of *us* actually have kids).  but i've never raised a kid, i'm sure there's more too it than that.  I do know plenty of people who play GTA who don't try to run me down in their cars, I know plenty of people who play EverQuest and WOW who don't try to beat me with clubs, or cast spells on me (can you tell I've never actually played either of those games?)

So the Sims is  a video game about living a life you would actually be living if you were not playing the Sims (I kept waiting to be able to buy The Sims for my Sim to play).  Or is playing games set in fake realities just as much a part of "actually living" as going out and climbing a tree, or falling off your bike?  Who gives quality of life it's value?  If you enjoy playing video games, if they increase your quality of life, more power to you. 

Comments

Posted by: Erin, Deviant Extraordinaire (sexxxualdeviant)
Posted at: July 6th, 2006 01:45 am (UTC)

Aha, now I have read it and know what you're talking about...this was the chapter where I got really pissed off with the author's self-righteous attitude. He blasts the Sims for their entire happiness based on materialism, and yet...for the rest of the book he himself is obsessed with celebrity, with the fake world; how different is that from materialism? Who is he to judge people who play SIMS (the fake life), when he devotes an entire chapter to Pamela Anderson (the fake woman)? But I guess it's media as a reflection of culture...and the self-righteous attitude grows on you after a while.

I never did have Nintendo/Sega, but my dad is a software developer, so we always had computer games around that were educational--Creative Writer, Fine Artist, etc. Those, I think, did foster my creativity--I churned out newsletters for the Bald Uncles' Club (whose membership consisted of my Uncle Joe) and wrote voluminous stories.

But I don't think that having Sega/Nintendo makes you less creative. It probably makes you better at problem-solving, depending on the game, or at least heightens your hand-eye coordination. Still, though, think about the kid down the street--how great at violin would he sound if he'd practiced violin in lieu of playing Mario Party? but if your heart's not in it, you shouldn't do it...he would've forsaken violin by now and hated his parents. Technology can be a force of good (Reading Rainbow, anyone?), or a force to shut your kids up while you're making dinner.

My Latin teacher always made the interesting point of how we, as a society, are so appalled by the violence of the Roman colisseum...and yet we're still violence-obsessed, we just now have the technology where we don't *actually* have to kill people anymore. We have no qualms about accidentally taking out a hostage or 2 in a video game, yet we would (hopefully) be appalled by that in real life.

I always thought the real danger to kids was parents who neglected them, or fought all the time, or set no boundaries, or set too many boundaries, or under-funded education. Not video games.

And is SIMS bad? Compare it to porn, something else "vouyeristic"--porn is an idealized version of what we're supposed to look like and do, whereas SIMS (sounds, at least) heartbreakingly realistic (I sit in my own urine ALL THE TIME).

Posted by: rax (raxxq)
Posted at: July 6th, 2006 04:06 am (UTC)

I think we agree. I tag you to write the first post for Chapter 4 (you might notice that I've already posted for the Real World Chapter). Love you. Scout is cocking her head at me like perhaps I am food. Or a good thing to head butt. Yeah. The second one.

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