Sims 2 and small hells

The Sims 2 was arguably the first game where artificial intelligence was sometimes indistinguishable from natural stupidity.

I installed The Sims 2 on my laptop, and was surprised to see that it ran noticeably faster than on my old desktop.

You may wonder why I was surprised: After all, the laptop is four and a half year newer than the desktop, and that’s 3 “generations” of Moore’s Law.  Today, that Law is usually quoted as “the capacity of computers doubles every 18 months”. This is slightly different from what Moore actually said, but easy to remember and pretty close to what we observe in the real world. That would mean an 8-fold increase in computing power, more than enough to overwhelm even the difference between a desktop and a laptop.

(Yes, this means computers become 10 times more powerful in 5 years, 100 times more powerful in 10 years, and 1000 times more powerful in 15 years. Do you really want to turn your new computer on in 15 years? What if it takes control of you instead of the other way around? Luckily, what has happened is largely that instead of making large, insanely powerful computers, factories are churning out smaller and cheaper computers. These days they are called “smartphones”. ^_^)


Sims 2 is a lot of fun when it starts quickly and runs smoothly like that. But even so, I notice that after a while (about half an hour or so, for me and Sims 2) I begin to grow more irritable and grumpy. A feeling of dissatisfaction begins to emerge from within. These are hellish feelings, as you know if you have been on the receiving end of them. They are certainly not heavenly. And this happens even though the game is a lot of fun and I want to play it more. But even as I do so, I can feel my patience wear thin and my temper begin to fray. Why?

One day I felt compelled to write something like this: “On the way to Heaven, the sinner stops in Hell, thinking he has arrived.” I am not sure if this is literally true for the afterlife, or even whether there are ways and time in the afterlife (at least in our sense). What I mean is that this happens to us in everyday life. We seek after the Good, the True and the Beautiful. But on our way we come to surrogates which please us, but on a more shallow level than what our hearts really seek. So we stop and cling to these things, but this is the cause of a growing sense of wrongness. As long as we project this wrongness outward, thinking that we have been wronged by others and not by ourselves, it cannot be abated. As the Buddha says in the Dhammapada:
“He abused me, he struck me, he overpowered me, he robbed me.”
Those who harbor such thoughts
do not still their hatred.
“He abused me, he struck me, he overpowered me, he robbed me.”
Those who do not harbor such thoughts
still their hatred.
Hatred is never appeased by hatred in this world.
By non-hatred alone is hatred appeased.
This is a law eternal.


With The Sims 2, there is also the detail that the sims have needs and wants. And as with us, the two are not always in harmony. Their needs are such as hunger, bladder, fun and sleep. Their wants may vary, for instance to increase a skill or to become friends with a particular other sim. If their needs fall too low, bad things happen, all the way to starving to death. If they never fulfill any wants, they start worrying and eventually go insane. If you have any plans for them beyond this, that just complicates it even more. And if you tend to empathize (not to say identify) with the little computer people, some of that conflict will be felt in yourself. That is how I see it. In The Sims 3 this factor is less intense, because they take better care of themselves, and they don’t go crazy if they don’t fulfill their wants. They just pass over some benefits. So that might explain the difference between the two games.

But there is still some of this fraying of tempers in all games I play, although some hold out better than others. (City of Heroes, which will be discontinued on November 30 after 8 years, was quite possibly the best of them. I think part of this was its innate goodness. Even though roleplaying a hero is a kind of self-satisfaction, it is still aligned with good. I tried playing the included villain scenario, but this irritated me again.)

I believe that this restlessness and irritation and lack of satisfaction is a natural result of spending too much time in a lower world, a world less real than ours, even if it is fun. Conversely, spending time in a higher world can be distinctly unfun , but leaves us with a sense of deep satisfaction. (By higher worlds I mean not only those of religion, accessed for instance through prayer and meditation, but also secular studies of mathematics or physics, the laws on which our universe depends. It is not that these activities cannot result in great joy, even bliss, when we reach some new insight. But they are not entertaining or fun in the same way as playing a video game.)

So does this mean I am going to stop playing Sims games? Well, probably not yet. But perhaps I can learn to stop once my Fun bar has been filled…?