Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Alex's Book Club: Sex, Drugs, & Cocoa Puffs

Chapter 2: Billy Sim

I realized recently that my patience level is extremely low. I know, good old low key, chilled out, pot-smoking Alex? Bear with me, friends.

In particular, I noticed this while playing Grand Theft Auto. Although there are plenty of missions in the game where you have to out-run the cops, or have a limited amount of time to rob three banks, most missions aren’t on a set timer. And, in fact, you’re better served to take them slowly. That way, you don’t damage your car, attract the attention of cops, etc.

Here’s the problem, though. After spending about five minutes carefully driving through town, stopping at stop lights, pausing to let pedestrians cross the street, etc, I can’t take it anymore. Even if it means I fail the mission, I invariably start speeding through town, smushing people on the side walk or machine gunning tanker trucks. It’s just more fun.

I had the same problem way back when SimCity came out. Once you figure out the formula for a successful city (three industrial zones, three commercial zones, a power plant, and for goodness sake, only use railroads!), the game is a breeze. That’s why I’d fully populate my city, and then destroy it. Utterly and completely. Usually hitting it with an earthquake, tornado, and a monster attack all at the same time.

This is how I have fun.

And, this is why the Sims never appealed to me. Having a dude who’s just like me, or my friends, then getting him to sleep and walk around… I have no need for a personalized Tamagotchi. I actually had a Tamagotchi once, but I got tired of feeding it after three meals, and starved it to death.

So the idea of getting sucked into a game whose sole purpose is to watch someone else live seems unreasonable to me.

What does this have to do with Chuck Klosterman, you say? Well, person, the second chapter of his book deals with The Sims, and how he creates a Sim-Chuck, finding it basically acts just like him. In fact, he learns absolutely nothing about himself from Sim-Chuck (which he postulates is the point of the game).

He does, however, reveal that you can make Sims happy by buying them consumer goods, and as he has no use for consumer goods, finds this to be an aggravating function of the game.

I love consumer goods, in case that wasn’t readily apparent. The idea that I can play a game that will allow me to go shopping has just made The Sims rocket to the top of my must-buy list.

I realize there’s no book criticism here. It was a well written, funny chapter. I agree completely with his idea that people are intrinsically unable to see themselves for who they are. Now I have to go buy myself sim-presents.


christopher said...

Geoff and I wrote a sketch called Sim-Sim City, a computer game where you play a guy playing a computer game of Sim City.

It was about 5 years too late and had too many yawning jokes.

brian said...

Yeah, these days it may make more sense, to do Sim-The Sims, where you play someone playing the The Sims. This could be extended further to Sim-Sim-The Sims, where you’re playing someone playing someone playing The Sims. And of course, hilarity would ensue as you try to explain this all.

The most interesting part of The Sims as a cultural phenomenon is the gender issues with it. It’s one of the few games that have women playing it. Why? What is the appeal? CK doesn’t get into this at all. Like Alex, I would prefer to spend my gaming time blowing shit up, because my opportunities to blow shit up in my daily life are limited.

Otherwise he kind of lost me on his description that he didn’t play video games. Um…ok then. Video games are now an integral part of being a guy. If you can’t play video games to a competent level, it’s like you can’t throw a spiral or something.