Just getting along
June 10, 2009 4:18 AM   Subscribe

Homelessness is more and more common in the real world - and now it exists within The Sims. Meet Alice and Kev, a father and daughter just trying to get along without two Simoleons to rub together.
posted by mippy (28 comments total) 71 users marked this as a favorite
That is surprisingly touching. I'm immediately hooked.
posted by john m at 4:44 AM on June 10, 2009

That was actually well worth reading...thanks!
posted by GavinR at 5:25 AM on June 10, 2009

I never thought I would be reading a blog about "the sims," let alone one that focuses on a specific experience within it.

This turns out to be a really fascinating experiment.
posted by MysticMCJ at 5:32 AM on June 10, 2009

Excellent. A SimSoap. "The Young and the Homeless".
posted by unSane at 5:40 AM on June 10, 2009

posted by kitchenrat at 5:46 AM on June 10, 2009

The writer said there was no embellishment to anything, but not having played Sims 3, how much intervention does the writer do? Did Alice pick the apples herself or did the writer tell her to do that?
I find this whole thing fascinating and also a little disappointed in myself that I feel bad for Alice. I guess that's just an occupational hazard of being a mom, I want to take care of everything, even if they're computer generated.
posted by czechmate at 6:15 AM on June 10, 2009

I want to take care of everything, even if they're computer generated.

And that's how the robots get you.

If you like this sort of thing, check out Livin' in Oblivion by Notmydesk. It's about his attempt to play Oblivion as a Sims-like game, get a job, make rent, ect, and refuse to do any quests or adventures ...to play as an NPC, so to speak. It's pretty fascinating to see how the game's ecnomy works out and such.
posted by The Whelk at 6:30 AM on June 10, 2009 [8 favorites]

The Mooch personality trait (they are able to mooch cash and food from other sims) and the Kleptomaniac one (predictably, they are able to steal stuff) would've been perfect for Kev.
posted by Memo at 6:58 AM on June 10, 2009

This is really fascinating. I'm not sure The Sims is quite set up for poverty: social scientists are still trying to work out some of the incentives and barriers that make poverty so persistent, after all. But it's a strangely moving take.

I wonder if part of the appeal is that it allows us to think about the discomforts of homelessness on the far side of the uncanny valley, before the simulation so closely resembles human life that we are disgusted or actively guilty for not intervening.

Anyway, great post!
posted by anotherpanacea at 7:19 AM on June 10, 2009

Great stuff.

Thanks for the Living in Oblivion blog, Whelk. It too is pretty interesting.

Also of note are the Galactic Civilizations playthroughs from PC Gamer. First Run Through (Conquer Largest Possible Galaxy) - Second Run (Do The Same, Without Violence).
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:29 AM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

I guess that's just an occupational hazard of being a mom, I want to take care of everything, even if they're computer generated.

Yeah, this.

In particular:

When she was a child, she used to always get her homework done on time, worked hard every day at school, and got constant A grades. She would often come home from school feeling strained, and the only way she could relax after working that hard was by cuddling her teddy.

She’s too old to cuddle teddy now. All she’ll do is hold him, but gets no enjoyment from it. She can’t even pretend that somebody loves her any more.

Makes me just want to go get Alice and invite her in.
posted by anastasiav at 8:25 AM on June 10, 2009 [3 favorites]

I just bought Sims 3. It's beautiful, and complex, and rich. And I'm at a complete loss for what to do. The game really demands you tell your own stories with it, it doesn't feed the story to you. Which is awesome unless you lack creativity. I'm envious of this story, this person's fun with the game.
posted by Nelson at 8:26 AM on June 10, 2009

wow, this game has changed dramatically from the last time i played it (sim city back in 98!). now i want to try this out.
posted by fuzzypantalones at 9:00 AM on June 10, 2009

This is so much better than I expected it to be. A truly great find.
posted by lunit at 9:29 AM on June 10, 2009

I want to take care of everything, even if they're computer generated.

I just want to give Alice a shower, a good meal, and a place to sleep.

Way better than I expected it to be. Added to my RSS reader.
posted by spitefulcrow at 9:47 AM on June 10, 2009

Never in a million years would I have read this if it weren't for the Blue. What an excellent find.

I do have questions, like how much of the author's reading of the characters' inner voices is made up and how much is actually shown during gameplay. Of, for example, I had the impression that the girl was skipping school and going to the playground "on her own", but later the author implies that she was making those choices for the girl.

Still, even with those questions, it's wonderful.
posted by hippybear at 10:11 AM on June 10, 2009

I tracked the story of the characters based on my and my ex way back in the original Sims, and while it was funny, I was obviously adding most of the story myself. It looks like Sims 3 would add a lot of that for me and looks amazing.

This story actually has me compelled enough to add another RSS feed to my reader, and I'm glad I'm too financially insolvent to purchase Sims 3 today because I have too much stuff to do in my real life and I'm sure I'd get addicted to the game all over again.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:21 AM on June 10, 2009

I am downloading the game as I type this, because of this blog. I wonder what social experiment I should try..
posted by Biblio at 10:24 AM on June 10, 2009

Wow, I love this. I have the game but haven't played it much yet... but now I am inspired to try something new.

Thanks for the amazing link.
posted by OolooKitty at 11:04 AM on June 10, 2009

Aw. I liked this more than I thought I would. Thanks for the link!
posted by lullaby at 11:08 AM on June 10, 2009

Wow. Neat.

I've been having a sort of meta-gaming experience with my Sim. I decided he would be a couch potato, an aficionado of video games, a loner, and a writer.

So now I have a Sim who works a part-time bookstore job, lives in a hovel, has no friends, gets all of his enjoyment from online interaction, and is constantly ordering pizza.


posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:11 PM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

I was up late playing the Sims one night, a long time ago. I remembered I promised my roommate I would take the trashout, so I clicked on my Sim, told him to walk to the kitchen, right clicked on the trash bin, and selected "empty trash". Then I blinked for a few seconds. Then I sat up, walked to the kitchen, picked up the trash bag and brought it outside.

I then came back in. Turned off my machine and went to bed.

I uninstalled the game the following morning.
posted by The Whelk at 12:26 PM on June 10, 2009 [12 favorites]

This is great.

For people wondering about how much is the author and how much is the characters: it's hard to say. Sims will act on their own unless you order them to do otherwise (by default, anyway; there's a "free will" slider in the options menu).

One post mentioned how most of its events happened without his intervention, so I'd guess it's a mix of both.
posted by danb at 3:58 PM on June 10, 2009

I would guess Kev's character is almost entirely free will. I haven't played much Sims 3, but pretty much everything he does -- kicking over the trash can, scaring & insulting sims -- are things sims did in Sims 1 and 2 when left to their own devices. Alice is probably a bit more controlled. She probably has to be in a somewhat okay move to do her homework so the writer probably directs her to find food and a little bit of entertainment.

I've played all the various sims for years and never once thought or heard of anything like this before. This is an absolutely fabulous idea and now I'm itching to go play.
posted by lilac girl at 6:33 PM on June 10, 2009

I didn't think I'd like this, but I did. I expected a bit of the White Liberal Guilt "how sad it must be to be homeless" tripe, but this seems more conscienscious than that. I wasn't too sure at first about setting up their personalities to fail—I wanted to see more "normal" people deal with homelessness—but I suppose as a decent proportion of the homeless are also dealing with mental illness, it makes sense. I'm impressed with the degree to which the Sims engine can handle the complexities of this situation; that Alice will sleep in the garden of people who had been nice to her, and so on.

Alice seems like the sort of girl who might end up in an abusive relationship. That makes me sad.
posted by Eideteker at 3:43 PM on June 11, 2009

"Makes me just want to go get Alice and invite her in."

I dunno. As much stuff as she breaks, I don't think I could afford the homeowners insurance.
posted by UseyurBrain at 9:54 AM on June 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Alice makes me so sad.
posted by Weebot at 3:36 PM on June 15, 2009

I just read through the archive, and was hit with a real one-two punch: the post about that lunatic Kev befriending a ghost made me laugh so hard I had to put my head down on my desk. And then the very next post, detailing Alice's first day at work and what she did with her money afterward, had me literally teary-eyed.
posted by Ian A.T. at 6:41 PM on June 17, 2009

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