This sense of responsibility sneaks up on the average player. From what I’ve seen, the standard evolution of a Sims player is to begin as a curious player, just trying to make things work. Then you become an Avenging Angel, the great anarchist, lobbing missiles into the living room or drowning the kids or torching one of the bedrooms.
Finally, once you get the chaos out of your system, you enter into your Sims metaphysical stage, which apparently goes on almost indefinitely. Here you become a merciful divinity, kind of like a Roman household god, gently watching over your mortal wards, constructing for them a world in your own image — or at least the image of your own material desires.
But shouldn’t this grow old rather quickly?
I asked my oldest, who currently has the attention span of cocker spaniel puppy, why he spends so many hours building and filling houses on the Sims, usually without any human inhabitants at all.
“Because,” he replied, “It’s like building a perfect world. The world you’d like to live in if you could.”
I think I understand. In the last couple years, the real world has taken a turn down a very scary path. When the news each day offers the latest set of terrors, when the music you listen to celebrates chaos and decay, and when your heroes prove to not only have feet of clay but souls of coal, it must be very pleasant indeed to visit your little handmade Utopia and see behind the pixels your own better world.
Michael S. Malone, once called “the Boswell of Silicon Valley,” most recently was editor-at-large of Forbes ASAP magazine. His work as the nation’s first daily high-tech reporter at the San Jose Mercury-News sparked the writing of his critically acclaimed The Big Score: The Billion Dollar Story of Silicon Valley, which went on to become a public TV series. He has written several other highly praised business books and a novel about Silicon Valley, where he was raised.