3 Life Lessons Learned From Playing The Sims

The Sims franchise is a long-beloved series of life simulation games and one that I have enjoyed since I was in high school. As a storyteller myself, it’s a game where I get to create the characters and write the stories and watch them play out like a movie. I get to choose the outfits and design the set pieces – it’s really a playground for your imagination.

But it’s also an opportunity for you to create your sim-self and design your own sim-life. I can’t tell you how many sim-Alyssa’s I’ve made who became prolific and well-paid fantasy authors and were able to buy the house and live the life I’ve always dreamed of having.

It’s a game people enjoy playing for a variety of reasons – the escapism that accompanies a fun game, the wish fulfilment of seeing a sim version of yourself achieve things you might not think you’re capable of, or playing out epic, generational family dramas.

These games are fun and silly, and I don’t mean to say that you should be turning to The Sims for actual real-life advice or anything like that, but it is a life simulation game, and there are some very obvious parallels (and lessons) that might be staring you in the face.

So I figured it might be fun and insightful to share some of the lessons that were staring me in the face.

1. Work-Life Balance

If you’ve played any of The Sims games, especially the more recent ones, and you’ve ever tried to have your sims grind a skill so they can get that grade boost or job promotion the next day, it probably made them quite miserable.

Poor eating habits, poor sleeping habits, bad hygiene, low mood – all that time spent grinding their skills, and their performance suffers anyway. They probably have few friends, outside of coworkers, and poor relationships with them besides. It’s almost as though spending all of your time working was an unhealthy way to live.

And sure, that late-night grind would net you that promotion, but your sim will be so drained after work they won’t want to do anything except relax or sleep. It’s a short-term gain but with consequences, and in this era of side hustles and daily grinds, I think we could all stand to live with a little more balance.

Personally, I tend to waffle between periods of profound lethargy and manic workaholism, which is alarmingly unhealthy. Structure was something I made sure I created for my sims, but it was nothing I ever thought about trying to do for myself. The game almost forces you to find that balance, because an unhappy sim does not want to work, but what about real life?

I admit I’m not the best at this, but I do try to take time to consider what I’m doing, and how it’ll affect my goals long-term. Sometimes that means taking breaks when I don’t want to or forcing myself to get my work done before I get to do something fun. Some days my energy and my motivation are high, and some days I just need to rest and refill the well.

I know that I’ll always struggle with finding that perfect balance, but I still want to make the effort, because I know I’ll be healthier for it.

2. Success is a Marathon, Not a Sprint

Regardless of how many times I remake sim-Alyssa, her first book would never be a bestseller, and it was only ever finished in bursts of writing between working a job and household maintenance. She was never able to quit her job after writing her second or even her third book. She had to write dozens of them, squeezing in that writing time where she could, and between all the other parts of her life that needed attention. And slowly but surely, my sim-self built a career.

Even if you do force your sim to spend all their time working on their skills, it takes time for their work performance to improve so they can get that promotion. They don’t reach the top of their prospective career ladders overnight.

Success takes time – small steps here and there, and sometimes only when you can manage it. And it can be frustrating when another day goes by and you feel as though you haven’t made any sort of meaningful progress. But all of those small steps add up. Just as sim-Alyssa spent her mornings before work writing her novels, those fragments add up and become something more.

And maybe it’s the storyteller in me, but when you’re playing a sim who has struggled for each promotion, who spends an hour before bed trying to make progress on a skill after coming home from work and having to raise their sim-children – when they finally reach the top of their career it is so much more rewarding than having sped them through it. As the player, you can see the big picture. You can see how much closer they are each time they sit down to work, even if it’s only for one in-game hour at a time.

It’s something I need to constantly remind myself of when I feel like I’m not doing enough or I’m not making enough progress. It can be hard to see how far you’ve come when you’re in the thick of it, but all those small moments are just as important as the big ones.

3. It’s Okay to Change Your Mind (& You’re Never Too Old to Do It)

One of my more recent playthroughs was a Rags to Riches challenge in the Sims 4, where you start on an empty lot with a sim who hasn’t a penny to their name. I ran the challenge with a virtuoso sim, and music was obviously his passion, as he spent long nights in the middle of his empty grass lot playing a violin he happened to fish out of the nearby river.

I knew his survival would be in jeopardy if I didn’t get him a job as soon as possible, so I found the nearest computer and got him a job in the business career track, thinking that would be safest and earn him the most money. Those early career levels went by quickly, he made a decent wage, and soon I was able to build him a basic house.

But this sim was also a hothead, and he spent 90% of his nights at home in a rage, kicking garbage cans around the neighbourhood and otherwise being miserable towards his girlfriend who had moved in with him. The only time he wasn’t in a bad mood was when he was playing his music.

His job was making him miserable, but I wanted to try and get him to the top of the business career ladder before he became an elder and would have to start thinking about retirement. I was convinced it was too late to change careers, and he was getting old. But one day I’d had enough of his tantrums, so he quit his job, and the next day started a career in music.

He managed to get to level 8 in the music career before he became an elder, and the rage-induced outbursts all but disappeared. He was happier, his family was happier, and he’d managed to do pretty well for himself, despite starting the career so late in his little sim-life.

With every year that goes by, I find I chastise myself more and more for all of the things I never did or didn’t manage to accomplish when I was younger. This is especially true when I see stories on social media of successful authors in their teens and early twenties.

I’ll get that empty, regretful feeling that I’ve missed my chance. That it’s too late for me to also become a successful author, and to believe otherwise is a waste of time.

Earlier in my life, my definition of success was that of an author who was wealthy, had huge book deals, movie deals, and a large social media following. None of which are things I particularly crave at this point in my life. The ‘success’ that I want now looks different than it did when I was only a teenager. And I’m okay with that. Ten years from now it’ll probably look different again. I can’t compare my life to what others define as successful or even what society deems a success, because that might not be the sort of success that I want.

Right now, I love writing and I love telling stories. I want to be in a position where I can support myself in doing that. And it’s never too late to make that a reality.

I would not be surprised if these ‘life lessons’ strike you as obvious. Looking back, they should have been for me, but I play games for fun and escapism. The obvious parallels (and diversions) between my life and my sims lives were lost to me at first. Realistic or not, there is something about a simulated life illustrating these lessons for me that was more powerful when I finally took a moment to pay attention.

Let’s Discuss!

Have you ever played a game that taught you something unexpected? Have you played any of The Sims games? What is something you always did for your sims that you never do for yourself? Let me know in the comments below!

Recommended Posts

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: