When I reflect on my childhood, the most abundant memory is playing the famous PC video game “The Sims.” The second my parents bought a computer capable of playing the popular game that allows players to play God, I never left our office again. I was addicted to the idea of building people and their homes and then running their lives to the point of my parents staging an intervention and cutting back on my hours spent on the game.
With the countless hours I clocked playing “The Sims,” I picked up a few life lessons that still serve me today.
1. Safety first
Keeping in mind I played “The Sims” with 12-year-old logic, I often forgo important items like the smoke detector and burglar alarm in exchange for the vibrating bed and automatic-flushing toilet. Time after time, my Sim would set his house on fire while making dinner, which always caused great frustration, property damage or the death of my Sim(s). Realizing all those fancy toys weren’t worth much on fire, I learned that sometimes you have to buy the boring but important items first.
2. Your needs outweigh your wants
Much like the individual who controlled him, my Sim had an extreme Type A personality. He would read books until 2 in the morning in hopes of gaining the skills he needed for a promotion, he’s call his friends late at night and he just loved having an espresso machine. That being said, he was often miserable, failed at the most basic tasks and had a habit of falling asleep on the floor after wetting himself. Whenever this happened, he never got his promotions, his friends would ignore his calls and the espresso machine would break (hence the crying). As much as he wanted to get ahead, and as much as I pushed him to keep going, in the end he always did his best when he got plenty of sleep, used the bathroom, and took an occasional day off work.
3. College isn’t necessary
I am happy to have a college degree, but in hindsight I realize that they can be overrated. In the original game, Sims could achieve their dreams if they worked hard enough; no degree was necessary. In “The Sims 2,” the ability to go to college was added as an expansion pack (so clearly the game developers didn’t see college as a priority, either), and all it did was put my Sim in debt and start a career later than everyone else. Sure, the college experience was fun, but it wasn’t a vital key to success.
4. You can’t buy something until you have the money for it
In “The Sims” there is no such thing as financing. If you want a fancy car, you have to save up for it. In a lot of ways, this monetary system set me up for success in my adult years, because I learned early that the best way to pay for what you want is to save up for it.
5. It’s better to buy quality than quantity
Sure, I wanted a giant, gorgeous living room with so many white couches that my neighbors thought my Sims had a cocaine problem. However, the fancy white couches just weren’t that great for decoration—they were there to optimize comfort. When it came to electronics, I realized I often spent more money and time on the repairman (or bargaining with the Grim Reaper to get my Sim back from the dead after he would electrocute himself to death fixing the TV) than it was worth. Just save up for the nice, durable device and leave the cheap stuff in the virtual store.
6. Money doesn’t buy happiness
If I had a dime every time my Sim would cry while standing in his living room with a giant bronze statue and a butler nearby, my Sim would have two giant bronze statues. While it’s an important life lesson we all learn at some point, the popular teenage video game did a better job of making it clear through “show, don’t tell” than any personal experience in middle school did. I would buy new gadget after gadget to make my Sim happy, even a room dedicated to pool tables, and he continued to cry. All he wanted was a puppy and a job he liked.
7. Careers change
Even if you make your Sim work all day and night and get promoted to the absolute top of their job, it won’t last. This isn’t a psychological discussion of how it won’t last, either; the game is programmed to fire your Sim from their high horse after just a few weeks. Why? Life is about trying new things, exploring new jobs and never settling. You can’t win at life; you can only experience it. One of the best ways to do this is keep up on new job opportunities.
8. Having kids is SUPER hard
Holy crap, children are the most difficult things to keep alive on this planet. Whenever my Sims decided to have a baby, I would buckle down, tell my mom I’ll be eating dinner at the computer—again—and prepare for the worst night of my life. One of my Sims would inevitably lose their job; the house would become a mess, and there would be a 50 percent chance social services would take it away. The baby would cry continuously, and I never knew what it wanted to be happy. I would yell, “USE YOUR WORDS,” which never helped, and my Sims and I would cry together into the night.
9. Friendships require time and effort
Thanks to “The Sims,” I still think of the valuable game tip every time I realize I’m behind on catching up with old friends: “Friendships are like plants. If you don’t care for them, they whither and die.” The purpose of the message is to help your Sim’s social levels, but it’s true for real life, too. Friendships require time and effort, and while it’s easy to hang out with the same people on a regular basis, it never hurts to call up some old friends just to see how they are and catch up.
10. Cheating doesn’t make it worth it
Getting a job, working hard, living frugally and being responsible aren’t a lot of fun sometimes, especially in video games. Thankfully, there are cheat codes! In “The Sims,” a player is seven keystrokes away from thousands of extra dollars—all the player has to do is type in “ROSEBUD.” While this was fun for a while, it always got boring. Building a house out stone, surrounding it with a moat and building a 10-car garage was fun, but then nothing seemed worth it. It’s far more exciting to work hard, hate the same junk for months on end, and then replace it with something nice that was earned.