Saturday, August 4, 2018

The Sims ~ It's For Autistic People, Too

How can an introverted aspie (person with Asperger's Syndrome / Autism Spectrum Disorder) possibly enjoy a people simulator?

I often feel like an alien among people, but I've always loved The Sims. I wanted to talk about my experience with this game as someone who hates socializing.

The Sims 2 and 3 were among my favorite childhood games. The most popular people simulator had me hooked, and filling each Sims "needs" bars and granting their wishes was satisfying to me.

After a long hiatus, I decided to dust off Sims 3 and play it again. I couldn't load my old saves, so I had to start from scratch. I made a Sim based on myself (as I usually do; it feels the most comfortable), with my appearance, personality traits, interests, etc. I didn't make any more Sims beyond that, because I wanted this to be my private world and experience. 

Me in my little world

Playing this game again made me realize some things.

#1. I play it for the control, not the social aspect
Finally, I can keep things clean.
I do enjoy creating Sims and living vicariously through them, but I enjoy being able to control the environment and the actions of the Sims even more. The social aspect (having my Sims go to work/school, hang out with friends, date, have sex etc.) used to be fun for me (I didn't have close connections back then), but my current disillusion with life has made that part of the game less appealing. In real life, my experiences with people have made me want to withdraw even more, and I also realize that I have very little control over the world (and people) around me. There are some things that can go wrong in The Sims--like the stove bursting into flames, wetting your pants, Sims dying etc.--but unlike the real world, they do not phase me at all, and each problem has a predictable solution.

#2. Being unemployed is totally okay
Unemployed ≠ Unproductive
I can customize my Sims, my house, and the lives of my Sims in any way I wish (especially with cheats). I wanted to try playing without cheats for once, but that meant no money magically appearing out of nowhere. That meant my Sims had to make the money themselves, but I was dreading the idea of joining the workforce. My real-life distaste for 9-5 jobs somehow made it difficult for me to separate that from my gaming experience. But I realized I didn't HAVE to join the workforce if I didn't want to.

Instead, I decided to be a starving artist who makes money selling weirdly-titled paintings (like "What Am I Looking At" and "Cubed Dreams"), rocks I found, and fish I caught. It gave me a sense of pride, paying my Sim's bills by doing what I really wanted to without the need for a 9-5 job. I desperately have wished that for my real life. But I'm grateful to feel that sense of pride and dignity, even if it's in a game, because it's awful hard to feel that when you're unemployed and unable to live off your hobbies.

#3. I can be alone.
I can always chat online to fill that Social meter.
I considered having my Sim date, but for some reason it didn't feel right. The childish side of me decided boys are icky, at least in the context of the game, and I didn't have to navigate the annoyances of gaining someone's love and trust. It's fun in real life, but the game is meant to be relaxing to me, not emotionally taxing. I didn't want my Sim to make too many friends, either. It works well anyway because I gave her the "loner" personality trait.

For me, The Sims doesn't have to be like reality... because it's not. It may just be a simulation, but it's a customizable, therapeutic one for me, at least right now while I'm still interested in playing it. It's been comforting to me so far, having a bubble of control like that. I need to engage with similar hobbies like playing The Sims more often to help relieve the anxiety that reality causes.

#4. I'm not much different from other humans
Talking on the phone about chicken... doesn't everyone do that?
In my mind, I tend to separate myself as an "alien" who is more flawed than everyone else. I went into it thinking that I can't relate--I mean, it's a people game--but turns out I was just trying to live my life as I wanted to, just like most people do.

I guess I'm more "normal" than I think I am. All humans have basic needs, wishes and ambitions, and are bound by time like I am. I don't often think about that, and end up placing incredibly high standards on myself; if I'm not doing great things, I'm nothing. This tends to be counterproductive, however, and drags me into depression. Playing The Sims reminds me that there is nothing wrong with ordinary life, daily activities, and taking breaks to fulfill needs.

I'm also reminded that there is only so much time in a day. I think The Sims does a pretty good job of making tasks take a realistic amount of time (at least for me), and makes me not feel so guilty about not completing the extensive lists I give myself in one day. For example, I allowed myself to split up my recent vlogs (will be posted soon) into smaller steps: I set aside a day for filming, another for editing, and another for uploading to YouTube. It's made me more productive and not give up on it before I've even started.

I want to keep feeling like this. Human. I'm not as alien as my brain would like me to believe. I'm not the only one with flaws and limitations. It's not wrong or bad to be that way, it's just human--and that means I'm not alone. I mean, I WANT to be alone because I hate socializing, but it's good to know I'm not the only freak in an already freakish world.

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