Authors create characters, settings, worlds…but sometimes a visual tool helps bring our ideas to life.
Enter The Sims. Back in 2000, this addictive game started off with with a cul-de-sac of ten lots. I moved a single guy into a bachelor pad and started controlling his life. Just like writing characters! There wasn’t a lot for this lonely guy to do. Then came the expansion packs, in particular The Sims Hot Date. This game-changing pack added a downtown with “townie sims.” Custom tools were released–both by the game manufacturers and modding community–giving me the option of switching out game-created sims for my own characters. And that’s just what I did.
Since then, The Sims franchise has evolved. Now, The Sims 3 is the game I play most regularly. Just one of my many obsessions. Besides creating a sim me (see the photo accompanying this post), I’ve created characters based on my mystery book series and put them into the game. This has been great for generating ideas and “seeing” the characters and how they might interact. I can plot out various scenarios, alternative story lines, and think up new ideas. I’ve even created a few sims that have become characters in my stories! See a video game can be productive.
I’ve also been able to “build” houses in the game, creating settings for stories that I can see. This is a great tool for being able to describe a scene or how a character would look in a particular environment. There’s even the ability to snap photos–again see the above pic–or even create videos (something I’ve yet to do)!
Of course there are a few drawbacks. I do miss some of the features from previous additions of the game. I loved the Open For Business expansion pack for The Sims 2. It allowed my fictional characters to own and run restaurants, department stores, nightclubs and more. I feel it was more hands-on than what The Sims 3 currently offers. Also, pets and weather have yet to make it into The Sims 3. And there are a few other minor things like the pool table, basketball hoop, university life, and more ways to kill your sim (really fans love this one).
The other major drawback: you get sucked into the game and forget to actual write something! Video games are great, but learning moderation can be a challenge. Some nights slip by while I’m immersed in the game. Then I look up at the clock, and it’s far too late to work on the craft of writing. Still, when a moment of writer’s block sets in, it can be inspiring to see what ideas might be triggered by my characters in their own little sim world.