04/05 Ted #1

Ted Hargraves is a bit of a catch. He’s a young adult, he’s healthy, and has 5 personality traits anyone would want in their dream man. Or even themselves. He’s Friendly, a Genius, Neat, a Hopeless Romantic, and has a Good Sense of Humour. He wants to be a professional author, and his favourite food is ratatouille. He’s a Taurus that likes green, and indie music. What’s not to like? I wish I was as cool as Ted Hargraves.

On Saturday in Sunset Valley, Ted became a homeowner! He never thought he’d be so lucky, but thanks to a small set-up fund from the government he was able to buy a humble 1 bedroom 1 bathroom house called “The Monotone”, at 72 Waterlily Lane. It’s not much, but at §16,230 fully-furnished, it’s bang in his §16,500 budget. Hopefully the remaining 250 simoleans lasts him long enough to find his dream job. A new start in a new life.

Once in his new abode, Ted pondered buying some things to make his house a home, but with only §250 in the bank thought better of it. You know what’s free? Sleep! Ted had a nap at 11am on Saturday and almost slept through a visit from some Sunset Valley residents wanting to welcome him to the neighbourhood. I didn’t wake him up.

The neighbours kind of loitered a while, I guess they weren’t going to give up that easily. 2 hours passed. Awkward. Ted woke up and wandered outside bleary-eyed to see what the people wanted.

Ted stood there in front of everyone and watched them talk to each other. No one introduced themselves to him, he was invisible in front of his own front door. Finally Ted took it upon himself to introduce himself to Erin, once a lull in her conversation with Simis Bachelor arose.

Erin thinks Ted is okay.

I guess it got to “that time” of day where everyone wanted to go home, so people started saying goodbye. Everyone was cordial and friendly except for Simis Bachelor, who weirdly kicked over Ted’s garbage can before leaving in a huff. What the eff, dude? Who shat in his cornflakes? Maybe it was because Ted spoke to Erin?

Ted was then thrust into super awkwardness when Simis had to wait out the front for his ride. After kicking over his garbage can. It was a bit like yelling “I said good DAY sir!” and having to wait for an elevator before properly making your exit. No one spoke. He waited 28 minutes. Ted stood at his front door, Simis was on the curb. The garbage can was near the letterbox. They stood there. Looking at each other.

Simis is a bit of a douchebag.

After that weirdness, Ted went inside to try and find a job in the classifieds. Hopefully earning some decent money could mean a move to a neighbourhood completely void of Simis Bachelors and their garbage-can-kicking ways. What a douche.

Ted really wants to be a professional author, but none of the jobs in the paper today are anywhere close. A job in the Science Career as a Test Subject? The idea of being the next Bruce Banner wasn’t exactly inspiring Ted’s creative juices. Still, §44 per hour. Surely they wouldn’t do anything too horrible? Law Enforcement as a Snitch. §40 per hour. Sounds intense. Not without its risks either. Medical Career, as an organ donor?! Are you freaking kidding me? §22 per hour and possibly the loss of several favourite organs. (Don’t pretend you don’t have a favourite organ).

Nothing. Ted will try again tomorrow. There’s no point slugging away day in day out at some crappy job. He’ll have no time for his writing then before he knows it he’ll be 50 and still there. Life’s short but the life of a Sim is even shorter.

That evening Ted sold some ugly furniture to make some extra cash. If the job hunt proves this bleak for much longer, he should be okay. Bank account now sitting at §820, and he bought himself a TV.

Just for the noise.

12/04 Sim, Interrupted

I'm starting out on a little experiment that was born out of interest in how videogames present mental illness. There are a few out there varying in depictions from anywhere to implied craziness (the G-Rated Crazy that is represented by strange eye movements and/or uncontrollable laughing, usually for comedic effect) to the darker stuff of post-traumatic stress disorder, being relentlessly haunted, and dissociative identity disorders. Mostly videogames seem to represent mental illness as a consequence to a terrible and dramatic trauma the character has experienced -- usually through no fault of their own -- that is both understandable and easy to empathise with. It's less about chemical imbalances or the struggle with one's self-doubt and low self-esteem and more about "You'd be like this too if you'd seen what I've seen".

An argument for this is purely for dramatic effect, it's much more compelling to experience graphic flashbacks of a tortured soul battling inner demons that parallel the struggle going on within the game than it is to see Steve having a thrilling battle with getting out of bed that morning. It's not an entirely untouched niche, however. A few indie games have been experimenting with themes of depression, just a quick look at some games that came out of this year's Global Game Jam can attest to that, including a game called "Frayed" exploring mental illness, perception, and love. A non-jam "Serious Game" called "Elude" aims to raise awareness about depression (specifically for sufferer's loved ones) by taking the player through a series of mood states, following their 'passion' objects that act as power ups to rise above obstacles in their path. Only by following your passion can you rise to the tree tops to 'happiness'. (As much as I baulk and the idea of happiness and depression being binary states, or happiness even being an achievable goal, I get what they're trying to do here, metaphorically it works).

Games truly exploring the inner-struggle with depression, cripplingly-low self-esteem or worthlessness are few and far between, especially when compared to other artistic mediums. Understandably so, with many considering games belonging squarely to the "for fun" category. Depression isn't as ripe for illustrative media portrayal as some other mental illnesses, and it's harder to take refuge in audacity with such an illness. But regardless of why that's so, I wanted to have a little look at a game I'm quite familiar with and where depression might fit into the complex world of The Sims, in particular The Sims3.

I'm not an academic, and never will be. I'm not an expert in depression nor do I currently suffer from it. I just thought this could be quite interesting. I'm not trying to achieve anything other than sating my curiosity about what would happen if I didn't grind my way to the lifetime aspiration of my Sim. I intend to let the Sims use their free will as much as possible, only intervening to prevent death or when they get so exasperated they can no longer function. My aim isn't to actively create depression in my Sims but merely to see what happens if they get stuck in a rut. I plan on making two Sims, identical in every way except gender. Firstly to watch how the game depicts people who are not living up to their dream aspirations, and secondly to see how that differs between the sexes in the game. It's not a perfect experiment, there's variables up the wazoo (to the point where I probably shouldn't call it an experiment as that implies a controlled environment), but for a little peek into how these particular little balls of artificial intelligence deal with not fulfilling their lifetime's desires, I think it's worth a looksee. So here's where I'll be writing all about my adventure through the mind's dark places in the parameters of The Sims3. If you'd like to come along with me, keep an eye on http://siminterrupted.grassisleena.com/. :)

If you have anything to share along the way, feel free to comment or if you'd like to do it privately, throw an email towards siminterrupted@grassisleena.com.