Hopes and Dreams of Pixelated Peoples: Reflections on Part One of Livin’ A Simmin’ Life

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Author Note: Massive spoilers if you aren’t caught up on this story. You’ve been warned. 

I am relatively new to TS4. My preference is still TS3 games, partly for nostalgia reasons as it was the first Sims game I tried, partly because I feel I know that game best, and partly because I feel I have so many more options available with all the mods and custom content and open world concept. However, this is the first story where I genuinely felt like I co-wrote with the game.

I am continually amazed by the TS4 Sims autonomous decisions, especially by the Sims I didn’t control, which was everyone but Lizzie. This is also the first game I’ve played where I didn’t have a script in mind when writing. I typically write Sims stories from a story-driven perspective, but this story was heavily game-driven. I didn’t have an agenda, except for Lizzie to complete her goals. Initially, I was worried I’d lose interest because the days felt super repetitive, but that’s when the Sims started surprising me.

Lizzie really knew what she wanted from the start. Every once in awhile, I’d gently direct her or nudge her, but she pretty much made up her own mind about things. I got to the point where I didn’t want to direct her because she made some pretty incredible decisions all on her own. Actually, all the Green girls did.

I spent less time following Lee around, but she immediately clicked with MINEZ‘ Sammy Sarafin, and worked her butt off to get promoted like she did, and then engaged.

Nora was bound and determined to hook MINEZ‘ Julian DeBateau, even with his loner, hot-headed, and perfectionist traits – a triple threat. Nora took this as a superb challenge, and eventually wore down the man’s defenses, boldly kissed him…

…and Julian asked her to be his girlfriend, and then Nora looked so startled… as if she didn’t expect him to ever ask. Haha.

And then there was Lizzie, who created a bit of an aggravating love triangle between herself, LegacySims2017’s Joseph Simselfand InfraGreen/Trip’s Rob Buckley. At first, it was aggravating, mostly because I wasn’t expecting it, and because it would be challenging to write. I didn’t want Lizzie to be perceived in a negative light, and I had a hard time believing I would do something like that, but then I had to remind myself that Lizzie was my Sim-self, not my actual self. Once I let myself be free of those restraints, the story really took off.

Lizzie truly fell hard for Rob, and naturally, I expected that to be her choice and her ending.

I guided gently and nudged here and there for her to make things happen, but Lizzie never forgot that she “fell for” Joseph first, and that they had instant chemistry, something Lizzie/Rob lacked.

Lizzie’s “childcare” work made it easy for her to bond with Carrie, Rob’s daughter, and she loved how he was a good dad…

…but Joseph, too, was great with the kids early on during their chapter at the Pizza Planet.

I’ll never forget Joseph’s conversation with the precocious Brooklyn when he asked her to “help a guy out.”

Lizzie and Rob bonded over music, and waxed poetic about bands and songs…

…but Joseph and Lizzie enjoyed a humorous banter and deep friendship from the start. And he won her over with coffee early on. :p

It was the fact that he made instant friends with most of Lizzie’s family and the “bookends” comment that cemented things for me that this relationship could work…

…which was why their first date, initiated by him, was so confounding. I was probably as surprised as Lizzie… had she just been friend-zoned?

That plus the reveal of his in-game, game initiated ex-girlfriend of Summer made me wonder whether Lizzie made a mistake or if we both misinterpreted things.

Then Joseph went outside before heading home and stood the trash can upright, and for some reason, this was striking to me. Here is an upset Sim who just ran into an ex-girlfriend, who didn’t get a much-desired work promotion, who just blew a date with the girl he asked out, and yet he stops and takes the time to pick up a trash can. It spoke volumes to me about his character.

And then, Lizzie went off and kissed Rob. I think, in part, she wanted Rob because of her initial failed date with Joseph. She didn’t want to feel down, and wanted to redeem the evening.

Catarina Lynx, whom I encountered in other Sims games of mine, was also a shocking reveal. She was an ex of Rob’s, and I ret-conned her as the mother of Carrie. I had reworked stories in my head with other Sims stories based on in-game aspects, but this was the first time, I was really thrown for a loop and worked hard to weave it into the narrative.

When stubborn little Carrie threw a fit and Rob didn’t respond well to Lizzie’s “confession of attraction” (all autonomous), I figured their relationship was over before it really started.

The game continued to surprise me. I was impressed by the friendships. Lizzie really worked hard to maintain her friendships.

I enjoyed meeting the delightful and imaginative Teresa Spinks by Skcaga6. I was amazed at how selfless Lizzie was in staying up all night with the little girl to keep her mind off her sick baby brother, even though Lizzie dropped over from exhaustion shortly after Teresa left.

Ali Morrison, by friendsfan367, was always making Lizzie laugh.

Cathy Tea‘s Simself shocked me with her wide range of emotional outbursts and how crazy entertaining she was.

And no one appreciated Cathy Tea‘s Sugar Maple Bough’s invite to a girls night at the Solar Flare more than Lizzie. Sugar was an amazing musician too. I wish I had video of her playing the violin. She was a good friend to Lizzie.

And Lizzie was great with the kiddos. For those of you who don’t know, I’ve also worked in childcare so it was only fitting my Simself also. However, Lizzie had such a natural way with the children. I was impressed, and a bit envious.

Lizzie also shared a sweet relationship with her sister, Nora. I appreciated how often Nora attempted to make things better for her sister, and how she worked hard to comfort Lizzie when she was sad, and just be around to be a friend. She was caring and understanding.

This is especially special for me because the sister whom Nora represents and I haven’t always had the most solid relationship, but we share a closer bond now that we’re both older. I appreciate her counsel and her friendship more than she knows, and Nora feels like an excellent tribute to this real life sister of mine.

On that note, my dad and mom are also a bit goofy like Eddie and Essie. It was inspirational to see their strong marriage in game. My own parents did not stay together, and their divorce was incredibly difficult on my sisters and I. However, I didn’t want that to be the same for my Simself and her Sim-siblings so I kept the nuclear family. I was impressed by the love displayed between the two Sims, Eddie and Essie.

…and the love between these two. They were nauseatingly happy. Haha. Okay, maybe not really. I have a tendency to write real, gritty, broken relationships in all my stories, Sims or otherwise. Maybe I’m a bit jaded, but they say write what you know, right? :/ I stepped out of this story, and didn’t have an agenda, and I was pleased with the results. Perhaps a little sweetness every once in awhile is called for… especially with…

…Lizzie and Joseph. Joseph continued to insert himself not only in my game,  but in Lizzie’s life, not as a love interest initially, but as a friend. I was pleasantly surprised by him. How he spent time with the family and frequently “invited” himself over. How he texted her on a daily basis. How he boldly flirted with her, and she boldly flirted back, and yet still chose Rob. Lizzie was way more assertive and daring than I’d ever be.

And Joseph couldn’t stop smiling around her.

Though Rob had his moments too.

One of my favorite moments was when Nora boldly gave Rob a pep-talk and not about exercising, but about Lizzie. It was so surprising in game – she immediately followed up her pep talk with a whim to talk about her sister.

What surprised me the most was Lizzie pretty much explained she was “into” Rob and broke up with Joseph even after agreeing to give their relationship a try and yet Joseph returned to the household and autonomously apologized. Again, I felt like that spoke volumes about his character.

I was amazed by the expansion, City Living, and I couldn’t get enough of San Myshuno. Lizzie immediately felt comfortable there, and was in awe of the colors, lights, festivals, and spirit of the city. She and Rob visited multiple times, which I tied into one amazing chapter. I could see Lizzie moving here in the future, and I assumed that future would be with Rob, Carrie, and Marshall. Yet Lizzie kept rolling whims to think of or get together with or kiss Joseph, even after she was dating Rob. As a writer, I was confused.  As a gamer,  I was frustrated. And Lizzie kept trying to tell me things and I didn’t understand it yet. Jogging, werewolf movies,  laundry, dancing,  pumpkins,  chocolate,  and even coffee (on occasion) put her in a sad mood. The AI here was brilliant and I lagged behind and tried desperately to keep up.  I even wrote and included the sad moments,  but I didn’t put two and two together until later.

As I look in retrospect, she kind-of idealized Rob and over-romanticized their relationship. I’m not saying it couldn’t have worked, or that what they had wasn’t real, or that it didn’t plum nearly break my heart when he broke up with her… I hated to see my pixelated Simself so unhappy. Yet somehow Lizzie knew long before I did that she was destined for Joseph.

Due to a game glitch, somehow, Carrie ended up in Catarina’s household, and almost immediately after, Rob broke up with Lizzie. I felt like this glitch was a stroke of fate, a wake up call they probably both needed, and me too. The descent into Lizzie’s despair was distressing. I was so invested in these Sims. All these Sims. It was heartbreaking to see any one of them hurting. If I had seen what Lizzie really wanted sooner,  maybe I could’ve prevented the heartache.  I felt guilty.  Was she sad because she genuinely cared for Rob? Yes. Was she sad for her wasted time?  I think so.  Was she sad because she didn’t listen to her heart, slow down,  and wait? I think that was the hardest of all… and there was some serious truth that Lizzie knew deep down and somehow I glossed over.  Am I making too much of a game?  Maybe,  but I feel I gained incredible insight as a writer and a gamer based on this experience of writing/ playing through my Simself story.

I took my time post this chapter because I needed to heal, regroup,  and figure out where to go and what I wanted to do in game, just like Lizzie did. I fast-forwarded a bit and played around for several Sim weeks to capture the shots of the second to last chapter, allowing for Lizzie to figure out her life.

This time was good for her, and it was good for me too and getting some distance. Then I just wasn’t sure where to go. I had a couple ideas. I knew I was planning Lee and Sammy’s wedding since their engagement so I switched households to set it up, invited guests, and sat back to let things go.

And then Joseph popped back into Lizzie’s life again. Interestingly, the San Myshuno story line was already written out for him as I hinted at his desire to move to the city in previous chapters.

He was even the first to invite her to San Myshuno. In a way, Lizzie could have her cake and eat it too. She could still have love (of a different sort than planned) and still get the opportunity to move to the city… so yes, this is an announcement about the future – part two in the city.  I’m getting ahead of myself.

Joseph arrived at the wedding in a sad mood. He was actually mopey, but as soon as he saw Lizzie, all that changed and he lit up like a Christmas tree.

I nearly fell out of my chair in shock when he autonomously kissed Lizzie. I half-expected her to be mad. I mean, they hadn’t seen each other in weeks (er… story years). And yet the look in her eyes post the kiss was incredible. All those feelings flooded back and she was happy. I could see it. I was astounded.

Here I fully intended to “call Rob” post the wedding and try and patch things up. I debated inviting him to the wedding but didn’t have a good reason. I even partially worked out a story line where Lizzie moved to Brindleton Bay to try and make things work with the Buckleys.

  1. But the game answered things for me. Joseph chose Lizzie, through zero prompting of my own. And Lizzie chose Joseph, and I think she would have all along if she hadn’t been so impulsive.  And I just couldn’t deny these Sims a happy ending. I actually think I cheered. Haha. 🙂

Part One: Family Ties comes to a close. Thank you to everyone who submitted Sims and followed me along this journey, and for putting up with this supremely wordy post. Haha. It has truly been my pleasure to feature your Sims and to follow and observe all the Sims in this story. Stay tuned for Part Two: City Living.

2 thoughts on “Hopes and Dreams of Pixelated Peoples: Reflections on Part One of Livin’ A Simmin’ Life

    cathytea said:
    February 24, 2018 at 11:29 am

    I’m back to comment now that I’m on my computer and have a touch of time! 🙂 I enjoyed this behind-the-scenes so very much! It amazed me to see how much of the story was spun by the Sims and the games. You wrote it so well that it feels plot- and character-driven! I also am so impressed by your Sims’ autonomous actions! You know, I play true-love style (letting the Sims determine their romantic interactions and engagements), too, and my experiences with my Sims and their romances are a lot like yours! Although, probably because they pick up on my own specific inclinations, I tend to have a lot more single and platonic Sims…

    It definitely takes a certain game-play style to bring out the complexities that your game and story demonstrate, as well as keen insight, observation, interpretation–and a touch of imagination! And you’ve really demonstrated how rich and nuanced this approach can be! 🙂

    Like

      livinasimminlife responded:
      February 24, 2018 at 1:59 pm

      Oh wow! Thank you, CathyTea. I always appreciate your kind words. They encourage me a lot. I never know if my stuff is going to appeal to my readers because I’m wordy. LOL. And sometimes I can’t always follow through on all my stories, but I did with this one because the game play was so amazing. I’m so glad I was able to create a bridge between game-play driven and plot-driven. Since I’m typically a plot-driven writer, this was new for me. I’m returning to plot-driven with my next project, Night Blooming Jasmine, but playing/writing LASL was a real treat. I look forward to writing into Part/Season Two. I was really grateful that Lizzie and all the other Sims allowed me time in their world to capture their stories. Lizzie (and Joseph) in particular really showed me the way to encapsulate their experiences in game and utilize my skills with plot-building, world building, character building, and dialogue. And thanks to this experience, I now have a host of ideas for stories in the TS4 world. Thank you so much for reading and following, for your help with some of the chapters, for submitting your Sims, and for your inspiration in writing the ISBI challenge yourself, and encouraging me to give TS4 a real go. 🙂 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

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