Saturday, July 06, 2002

Flowers vs. The Sims

I was out shopping today and something struck me as interesting. I was considering why people enjoy planting flowers. They are hard to grow and often die quickly. They also are very pretty though. I thought about my own flowers. (Yes, I have flowers, what of it?)

I take pleasure in the challenge of keeping them alive and seeing just how big and beautiful they can become. I recently was on vacation and had a friend water and feed my cat. She took care of my interior plants too, but I neglected to mention the flowers outside. She didn’t notice them and they were near death when I got back. Since then I’ve managed to nurse many of them back. Some were too far gone already. Some I thought I could save but ultimately wilted away. However the others are coming back now. They have a little ways to go before they’ll be what they were, but still it feels great to see them continue.

I suddenly realized that I often feel that way when playing simulated games on my PC. Take The SIMS for instance. Here you have to nurture a simulated person (or people), their home and their job(s). What I realized though was that on the computer the rules are slightly different. And not necessarily in a good way.

With my flowers, if they die I have to go buy more. I have a financial “punishment” if I don’t care for them. With The SIMS I could let them die, neglect them, smother them, etc etc. That is good in that you can explore the infinite possibilities, but bad because there is no consequence. If your person dies, you start over. You may feel a little guilt or remorse if you worked hard on that sim or had grown attached to them. (Yes it can and does happen.) However if you let them die you don’t get in trouble. Not really. Over time this jades the creator. They become more and more resistant to feeling bad for their loss. In time this carries over into the real world.

I’m certainly not saying all games are bad, but simulated activities should be watched carefully. Don’t loose your soul to the sim.

There are certainly many sims where attempting the simulated activity in the real world is impossible or impractical. The old classic Maxis game, SimEarth is a good example. No one is ever going to be able to practice terraforming a planet any other way. Perhaps you have a dream of flying but you simply don’t have the money to take flying lessons and rent or buy an airplane, a flight sim would be a solution to that problem.

Sims have their place, but I think many people neglect the simple pleasures and real rewards and punishments that the real world provides. Those rewards and punishments cannot be neglected by the children and teens (and adults) of today or tomorrow we may find our society has completely forgotten how to be responsible for their actions and understand they will be punished if they do wrong. Unfortunately we can already see society moving in this direction.

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