Ed’s Casual Friday: The Sims 2, My Writer’s Kryptonite

Ed's SimWe’ve all got it. A particular something that from time to time saps our diligence and determination away, so that it’s Thursday when we get back to the chapter we meant to finish last weekend. Or, for that matter, get back to that blog post. Ahem. Whatever that thing you put your writing aside to do, that’s your Writer’s Kryptonite.

Not all Kryptonites are created equal, of course. Some are all for the good, like say spending quality time with family and friends. Others, like spreading coke-fueled mayhem on the streets of Las Vegas, less so. (By which I of course mean “Coca Cola” and “Las Vegas, New Mexico.” Nice little town.) Mine, however does precious little for me.

The Sims 2, if you don’t know, is a computer game wherein the player is in a sort of “god” position, directing “simulated people” as they live their virtual lives. Meaning, as they go to college, get a job, fall in love, start a family, raise the kids through infancy and childhood and teen years, then the kids go to college, etc., etc. It is for all intents and purposes endless, as while individual Sims grow old and pass away, the generational cycles roll on and on and on.

Now, I can spend an hour or two smoking Super Mutants in the DC Wastelands or fighting wars as the Roman Empire, and then get right back to work. But with the Sims 2 (there are newer versions I have thus far avoided), I can get lost for weeks-on-end running multiple families and households in tandem, with different characters all at different stages in their lives – from toddlers learning to talk, to retired grandparents going on ski holidays.

It’s funny I used the word “characters” there, as it was unintentional, but actually the point I was going to make. For me, playing the Sims 2 is, I suspect, less about playing a “god” role, and more about playing an “author,” only without that pesky writing. In a weird way, it scratches the same sort of itch that writing does, as in by filling up a neighborhood with active households, the player is basically “world-building.” And while each individual Sim has particular interests and talents and skills and traits, “who they are” is largely a matter of what they do under the player’s direction. Do they spend all their time building their skills so they can get ahead at work? Play with the kids and carefully tend fresh vegetables in the garden? Or do they hit the bars late at night and try to “woo-hoo” (that’s the Sims term) with anything that moves?

Peace OutSims, like all characters, act under the direction of the player/writer’s guiding hand, and that’s how you know who they are. What they do in their day-to-day lives is a lot more important and revealing than whether they happen to be a cop or a musician or vampire or a witch or a werewolf or a zombie. “Genre,” really, is a lot less important to me than how well the characters are drawn. Doesn’t matter if I am reading or writing a book, or doing neither while playing the Sims. Character is everything.

Did I mention your Sims can become vampires or witches or werewolves or zombies with the right expansion packs? Man, I wanna go play that game right now…what would you rather be doing? 😉

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As always in closing, an excerpt from an authentic, one-star review by a real, live reader:

“I think King is afraid of driving the plot forward…all I am left with is the impression that King does not understand readers, and he does not understand story.” (said about) Stephen King, The Stand

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M. Edward McNally is the author of the Norothian Cycle books: The Sable City, Death of a Kingdom, and The Wind from Miilark, and multiple free short story volumes titled Eddie’s Shorts. He has been writing for twenty of the last thirty years and does not recommend the ten year spell of writer’s block in the middle. Ed is a contributor at Indies Unlimited (IU Bio Page) and tilts at his own windmills at http://sablecity.wordpress.com/ 

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Author: M. Edward McNally

Epic fantasy author M. Edward McNally is a North Carolinian of Irish/Mexican extraction. He has a Masters in English Lit from ISU and Russian/East European History from ASU. He grew up mostly in the Midwest along I-35 northbound (KS, IA, MN), and now resides in the scrub brush surrounding Phoenix AZ, where the scorpions and javelinas play. Learn more about Ed at his blog, and his Amazon author page.

21 thoughts on “Ed’s Casual Friday: The Sims 2, My Writer’s Kryptonite”

  1. Well, I've changed my share of REAL diapers and have no need to change virtual ones. But I do agree good characterization is vital a well-written story.

  2. Have been carefully avoiding Sims for fear of falling into the same trap. Civ IV is enough of a distraction. :/

    I find the review for The Stand particularly amusing since for me (and many others) that book stands out as one of King's best and most compelling works. 🙂

  3. I've never played computer games (other than spider solitaire, and swore off that several years ago). My point of procrastination, or should I say points, would be too much time on LinkedIn and reading blogs (it's all so interesting), finding reasons to call a friend, or telling myself I need a break to watch a movie. And at times I get so wrapped up in reading a book that I just can't put it down until I get to the end. Then it's too late at night to write a blog post. Or to write or edit another chapter, or start a new work, or…whatever. Glad I'm not alone!

  4. I don't play computer games, instead I find farm work that needs to be done. My biggest procrastination is when I'm getting close to finishing a book–especially one where I've become very attached to the characters. I don't want it to end, so I put off writing it as long as I can. Unfortunately I have other things in my publishing schedule and if I want to stay on track, I have to make myself complete it. In the end, I have to face the music and write it. *sniff, sob*

    Great article!

  5. Completely understand your obsession here, Ed. Actually, I've been playing Sims since the game was first introduced in 2000. That means I've wasted a significant portion of the last decade creating characters that never made it any further than my computer screen. I now play Sims 3 — though I try not to play when I actually need to get something done!

    Great post, as usual.

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