“Back in my day, we actually talked to real people,” My mother always scolded when I had my head hidden behind my computer screen, “What you have online, it simply isn’t real.”
My generation grew up with computers, and it’s something of which we’ve never been ashamed. I didn’t have my own computer until I got a school-issued laptop in middle school. Before that, I would spend hours every day in the family computer room at a hardwood desk with my older brother’s old desktop on top of it. It was stashed with games, movies, and music, and hooked up to the internet.
The first game I played was The Sims 2. I was 9. It wasn’t really a conventional first game for a 9-year-old, and now, really reflecting upon it, it wasn’t appropriate for me either. I found it when I was messing around with my brother’s computer. I didn’t know what it was, but once I clicked on it, I couldn’t stop.
I had just moved back home to Taiwan that year, and as an introverted kid growing up, I never really knew how to properly converse with people. And I think somehow, I was able to do it through The Sims. Practicing social interactions with people, approaching people appropriately, and making the proper amount of small talk before I started joking around were all part the game. When I’m playing Sims, I am the most confident version of myself (mainly because there are no actual negative consequences in real life for me).
As time went on, The Sims 3 rolled out. There were countless expansion packs, and the one about University Life in The Sims 3 struck me especially hard, particularly when I revisited it years later. The main focus of The Sims 3: University Life expansion pack was watching your sim struggle to balance academics and their social life. Sound familiar?
I’ve always struggled with balancing my school work, writing, and my social life. More often than not, I find myself focusing a lot on school and writing over my friends. There have been so many times I found myself in a social situation and wishing I was writing instead. It isn’t healthy.
I was a hypocrite. My sims never got enough sleep because they were excelling in all fields, from their their passion, to their friends, to their work. Nothing ever got in the way of anything. But me, behind my computer screen? I was spending way too much time on certain aspects of my life and neglecting the rest.
Then, The Sims 4 was released and I was neck-deep in it again. This time, it was confusing to manage the sims’ emotions. When I overworked my sims to build up their skills at school or at work, they felt stressed, lonely, and deprived from fun. As I finally moved my eyes away from the screen and looked into the mirror, I saw the same person who hadn’t hung out with her friend in weeks. I felt guilty.
It was easier to live through a computer screen, pretending to have it all, but it wasn’t the truth.
I’ve been trying harder, especially in my senior year. I don’t want to look back in a few years and regret how little time I spent with my friends. As The Sims 4 team made the game more realistic, I examined how I’ve been living my life and how it doesn’t match up with my unrealistic expectations.
Now, I live outside of the computer screen. I don’t have it all figured out, but I am getting closer.