Reflections on Legacy Game-Play Two Months In

Eight weeks ago yesterday, I began playing the Goofy Love legacy. In many ways, it feels like years ago! In Sim-terms, it was generations ago. And it does feel like generations since Cedar met Timothy. Even Acacia’s life of self-assurance feels like decades ago.

I’ve been enjoying the immersion. Unlike with TS2, I’ve been able to avoid becoming overly immersed. I’ve been able to maintain engagement with the other aspects of my life–cooking, time with my significant other, projects at the office, gardening, watching butterflies, walking, household chores, playing cello and piano, reading, time with friends–without feeling like I would rather be playing Sims, the way I felt during my initial experience with Sims in TS2.

At the same time, it’s been so much more engaging, emotionally and creatively, than TS3. With TS3, I enjoyed playing variations of my Simself in a range of situations and with a range of lifestyles, and I felt that I learned a lot about myself–what was true for me and what wasn’t. Yet there wasn’t much emotional investment and not the depth of engagement or activation of my imagination.

Part of what has contributed to the healthy and enjoyable experience of playing TS4 has been the writing. The writing provides a moderation of pace: I don’t want to play ahead too far. And it also provides a hook for imagination. I can reflect on my Sims and the arcs of their lives during quiet moments when I’m not playing, thinking about how the story is unfolding and planning the next chapter, so that I still feel connected with the game during off-times. If I weren’t writing, I would get caught up in the movement of my Sims’ lives, and I would want to hurry on to generation 10. As it is, I want to slow down.

Ironwood, first-born of Gen 4, is already a teen, and his sister Willow has only 5 Sim-days left in her childhood. I want to stretch out this epoch, so I slow down my game-play.

In the past, my legacies never got past Gen 5. Sometimes, this was due to glitches. But sometimes, it was because I felt overwhelmed by the progression of generations. I grew tired of saying goodbye to so many Sims, of seeing so many Sims grow up so quickly. So my way of slowing time was to switch to non-legacy Sims and simply stop playing. That way, the legacy family lived on in my imagination.

Yet with this legacy, I feel committed to continuing to play because of the writing. I want to write out the stories of this family all the way through the generation 10.

I also know that, as a process-oriented person, I have a tendency to quit projects before they’re finished, simply so that they can continue on in my thoughts and imagination. I want to have something going on at all times. And that may have influenced why I’ve stopped before at Gen 5. I’ve developed a strategy to avoid this tendency with this legacy. First, I do have another challenge which I’ll be starting soon, shortly after the Wonder Child challenge is complete. And I know it’s important to me to keep lots of projects going on simultaneously so that when one stops, I’ve got others going on at various stages. Second, I plan to create a new game, challenge, or experience for the Gen 10 Bough. This way, I don’t have to feel that it’s all over when I finish the legacy. I can, in fact, look upon the legacy as being one long, long prologue for the adventure that is to come next with the Gen 10 first-born. I really like this approach! It lets me see this as a beginning, rather than an ending, and it motivates me to play on!

One unexpected–and highly welcome–effect that I’ve noticed through the past two months of playing this legacy has been the “Broaden and Build” outcome. The Broaden and Build theory, put forward by positive psychologist Barbara Fredrickson, holds that positive emotions allow one to thrive in all aspects of life. We become more creative, more resilient, more open to new experience and new ways of thinking when we are consistently experiencing positive emotions.

During the past two months of playing TS4, I’ve noticed that, rather than having my game-play and writing consume my creative energy, it’s fed it. I feel more creative for my work projects, for playing cello and piano, for engaging in funny conversations with my boyfriend (goofballs, both of us), for cooking, and just for daydreaming when I’m sitting out in the garden because of the creative fuel of playing Sims 4

I love the little oxytocin buzz that I get from playing Sims, too. It’ doesn’t happen in every game or every play session. When the game is overly challenging, when all the appliances break, and Sims don’t get along, and all the Sims are tired and cranky, there’s no sweet overlay. But when those sweet moments come–when cousins dance together and families and friends gather around the big long table for birthday cake, when a teen daughter smiles while her mom and dad kiss, when a Sim first meets that someone that has a special spark, when a painting is especially pleasing or a chess move is just right, when a book’s been finished, and a perfect meal’s been made, and a new plant’s been grafted–those moments feed the sweet buzz of oxytocin that makes life sing!

And this little buzz–though it comes from a digital source–it’s still a good feeling. The feeling’s real, though the source stems from the mix of imagination, electronics, and binary code. And that real feeling spreads through all of my life. Yeah, my life becomes better when I can bring these good feelings into it. And I think I become a bit better of a person, too.