HFH: Reflections on a Bowl of Plum

Thoughts from Cathy T. on this side of the screen

Plum Day presented me with so many delightful surprises and so many challenges! This game is, essentially, an ISBI. I control only one Sim, the first-person narrator, young Cathy Tea. In order to assist the other five Sims in the household, I will allow myself up to five actions per Sim, if the actions are directly related to caring for personal needs or fulfilling aspirations or job-related tasks that aren’t being filled autonomously. But generally, especially during the busy time of Plum Day, the other five household members are on free will.

All of the guests stayed at houses that I don’t play: most of the guests stayed with Dr. Jasmine in the B&B; the Nunleys stayed in the rental across town, and Marcus, who first stayed with the hippies, took over the rental once the Nunleys went home.

All of the guests were on full autonomy during their entire visit: they weren’t played by me.

This may explain the woeful lack of romance! I’ve set the rule for myself that in this game (as, actually, in most of the games I play) I won’t initiate a romantic interaction unless the Sim rolls a Sim-specific wish for it.

Sims will flirt autonomously, and they will autonomously engage in most romantic interactions except woo-hoo and try for baby.

In this game, however, with the exception of the two married couples who visited during Plum Day, I’ve only witnessed one autonomous flirt: Olivia Spencer-Kim-Lewis flirted with Emma over a chess game.

And none of my Sims have yet to roll a Sim-specific romantic interaction.

Of all the surprises I encountered when playing this game, the one which delighted me the most was the way in which each visiting Sim stayed true to his or her character and story. Take a look through each of the stories for each of these Sims (see Dr. Jasmine’s Guest Book for links) and you will discover who each Sim is in his or her home world.

The timing with the Nunleys’ visit worked out perfectly, for simlady36’s computer died right before the festival. After several days of festivities, her new computer was set up, so the Nunleys could return to their bright new home! What a loving family they are! The sisters were always hugging each other and hugging the kids. And when no one else could help Sarah Firecracker get over her homesickness, Sarah and Mariah Nunley knew just what to say to bring a smile to Sarah F.’s face.

I laughed aloud when the three gnome kickers began to dance! In the TS4 forums, I had mentioned to AkramA that I hoped these kids wouldn’t really kick my gnomes. He replied that as long as there were stereos around, they wouldn’t: they’d dance instead! I was a little worried about three young children traveling alone, but these kids were golden! The joy they shared spread to everyone in the game! They were perfect as the first official guests.

Before Irene and Roland arrived, Martymor (aka DavidMCSessy) told me that he hoped his Sims would bring some drama to my game. I laughed, for if there’s one thing my games tend to lack, it’s drama! Everybody’s happy all the time. I expected that Irene and Roland would be happy, too. I was wrong. Roland ignored Irene, spending his time with the little gnome kickers or talking to the hippies instead. And poor Irene was so tense! She yelled at the hippies, griped about everything, and basically, yes, was the Queen of Drama! How is this? How did she bring her entire backstory with her? That’s one of my unanswered questions about Sims.

I was so surprised by how excited I felt when I saw the Robinsons in my game! I really did scream and shout. That’s where the whole idea of Fangirl came from. There’s just something incredible about seeing Sims you know, love, and admire in your game! Of course, LeSean and Angela were awesome. And Vern was adorable (and amazingly well behaved!). And it was Malcolm who impressed me beyond words. While all the other teens were acting like teens, Malcolm was so comfortable, so relaxed with who he was, so completely at ease with everyone he talked with. While playing, I kept finding my attention drawn to Malcolm. He’s got that Sim charisma that pulls the camera towards him. I think it has something to do with his quietness: it’s a quietness that comes from self-confidence. He’s going to be a Sim to watch as he grows into a young adult!

I was so excited that Sarah Firecracker was coming! I’ve loved her since she was a little girl. She may just be my favorite of all the Sims in RachelRosebud’s “Gather Ye Rosebuds.” So I was really surprised when she didn’t have any fun! I’m sure part of it was going to school. Somehow, I had completely forgotten that my Sims kids and teens would need to attend school! I mean, doesn’t the game realize it’s Plum Day? At the end of each school day, she was in a bad mood. I also think that it may have something to do with the specific nature of my game and style of play. This world where the hippies live is really rather simple and bare. Oakenstead is the nicest house by far, and it is nothing in comparison to the homes created by RachelRosebud in Sarah’s home world. Does that matter to Sims? We know that they are influenced by environment, and I have a feeling that the environmental scores in the hippies’ world is lower than in Sarah’s home world.

Sarah may also have been unimpressed by the more simple social fabric of this world. There are no romantic relationships, no woo-hoo, just lots of friends. Also, as a new Sim in this world, Sarah didn’t know anyone. She’s an outgoing Sim, so she probably thrives when surrounded by lots and lots of friends. She gave me a lot to think about in terms of what it takes to make Sims happy.

Max and Liz come from a mystery–that is, there are many mysteries in their home world. And it was a little eerie to see all the various details in this game that were consistent with their mysterious background! (Sorry–can’t reveal spoilers.) They are such a sweet couple, lots of hugs, lots of kisses, lots of quiet conversations, and they were almost always by each other’s side.

Rose was always in her own magical world. In group settings, she kept space around her, not sitting, standing, or dancing close to the others, but off by herself at a little distance from others. She was drawn to the unicorn, she felt sad when the dollhouse was destroyed, and she always seemed to be listening to music that only she could hear. I adored her and the magical quality that she carried with her wherever she went.

I couldn’t believe how happy I felt when I saw Ana Pringle in my game! It was a little disorienting, too–was this my monitor I was looking at? Ana is so much a part of her own home world and family that to see her on my computer made me doubt where I was–who I was–and on which computer I was playing for a little while. She is an amazing Sim! She spent most of the time washing dishes! (That made me laugh so much.) And she was so calm, so happy, so relaxed wherever she was. She really did have the quality of helping all the Sims around her feel a little bit better.

Dani Pringle was such a teen! She loved to show off her outfits, to share her melancholy thoughts, to get ticked off at Toya’s crazy pranks. Having her around made the game feel real, the way life feels when you’ve got teens around with all their moods!

Toya and Hunter were trouble-makers, Toya especially! He really delighted in pranking others. Hunter, being a legacy kid, seemed to feel a camaraderie with Elder, the other legacy kid. I loved having both Toya and Hunter in the game because they added a dynamic of play to the social interactions. And it was fun to see how they knew exactly how to yank another Sim’s chain.

The Aliens were a fun family. I was surprised when Thrintun grew angry with Horta when Horta was making fun of adults. But immediately afterwards, Thrintun hugged her, more than making up for any negative relationship scores caused by the disagreement. Vulcan, Horta’s older brother, was really sweet with Horta, and very friendly and sweet with all the Sims he met. Charlie and Tholian really did spend a lot of time together, off exploring town on their own!

Mikaela Hawkins, Saffron Bird, and Marcus Eugenius will be sticking around for a while. I enjoyed having them in town, and they seem to really enjoy being here. Each one is very independent and has this aura of being self-contained. These Sims know what they’re about. Sometimes you get a Sim that just doesn’t seem to want to be played: the Sim seems to want to be always on free-will. And that’s how these Sims seem to be.

Elder. I’ve saved him to discuss for last. I really didn’t intend the Plum Day stories to become the Elder Wolff show, but what can I say? His little smile stole my heart. I’ve had such a huge Simcrush on his dad, Dia Wolff, from day one. But I never expected to see anything remarkable in Elder. Beginning with when he first picked up that clay, though, I was transfixed. His little digits just seemed to shine off the screen. So how much did I have to do with the thing between him and Cathy Tea? Well, I had her give him a cheerful introduction. I directed her to talk with him a few times. She invited him to hang out at the park. But most of what you see between them just happened. And he really did, autonomously, ask Forrest, young Cathy Tea, and Emma about woo-hoo! The whole bit with him staying behind after everyone else left that last night was him. That just happened.

Of course I read a lot into it. I started realizing through playing this, as I was watching my own feelings and the story I was spinning around the events, that there was something about Elder, his endless smile, his golden shine, and the entire impossible-love dynamic between him and Cathy Tea, that reminded me of one of my college boyfriends. Not the one I broke up with. Not the one that I chose to become my lifetime partner and that I’ve been happily with for going on 35 years, but the one that left college halfway through our freshman year. The one that wanted to become a Franciscan monk. Yeah, that impossible love.

That whole magical glitch when the camera disappeared and Elder and Cathy Tea took the imaginary photo, that was like something he would have done–to get us to store the magic of the day within us.

So, little Sims. They can stir up inside us remnants of all the accumulated experiences we’ve had–those experiences we’ve already integrated into ourselves, and those experiences that we have still to integrate into us.

Plum Day, for me, helped me revisit and recapture–and yes, integrate–all of those confusing, delightful, perplexing, and overwhelming ideas and feelings that young me felt back in college, when I was about the age of young Cathy Tea. Yeah, my life has fallen into place in the decades between then and now. And many of those existential questions that I asked in my youth have found their way in the intervening years towards their essential answers. At the same time, especially when playing “A Houseful of Hippies,” I can easily see once again highlighted against the sunlight the dandelion puffs of the questions and quandries that stirred my life back then.