Playable: The Player and the Played

Cathy Tea

Annette’s been coming over a lot. SimJim figures that since she doesn’t yet know many other residents, she feels the need to ask us some of the many questions that she must have about her new situation. Plus, he says, it might have something to do with us being the only Simselves in town. And he says it probably has a lot to do with me being our player’s Simself. I don’t know that that gives me any more insight than other Sims would have, but SimJim says we need to take into consideration the esoteric or energetic significance that this would hold for her.

Cathy

She usually drops by when we’re just hanging out around the house, enjoying a relaxed afternoon.

One time, just a few days after she and the other immigrants arrived in town, she came over brimming with questions.

Annette

“Hey, Annette! I just grilled up a cobbler! Want a slice? Our fridge is on the blitz again.”

In many ways, it feels like a completion of something to have her here, actually in our home. When I stop to think about it, I realize that she is, actually, the entire reason for our existence in this current digital incarnation. If it weren’t for her–or for Bilmonaghan reaching out to Cathy T-on-the-other-side-of-the-screen on her behalf–then our world would never have been created, and these two instances of ourselves, SimJim and this-me, would never have been placed here, and thus, would never exist.

Our Simhome for our Simselves would not have been created.

This world would not have been created.

If Annette walks around like royalty, which I must admit she does, then it’s justified. She really is the reason for our existence in this particular digital sphere.

Annette

And now, her Royal Highness the Princess Annette is here in our hallway.

I did my best to put her at ease from the beginnning. But this-me is a goofball, so sometimes, my efforts to put others at ease backfire.

“Annette!” I said. “Don’t look now, but your t-shirt matches our hallway!”

Annette

“When we went to the paint store, we just asked, ‘You got anything in maid-sweater pink?'”

Fortunately, at that particular moment, my goofiness aligned with her playful mood.

“I just happen to have home-decorating ESP!” she replied. “I always tune in ahead of time to the decor, and plan my wardrobe accordingly!”

Annette

“I hereby declare pink to be the Royal Color!”

While we sat in the kitchen, she started with her most pressing question, which was also, perhaps for me, the hardest.

“Why is it that you feel to me and look to me so different from the Cathy Tea that I connected with through Cassandra’s tablet?”

I’ve never liked “why” questions. SimJim says those are the questions never to ask, for they just spiral into mental-mental. So I always try to rephrase them.

Annette

“Do you mean what are the circumstances and contributing factors that make me different from young Cathy Tea?”

“That’s a complicated question,” I answered. But then, I gave myself a little time to think about it, and I realized it’s actually not so complicated after all!

Annette

“Hmm. Let’s see.”

“Oh! Right! It’s actually simple! We seem different because we are different! From the same basic CAS Sim, we took different routes. She was was aged down to child, placed in a household with a sort of adult male clone with just a few minor variations who was made to be her ‘uncle,’ and then she was aged-up in-game. All her skills and relationships she earned honestly, and she grew up during squint-eye, square-jaw so she looks a bit different, and she’s cheerful, whereas I’m goofball. I’ve actually only been around a few Sim days–maybe only three or four before you got here. And all my skills came from testingcheats, and even my soulmate relationship with SimJim was, initially, a testingcheat relationship, though by now we are solidly and truly in love forever-wise. And BFFs, too.”

Annette

“So, you might say, we’re just settling into who we are. We’ve been testingcheated into it, but it hasn’t yet quite sunk all the way deep inside of us.”

“You mean you’re not for real?” she asked.

“Well, let’s just say my reality is starting to sink in. For example, I’m really enjoying playing the piano, so it feels like that’s sinking into who I really am. And SimJim’s always playing chess and holding deep conversations and brewing green tea. And right now, I’ve got this whim to get engaged with him, and he keeps coming around and blowing kisses and stuff, so I think we’re settling into our true-love, too.”

Annette

“Testingcheats. No wonder you feel like  such a different Cathy Tea to me.”

“But what about your ideas?” she asked. “Why don’t you share the same ideas?”

Annette

“Well, Annette, I think perhaps I’m more like Cathy T-on-the-other-side-of-the-screen.”

“Well, for sure, some of our ideas are the same. But young Cathy Tea is a young adult. And I’m an adult, right? Cathy T-on-the-other-side-of-the-screen, she’s an adult. And I’m with SimJim, and she’s with Jim, while young Cathy Tea is sort of wandering solo through romance-land, or maybe no-romance-land. And I don’t get too caught up in my thoughts, whereas young Cathy Tea over-thinks everything! So, maybe young Cathy Tea expresses more of the ideas Cathy T-on-the-other-side-of-the-screen had when she was very young, while I do a better job of expressing who she is now.”

Annette

“So you present a more direct link to the actual player!”

At first, Annette seemed excited by that perspective, but then something shifted, and for a moment, she lost all trust in us.

“I’ve been tricked!” she said. “I thought I was meeting young Cathy Tea! I feel I don’t know you at all!”

Annette

“You’re just an imposter!”

I was thinking that maybe the delusions of youth appealed to her more than the illusions of maturity.

Annette

We’ll see who’s real.

“Look,” I said. “We come from the same player. The words you read that you identified with, those come through the same filter of sensibility and experience as I do. Think about how you got here, those intuitive currents and rivulets of consciousness that you followed to find yourself here, in this kitchen, this home, in Motherlode on this particular hard drive on this particular laptop.”

Annette

“Think of me as a different varietal flavor. Both tea, but one grown in Darjeeling and one in Makiabari.”

“I think I get it!” she said. “The connection that I felt was with the player, with Cathy T-on-the-other-side-of-the-screen. And it’s just through different expressions of the same form that I get to know that player!”

Annette

“I’ve got it! You’re like words! Or like a code! Or like an expression through which I get to know the essence!”

“So what other questions do you have?” I asked.

Annette

“Some of my questions can wait. And some I can explore on my own, but I do have a few others that are begging for answers.”

“If we live in a world with motherlode, why do you and SimJim live in such a simple house? And what is this about testingcheats? Do you think I should use them to get my skills at a more realistic level? And what about this testingcheat love? Or friendship? Does that mean I can become friends with anyone?”

Annette

“Can I learn to do testingcheats myself?”

“Well,” I answered, “testingcheats are just that. Cheats. Even though SimJim has full logic, he still needs to spend time with the chess board to understand how the pieces move. I still need time with the piano to let my fingers understand the shapes. Even though SimJim and I had full friendship, full romance, on our first night together, we wouldn’t even share a bed, for our relationship had been cheated. We needed to go through the actual experience of feeling each other’s body heat, tuning our heart beats to each other, and learning to breathe in sync with each other before we felt comfortable sleeping together. It takes time to build an actual relationship, through experience. You’ll gain so much more if you skill and build your friendships and romances yourself.”

Annette

“That’s not really the answer I was hoping for, Cathy, but I’ll give it a try.”

While I headed out to the garden to see if anything needed watering, Annette took out some of her lingering frustration on SimJim.

“Here I thought I was coming to meet the real deal, and I find out the two of you are cheated! And you’re not even a player’s SimSelf, so you’re twice removed from reality!”

Annette

“You’re not the Simself of a player! You’re the Simself of a player’s significant other! You’re a Simother!”

But if anybody can handle craziness, it’s SimJim. He’s got this way of establishing healthy boundaries where you don’t even realize that he’s shifted your perspective until it’s already been shifted.

Annette

“That’s enough, Annette. No need to get fiesty.”

“So I guess you’re basically the brain trust of the family, right?” she asked him. “So if I ever need some logic coaching, I can come to you?”

Annette

“Can you help me figure out the quadratic formula, too? I think I might actually need it sometime.”

During Annette’s visit, we had another visitor. Eric Lewis Prime had dropped by to play chess with SimJim, who’s become one of his good friends. And after the chess match, Eric headed into the art room to use my computer. He spent a long time in there, but we gave him lots of privacy. SimJim mentioned that Eric has a lot of research to do, and since we’ve got such a good firewall set up, he feels more secure conducting it on our computer.

Annette

This chronicle is my link to everything that once mattered to me.”

That evening, after both our guests had left, I called Annette, just to check in and see how our conversation settled with her.

Annette

“Hey, how’s it going?”

She seemed to be feeling good. She said she still had a lot of questions, but she always has a lot of questions, and it’s the questions that provide her with her compass, pointing her in the next direction that she needs to go.

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