Conversations with… Shannon SimsFan

Cathy Tea

CT: So, Shannon! Here we are, two SimSelves through which our players will be talking about ways that Sims can help their players develop compassion! Before our players start channeling through us, what’s your view as a Sim? Do you feel that Sims are compassionate?

Shannon SimsFan

SSF: I may be a little biased because I’m a soulmate who is family-oriented, and I’ve had limited game time (my simmer is always playing her legacy family!) But I think Sim 4 sims are, for the most part, specifically wired to be considerate and care for others’ needs and feelings.

Shannon SimsFan

SSF: I’ve seen sims go out of their way to autonomously comfort a sim who is feeling down after a bad day at school or work, either by “Try to Cheer Up,” or by being funny. Just this morning, a sim I met in the park behind our house was tense and angry, and started to vent at another sim. Have you seen that look that sims often get when a sim does that? The sim that is being fussed at puts their hands up, and looks at the fuming sim, like “Whoa, let’s take a deep breath here.” Soon, three or four sims were gathered around, and some autonomously tried to calm the sim that was so angry. One sim snapped back, but I wonder what kind of stress that sim was dealing with at the time.

Shannon SimsFan

SSF: I feel like we sims are programmed to try to have successful relationships with other sims, and allow for other sims to have the whole range of feelings without judging them for it. I think that what is more important than our three given traits are the habits we develop in the game. If we choose compassionate responses, for the most part, it seems like that becomes more and more our pattern of behavior, regardless of our traits.

Shannon SimsFan

CT: I’ve noticed this, too. Speaking for myself, I tend to lead with my goofball trait, so I will mischievously scare another Sim just as readily as brighten their day. But usually, a good goofball scare tends to make us all laugh, so while mischievous, it’s not malicious.

I have noticed compassion in other Sims. Aspen Bough and her granddaughter Tamarind are very compassionate–I can see it in their faces and feel it in the warmth of their energy, and I’ve seen compassion in many of the Sims on your hard-drive, too. Especially at your big family weddings! Alexander Goth seems to me to be very compassionate on your hard-drive.

Cathy Tea

SSF: Alexander has been so giving! He has put the needs of others before his own so many times, and Delaney’s success as an astronaut and scientist has been possible because he’s there, in the background, nurturing and making sure the family members’ needs are met.

CT: I love those Sims who make it their purpose to support others and find joy in doing so.

So, maybe we can start by defining compassion. For me, compassion is seeing in another the conditions of living here on this planet, feeling an understanding of that, and wishing for the other’s ultimate good. Out of this arises a desire to benefit the other. And quickly, through compassion, the entire notion of self/other dissolves and we are brought to an I/Thou relationship–in other words, compassion leads directly to profound respect for being. Does that fit with your understanding of compassion?

Shannon SimsFan

SSF: What you’ve said is pretty much exactly what I think as well. Wishing for others’ good is the heart of it, I think.

True compassion seems like it would extend to the treatment we give and attitude we have towards every being, although some people have more limited awareness of the existence of other beings (like farm animals) or they have never really thought about it. Over the past several years, after my daughter became an ovo-lacto vegetarian, I’ve been more and more uncomfortable with contributing to animals’ suffering in the food industry. I guess that’s a side issue, but I do miss the vegetarian trait in the Sims 3. Maybe that will come out with a pets expansion…

Shannon SimsFan

CT: I miss the vegetarian trait, too. Most of my Sims are autonomously vegetarians–choosing to make veggie burgers and tofu dogs over the meat-based alternatives.

In my own life as a vegetarian, I feel such reverence for the plants whose lives sustain me. And I like to watch Sugar Maple Bough garden, for she tends the plants in her family garden with such respect. I like how in Sims carrots can be harvested without killing the plant. In my own garden, I always need to take a moment before harvesting a carrot–a moment of gratitude and a silent blessing to thank the carrot for its life, energy, and nurturing. Some days, I can’t bring myself to harvest a carrot–so my garden is full of lots of carrot flowers!

Cathy Tea

SSF: That’s so cool that sims can harvest all the different plants without the plant losing its life! It had never crossed my mind, but I guess that’s because my own garden is so limited –mint, basil, thai basil, tomatoes, and peppers, which can just be plucked off the living plant. Something I really enjoy about the Sims is that compassionate choices, such as eating, are much simpler than in real life. In real life, for example, if I choose almond milk over dairy milk, I wonder about the well-being of the agricultural workers that harvested the almonds, and the bees that pollinated them. Did you know bees are being shipped around to different places and being overworked?

Shannon SimsFan

CT: This is such a perilous time for bees. I’ve always felt great compassion for them–as a child I did because they lose their lives when they sting someone–now, though, it’s a different matter. Now they’re in peril. And I hadn’t stopped to think that they were overworked. You know, my interactions with bees feel very much to me like my interactions with Sims–I mean in terms of the energy vibrations. Bees have such a high vibration of energy–like Sims, it feels to me.

SSF: Our digital friends, as you say, have a different life than organic beings, but I guess I’ve always been uncomfortable with using Sims just for a thrill or laugh. It really distresses me to see them in videos being drowned in a pool or locked in a room. Again, a lot of people enjoy playing sims that way and different people are “wired” differently, so they are able to see it as just a game.

Shannon SimsFan

CT: Yeah. I have many friends and SimLit colleagues who view their Sims as actors for their stories, so they will often need to have them experience emotional or physical pain for the story production. This method acting, though, is quite different from the sadism of laughing at Sim pain and death.

Cathy Tea

SSF: For me, even though the sims only exist on my hard drive, they do exist, and they are a simulation of living beings, so my interactions with them reflect my attitude and principles.

CT: Yes, it’s that way for me, too. I treat my Sims the way I treat myself. My prime directive when playing Sims is to aid them in living as healthfully and as fully expressive of their highest potential as possible. As with our life on this side of the screen, that always happens within limits–the limits of life, the limits of the game, and the limits of the individual and circumstances. Yet within every limit, a highest potential is possible.

Cathy Tea

SSF: The times I’ve been writing about my sims and realized I was framing their motives or feelings as being silly or petty, or treating them like a one-dimensional character, being critical or judgmental of them, I felt uncomfortable with it. Not that sims can’t be silly, like anyone is at times, but it is either for fun or because of being embarrassed, or bored, or some other reason.

Shannon SimsFan

CT: I struggled with this when writing about Anya. I just couldn’t get her and she did seem silly–or at least ditsy to me. At the same time, I came to love her. Sometimes, our Sims help us to write comedy–so silliness can be a gift. And I understand that within my own limited perspective there are many times when I won’t understand a Sim–I won’t be able to understand his or her motives and drives. Yet I can still respect that. I think with Anya I came to realize that I didn’t like her that much–yet I loved her and I respected her, even if I didn’t understand her or some of her choices. And Mesquite both liked and loved her, though he never understood her.

Cathy Tea

SSF: When I wrote Mean Girls, I caught myself feeling some resentment towards the mean, popular girl stereotype coming out in my writing.

Shannon SimsFan

CT: Ah, I can relate to that. I try not to make fun of my Sims’ physical appearances for that reason–though I have poked fun at Palo Verde some! Because I and other readers came to love him so much, I feel he didn’t mind our teasing. But I do make an aim (which I have sometimes broken) not to gossip about my Sims’ physical appearance.

SSF: I also feel like I need to give my sims privacy—when they woohoo I usually zoom to another part of the house. Does anyone else do that?

CT: Oh! One of the SimGurus does that! I think maybe SimGuruGnome? I remember when I watched some of the early pre-release Let’s Plays, this one SimGuru insisted that we leave the room when Bella and Mortimer were heading to bed.

I do watch my Sims during those times. I like the animation of bursting feather pillows, floating hearts, and fireworks! And I like to eavesdrop to see if they talk with each other. Kyler loved to talk with Acacia during those times, and Elder and Young CT have regular conversations–O.k., venturing into TMI territory.

Cathy Tea

SSF: I didn’t realize that some sims talk during woohoo, wow. I think that feather pillow animation is new, added with a patch along the way, isn’t it? I thought it was pretty cool the first time I noticed it after the Patio Pack.

CT: Oh,no. I noticed it back with Cedar and Timothy in September 2014. The animations tend to vary depending on the mood and the type of experience. I think that’s why I’m so nosy–I like to see what style they’re enjoying! There’s the floaty heart, exploding heart, feather explosions, fireworks, and I think a few others.

Shannon SimsFan

SSF: By the way, you were talking about aiding your sims in living as healthful and expressive a life as possible–I remember when that glitch was giving sims unsatisfied moodlets after woohoo, you said you were having a particular sim couple wait till the patch!

CT: Ah, yeah! I actually had all my couples wait–I just didn’t want them to be uncomfortable. I tend to go out of the way to keep Sims from feeling uncomfortable, do you?

Cathy Tea

SSF: Actually, my favorite cheat is the fill motives one. But I feel like some of the needs in the game (like bladder and sometimes hunger) take unreasonably long to fill, compared to real life, at least that’s my rationalization! But yes, I try to keep my sims comfortable, and definitely will go out of the way to do so. Sometimes I use the vacation days for “mental health days” for my sims, so they can relax and do things on their own schedule a little more.

Shannon SimsFan

SSF: In the Tesla Family, when Beatrice was a child and teen, and tormenting Maddi, Micah, and Barnaby so often, I used to have the other sims travel to other lots frequently to protect them from her autonomous mean actions, so, yeah, I guess I was going out of my way to keep them from feeling uncomfortable or tense.

CT: Yes, with mean ore evil Sims, there’s always a balance. They enjoy their own acts of meanness or feel happy when others are uncomfortable, sad, or tense. But at what cost? I guess I have the Sim good trait, for I tend to surf on the happy and inspired vibes.

It’s starting to get late, and I need to head back to make supper for the kids at camp. But I feel that we’ve barely scratched the surface. How about if we continue this some other time over on your hard-drive?

SSF: Oh, I’d be thrilled to have you come over to my hard-drive! We can sit and chat on the patio, my favorite place in the world!

Shannon SimsFan

CT: Great! I’ll see you over there in a little bit!

–End of Part One–

Continue with Part Two on Shannon SimsFan’s blog >>

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