This morning, after I showered, I was still left in a blur of sleepiness, so I sat on the couch for 15 minutes and played the Sims Freeplay on my phone. It’s the latest app I’ve downloaded. I really, really want to play the Sims, and yet there’s always better things to spend money on. But the Sims Freeplay was…well, it was free.
At first I was so happy. It was Sims doing things I told them do! Even though most of the time the game was telling me what to do, in pursuit of various quests to get points and then level up. Still, I always made sure I had one Sim more than was required by the game, so that I could always have Sims that weren’t doing The Man’s bidding. They were doing my bidding.
But after a while I started to resent my Sims. If I didn’t tell them what to do, they would sit down. Sometimes they would walk to another room and sit down. Sometimes they just sat down in the nearest chair. But mostly, they just sat.
Here’s the thing: the Sims that I know have Free Will. This means that, if you aren’t actively telling them what to do, they will go and do something. They woill take care of a Need that was at the lowest level, or they will go do something Fun. And I respect that. I can leave a Sim alone and know that the Sim can take care of itself. The Sim can be busy. I can also tell them what to do, and they can say No, because they aren’t feeling well. I can also understand that, even if I don’t like it. It somehow makes them seem more real.
But these Sims had no Free Will. They just sit and wait to be told what to do. I’m pretty certain they would wet their pants and starve to death before getting up out of their chair and taking care of a Need.
They also didn’t have the ability to form attachments to each other. Relationships between Sims had Levels, certainly — Stranger, Acquaintance, Budding Friendship/Romance, Good Friends/Dating, ???/Partners, ???/Engaged, ???/Married. But they had as much effect on the world as two high school girls who are Facebook-married. I planned all the devious relationship stuff that one does with Sims. I had Maria start Dating both Betty and Austin. Then I injected Maciej into the mix, and had him start Flirting with both Maria and Betty. I intended to eventually set Maciej up with Austin. I arranged the meetings so that Maciej was never in the same room as both Betty and Maria.
But this morning, in my sleep-haze playtime, the two other Sims, Elizabeth and Owen, got married. It took a little arranging on both sides, and a lot of unnecessary running around. First I had to build a Park. Then 5 Sims had to go to the Park. Then someone had to Talk with Ducks About the Rings for 7 minutes (????). Then I had to send Elizabeth and Owen back home so they could look at their house one more time before getting married. I got caught in a loop. I sent Elizabeth and Owen back home three times each, before I finally gave up and made them get married at home, with no witnesses.
Anyway, while Betty was Talking with Ducks, I needed something else to do with the other five Sims. Four of them were sitting on benches near each other: Elizabeth, Maciej, Owen, and Maria. I clicked on Maciej and had him start romancing the nearest person — who turned out to be Elizabeth.
Maciej was hitting on the Bride in front of the Groom on their wedding day. Obviously I knew that the actual Day wasn’t very auspicious to any of the Sims, who are a bunch of pixel bits and software, but previous Sims that I’ve played with would get pissed if someone starting Flirting with their Significant Other in front of them. I waited for drama to ensue.
Owen continued to sit on his bench.
I frowned. Now I had Elizabeth Flirt with Maciej.
Owen continued to sit on his bench.
I closed the app and uninstalled it.
I guess I learned today what sort of God I would be, if I ever became one (that, too, is on my list of possible career paths to pursue). I might be the sort of God that incites complicated romantic entanglements to entertain myself, but I also want creations who are capable of responding to their environment. I want creations who make their own decisions, who take care of themselves, who Go to Bed when they are tired and Eat a Snack when they are Hungry. It may not be fun all the time, for me or for them — they will get jealous, they will get angry, they will shake their fist at a God that forces them to paint paintings for 18 hours a day — I will get annoyed when they complain that they are tired and refuse to paint anymore when they are so close to being a Level 2 in Creativity and they could get promoted tomorrow! — but at least I can respect their autonomy. At least they have autonomy. At least I can feel as though these creatures that I’ve made are real living creatures, something beyond a bundle of pixels on top of a bunch of statistics.