When the reality set in that the COVID-19 outbreak meant I would be “hunkering down” in my one-bedroom Brooklyn apartment for the foreseeable future, I knew exactly how I wanted to pass the time and numb my frazzled brain: with The Sims.
A primer for anyone unfamiliar with The Sims: First released in 2000, the life simulation computer game allows you to create virtual humans (Sims) and basically run their entire lives, from building them a giant and hideous McMansion to fueling their scandalous love affair with the neighborhood vampire. (Yeah, it can get weird.) Since it first launched, the game’s only major changes have been the evolution from CD-Rom to downloadable app, and a major improvement in graphics. At its core, not much else has changed. There is no real goal or end-game other than to control how the lives of your Sim-family unfold.
It’s slightly embarrassing that I’ve suddenly regressed to my 9-year-old self, wanting nothing more than to fill the aspirations of tiny Sim-people and live vicariously through milestones like having a baby or getting married—while actually sitting on my couch for six hours. But it turns out I’m not the only one: My best friend texted me that she bought a Nintendo 64 and a Super Mario game to go with it. My coworker, sheltering in her childhood home, confessed that she’s been playing something called Nintendogs on a handheld game console she found in her bedroom. My husband toyed with the idea of ordering a PS-whatever. (He hasn’t—yet.)
The obvious reason for our sudden collective desire to ~game~ is that we all need a way to pass the time. And unlike reading or watching a new TV show, video games require minimal brain power and somehow make hours feel like minutes. It also has a lot to do with nostalgia. We’re trying to cope with an extremely difficult situation by grasping for a time when life was easy and everything felt fun.