Better than Life*?
Be careful what you wish for, I say — especially in Sims 3.
Herb Parsley, our gardener/chef extraordinaire, had a nice life going. He’d reached the pinnacle of his career at the local bistro well before his 30th birthday — okay, I have no real idea if it was before he turned 30, but it was certainly before he went from “young adult” to “adult.” There wasn’t much under the sun he couldn’t talk into growing… and yes, I mean that literally — Herb can socialise with his plants; I’m not sure what that says about plant intellect and/or about Herb’s conversational skills. And, to round out the grow ‘em/cook ‘em combo, he was well on the way to being a world-class fisherman too.
That’s sort of when things started to get a little weird. We spent a few nights at the Sunset Valley cemetery trying to catch the elusive death fish, and that’s where we realised we could literally pick up the grave of our old (and dead) friend Bessie Clavell and wander around with it in our pocket.
Shortly after that, in what someone more paranoid than Herb might think was a mighty suspicious coincidence, Herb got an offer from the Science centre: come visit, bring along a dead friend and… see what happens. Never averse to making an extra buck or two when the opportunity presents itself, Herb went. I have no idea what Herb was expecting, but Mort and I were thinking he’d get paid a little for taking part in some freaky paranormal experiment and that would be the end of it. Oh, so wrong.
Instead, it seems those freaky squints had figured out a way to bring our Sims’ loved ones back from the grave… sort of. As soon as the experiment was over, we discovered that our household had acquired a new resident: our old friend Bessie Clavell, still ectoplasmic, but in all other respects just like any other Sim.
Herb wasn’t too sure what to make of it when he woke up the next morning and found ecto-Bessie snoring on the couch. Betcha didn’t know ghosts could snore! Or sleep, for that matter. Or pee, or have to shower. This was going to be… educational.
It was also a crash course for us — the players — in managing more than one Sim at a time, but more on that later.
At first we were pretty happy about this new, Canterville-esque arrangement. Herb didn’t have many friends and Bessie was his best friend, to the extent that he’d call her now and then and he actually sought her out when she died. (Okay, okay… by sheer coincidence we went fishing in the exact same remote spot Bessie had picked for her pre-death guitar solo, but in Herb’s world, a near miss is as good as a hit when it comes to socialising.) For a while it even seemed like a match made in the underworld — Bessie was compulsively neat, which meant she’d do all that nasty cleaning of sinks and showers that Herb can’t usually be bothered to do until it’s completely unavoidable (or stuff breaks down), and it’s not like we were lacking for money to take care of an extra household member. At that point Herb was earning upward of $500 an hour at the Bistro, and though he worked only 12 hours a week in 3 4-hour shifts that was bringing in over 6 grand a week so we weren’t hurting for cash.
We soon discovered, however, that living with Bessie — dead like me or not — was going to entail a few changes to our routine. For one thing, she kept insisting on sleeping in Herb’s bed, which was sort of okay when Herb didn’t need it, but got really freaky when the game gave us the option of “Making Woo Hoo” the first time we tried to share. Making woo-hoo is one thing, but… with Bessie?! She’s like a grandmother to us! Besides, she’s DEAD! Ew! Ew ew ew ew ewwwww!
So it was time to extend the house, which meant adding a level. That sea-front lot is lovely and all, but it’s not all that big, so we had to build upward. That chewed up a few thousand of our savings, but nothing too major, and we were happy to do it because Bessie, bless her, was having a much better time with us dead than in the graveyard dead. When we first got her as a playable Sim, the poor woman — ghost — ectolasmic entity — was in an awful mood, dog-tired, hungry like the wolf and totally starved of social contact. Five minutes in our smallish but expensively-furnished house had picked her right up, and after that it just felt mean to tell her she had to bog off back to the community mausoleum.
So Bessie got a small but cozy (in a ganny kind of way) room in our new upstairs, and she and Herb went along their daily routine. There wasn’t much interaction, but Herb was happy to have her there (provided she didn’t disrupt his crusty loner lifestyle too much) and she was quite obviously happy to be there. If we, the players, thought it was kinda odd that Bessie kept on going as though nothing had happened, the people in the game certainly didn’t bat an eyelash. Well — they’d startle now and then when they realised that the classical-guitar playing Granny they were tipping at the park was see-through and accompanied by a low oooOOoooOOeeeEEeeeOOoooOOO background noise and ectoplasmic “I’m a ghost!” twinklies, but other than that everyone was very nice about it, all things considered.
And then… Herb discovered romance.
It all started with getting robbed — or rather, some poor sap trying to rob us, but she didn’t know that since the last time she’d tried. we’d installed a kick-ass, top-of-the-line (okay, and also the only available) security system.
That’s the security system whooping like a banshee on the wall. Next to it is the $8000 can’t-take-my-eyes-off-it mega-TV, which is probably what the burglar was trying to get in the first place. And in the middle you can see the burglar and the brave policeman who’s arresting her. Brave FEMALE police officer. This will shortly become important.
A few days later, Herb’s fishing in the park in the middle of town, and occasionally socialising. Spring is sprung, his reputation can’t get any better, his gardening and fishing are as stellar as his cooking… and Herb is starting to consider that he’s getting older (though not as fast as the rest of town, since apparently aging-speed changes only affect one’s own Sims) and that he’s got nobody to leave his growing fortune to.
Ah yes, speaking of fortunes, Herb is slowly taking over downtown. Once you get enough money saved up, clicking on one of the dozen or so business locations gives you the option to buy a partnership, which Herb eagerly did as soon as he had the requisite moneysaved up (prices vary from $6000 to around $50k). You can buy as many of these partnership shares as you like, and each individual business has 4 shares in total. If you have enough money, you can even outright buy the whole business — but we tried that with the Diner (now catchily renamed “Herb’s Fun Foods”) and as far as I can tell it’s the stupidest move any budding entrepreneur would make. For a 1/4 share of the business, we were getting $1000 a week; not bad at all for an initial outlay of $6k. When we spent the extra $18k to own the place, however, our weekly takings went up to a whopping… $1,800.
Now, I don’t claim to be Trump-like in my business acumen, but even I can work out that 1,800 /= 4 x 1000. Hell, it’s not even twice 1,000, and we paid a total of $24,000 to buy that stupid dive. I know places have overheads and all but sheesh! And the power to hire and fire personnel does not, in my book, make up for the fact that I paid four times as much in order to get less than twice as much return. So yeah, for now, we’re quarter-owners of most places in town and that’s how it’s going to stay. Herb is still netting over ten grand a week and has been able to quit his job, so it’s not exactly a tough life. But I’m getting ahead of myself again.
Herb, in the park, wanting to socialise. We randomly pick one of the women-type people wandering around and start chatting with her, though what she doesn’t know is that Herb is oh-so-casually looking her over for mate and breeding potential. (What, cold? Just efficient!) Once we got to know her a little better, however, it turned out that what Herb didn’t know was that for all her mature looks, she was jailbait and still in high school.
Undaunted — but unwilling to go to jail in the name of perpetuating the family name — Herb moved on to check out some of the other ladies wandering about. He soon spotted someone familiar, who apparently already knew him, though it took Mort and me a minute to place her: she was the policewoman who had so rapidly and bravely dealt with the would-be burglar a few nights previously.
On the spur of the moment (and mostly because I keep telling Mort that our Sims need to socialise more, that talking to plants and ghosts really isn’t having a social life), Herb invited her back to his place. Surprisingly, she agreed.
Unsusprisingly, she liked Herb’s place. He’s got the kickingest gear it’s possible to have — console, high-end TV, plush sofas, thick rugs, designer lampshades, and even the Minus One Kelvin cooling contraption that is just way too fashionable and efficient to be called a mere refrigerator.
Herb fed her culinary masterpieces, chatted with her, got to know her, played games with her… and, at a propitious time in the evening, asked her if she wanted to spend the night. Behave, you — all that means is “sleep in my house but not necessarily in my bed.” To Herb’s mild shock (and our own), she agreed — though as it turned out, I’m not actually sure she had anywhere to live in town, since we couldn’t find her residence anywhere on the map, so maybe it wasn’t that odd after all. (At that point Mort started to mutter about her being a gold-digging out-of-towner with a law enforcement badge, but I persisted in believing she’d only just got to Sunset Valley and simply hadn’t found a place to live yet.)
Long story short, she stayed over for three days. At the end of this experiment in Stockholm syndrome whirlwind and rather unexpected romance, Herb proposed and the gold-digging conniver plucky police officer agreed!
And before you even start thinking it, Herb was the epitome of gentlemanly behaviour. We only woo-hooed AFTER the proposal, not before. No sir! Old-fashioned family values here!
One thing led to another, however, and three-and-a-half days after meeting her, Herb was married to… er… uh…. Okay, okay, I’ll confess — I can’t even remember her name. Which is emblematic of how the Herb game started going in unexpected and not entirely welcome directions as soon as we decided to change his crusty but comfy old ways. Anyway, I can call her Mrs Herb from now on.
Half a day after the simple, at home, utterly private ceremony, the Parsleys were pregnant. Say what?! As we discovered when she moved in — and therefore became a playable part of the household — Mrs Herb has the “lucky” trait, which not only wins you hot-dog eating contests but apparently also makes it a lot easier to get bun-in-the-ovenned-up. Way to go, Herb!
Oh, I forgot something. Right before the, ahem, climactic first woo-hoo, who should decide to come home but Bessie?
She didn’t know it, but that spelled the end of her time in the Parsley household. We hauled her head-stone out of storage and planted it in the back yard, because I felt it would be too cruel to relegate poor Bessie all the way back to the graveyard. We weren’t quite sure what would happen, but we figured we could live with it if she decided to haunt the vegetable garden. (As it turns out, she visits now and then to use the shower or possess the dining-room furniture, which is okay since she only does it between midnight and 4AM. Very considerate of her, really.)
So within a week of game-time — which can go pretty quickly — Herb went from unmarried, happy, self-directed bachelor to married and expectant father who’d carted his elderly (okay, dead) relative (okay, friend) off to Shady Pines (okay, the back yard).
Two days later — hell, Herb didn’t even have enough time to read the pregnancy book! … and no, it had nothing to do with the 3 fishing books he really had to finish first — the Parsleys brought home their little bundle of joy, young Tulip Parsley.
And that’s when things got way too much like real life and way too little like fun. From then on, neither Parsley got enough sleep, because the BoJ doesn’t sleep for very long before requiring a bottle, a nappy change, some cooing and socialising, or all three at once. It’s just as well Herb wasn’t working anymore by then (and Mrs Herb apparently gave up her law enforcement career when she joined our household… that or she wasn’t actually the policewoman at all, in which case… who is she?!??). Fishing? Pfft, not gonna happen, even with the sea just across the road. The one time we tried we barely made it there before we had to come running back to take care of the little monster apple of our eye, and even then it was too late since Mrs Herb had been woken and was grumping around in an unwashed bathrobe complaining about having to do everything around here.
I also discovered that I am WAY too much of a control freak. I have a really, really hard time just letting my Sims get on with things as they want to. When we were just playing Herb, that was fine — no other distracting focus for our attention, so dictating his every move was engrossing and fun. Once we acquired the wife and baby though, things started to go out of control. And yes, the baby is a member of the household too, though she doesn’t do much right now except eat, sleep and poop and, due to her young age, doesn’t have anything complicated like wishes or skills.
Within an hour or two the Parsleys were sleeping in shifts, eating whatever they could find for leftovers in the Kelvinator (which, fortunately, keeps food fresh apparently forever), living in their own barely-washed stink (which is roses compared to an unchanged diaper), and snatching moments in front of the TV whenever they could for some of that blessedly passive, oh-so-welcome fun. And I, at the keyboard, was almost as frazzled. Moreover, Mort and I were both a bit freaked out with how quick the whole process is (bachelor to dad in ONE WEEK?! — which equates to 1-4 hours of playtime) and, in many ways, how realistic it is.
Don’t go thinking that I’m down on cohabitation and/or down on kids. (Just in case the mildly satirical tone of this narrative didn’t make that clear from the outset: I’m joking. Mostly.) I did, however, discover that as in real life, it helps to PLAN for marriage and kids and household expansions in the Sims, because when you do it on the spur of the moment it can really mess up your carefully regulated, hip single professional lifestyle. Mort and I didn’t expect things to move as fast as they did, and though we went along with it to see what would happen, we became more and more freaked out until, a few days after poor little Tulip’s birth, we saved and quit the Herb game… probably for the last time.
* obligatory virtual-reality game-thing reference.