The Sims Video GamePeople die in strange ways. That’s true both in our current plane of existence and the world of “The Sims” video games. But there are vast and obvious differences between real life and fictional deaths. You probably won’t get eaten by a cowplant anytime soon, nor will the Grim Reaper float in with a trail of smoke when you die. Nevertheless, we can learn some useful things about death from this popular game.  

Life Isn’t Fair — and Neither Is Death 

If you’re familiar with “The Sims 4,” you know that babies, toddlers, and children are exempt from most types of in-game deaths. During these life stages, they cannot die from starvation or electrocution. They also aren’t affected by the three emotion-based deaths: extreme embarrassment, hysteria, and explosive rage. However, children aren’t immune to fire, overheating, freezing, or eating poorly prepared pufferfish. Yet pets fare much better in the game — they can only die of old age.  

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for babies, toddlers, children, and animal companions in real life. There’s also no such thing as an immortality potion. Losing people we care about can be devastating, but it can feel doubly unfair if they’re young or vulnerable. Perhaps as adults, we feel responsible for protecting them, or it defies the typical expectation that children will outlive their elders. 

Such feelings aren’t new, either. After a 78,000-year-old grave of a young child was discovered, paleontologist Paul Pettit told National Geographic that hunter-gatherer societies at that time did not normally bury their dead. The fact that a child was interred, Pettit added, may prove that our ancestors knew dying so early was unusual. As such, they felt a need to mark the young one’s passing. 

Grief Takes Time To Process  

Time has an unusual nature in “The Sims” video games. Your Sim can live up to 93 days if you’re playing on the normal lifespan setting — give or take a day or two, of course. In contrast, the World Health Organization reveals that average human lifespans range from 51 years in Lesotho up to 84 years in Japan.  

Even with its limitations, the game’s developers attempted to make Sims’ life stages proportional to their total lifespans. For instance, babies live for three days before aging up to the toddler stage — roughly 3% of their lifetime. This proportional nature is important when we consider grief. Losing a friend, family member, or spouse results in sadness that lasts two in-game days, which is around two years if we apply the same proportional nature to real-world time.  

Unlike mourning in “The Sims,” our grief doesn’t operate by neat timetables. The five stages of grief as described by WebMD can help us understand what we’re feeling and why. But our feelings will not necessarily travel in a straight line. We may move back and forth between denial and bargaining or end up stuck in anger and depression for a long time. Some people don’t reach the acceptance stage for a long time, if ever. While you may need time and support while mourning, there’s no need to attempt rushing the process. And in truth, no one should pressure you to.  

Death and Grief in Our Human Existence 

In the 1994 film “Star Trek: Generations,” Captain Jean-Luc Picard comments that time is a constant companion that reminds us to cherish every moment — because it will never come again. This is especially true of the time we spend with friends and loved ones. Yet that time can seem to pass so quickly, not unlike a lifespan of mere days in “The Sims” video games. Can we capture it in our hands until it floats away like a raft of clouds? There’s no easy answer, but all we can do is deliberately make time for what, and who, matters most.  

Category: Loss


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