As of late, I’ve been so deeply in despair that I’ve forgotten how to breathe. Before this all happened, I was already drowning in depression on my own, but the world was at least still revolving on its axis. Friends were functioning, events were happening and there were places to go and people to see.
I wasn’t always feeling so bad; I could suck it up for a while in order to write an article or read a book or go for a walk. I kept myself alive one task at a time, and it was working. I kept my mind functional by seeing friends, cooking meals and keeping up with my hobbies. Each day, there was something new to do.
Since everything hit the proverbial fan, I started to spiral. I have been stuck in my house for weeks, and the world as we knew it now seems like a distant dream. I wake up, I eat, I Google worrying CDC stats and then I spend the rest of my day in a half-alive state, trying to ignore everything that’s going on. I feel like the shell of the motivated, confident person that I used to be.
A few days into my self isolation, I opened up my computer and saw that “The Sims 4” — which typically sells for $40 — was on sale for only five bucks. After clearing some storage space, I downloaded the game and quickly started to build the life of a Sim. The interface opened up into a character building screen, and I decided to make the character look exactly like me. She had brown hair, weird clothes, and wore earrings that were way too big for her face. If I couldn’t live my life in this earthly realm, I could at least pretend that things were fine in the simulation.
I named my Sim “Olio,” and began her life on an unassuming little property. I assigned her traits that I wished I still had: she was a “self assured,” “creative” “genius.” If I couldn’t be my best self in real life, I could at least live out my ideal existence in the Sims land.
Olio had a house, and a pool. Soon, she began her career as a writer. She worked hard and focused and started to build a career for herself at the little desk I had placed in her kitchen. Her house was small, but she had friends, she cooked food and she sometimes set fire to her own stove by accident. Regardless, she trudged on.
In time, Olio advanced in her career. She became a famous author, publishing 12 books in what seemed like a month. While playing Sims, I started to feel kind of alive again. My Sim had goals set and she was reaching them. She was learning to play guitar and buying new items and redecorating her home.
Unfortunately, I began to treat my Sim like I treat myself: I had her overwork, I forgot to feed her and I didn’t make sure that she was socializing enough or having fun. She became resentful and sad. She was constantly moping around with her health bars low and her mood irritable. She couldn’t work, she couldn’t have fun and she couldn’t seem to get it together. Suddenly, “Sims” wasn’t so fun anymore.
In trying to play an escapist game, I revealed my own bad habits. Though my Sim had a hot tub, a flat screen TV and a grand piano in her home, she still wasn’t happy. In trying to build her a nice life, I drove her insane. I felt so bad that I put down the game a few days ago and I haven’t picked it up again.
I think that many of us are feeling a little off right now; people are starting new hobbies like binging “The Walking Dead” or obsessively playing “Animal Crossing.” Though playing games and watching television in quarantine can feel great for a while, the effects of escapism wear off. When you shut off the screen, the world’s problems are still there. I’ve decided to stop watching TV for a while, and to try to spend time away from other screens. The other day, I painted a mural, and I felt like I was in my body again. Art is one of the most important things that we have, and in this bizarre time it may only be therapeutic to create our own. I give The Sims three out of five stars.