Coded gray.

Saturday 16 March 2002

Screenshot, The Sims

Pic of the day: Once upon a time, "birthing hips" was a major selling point for a bride-to-be. That's a while ago. For most people, at least.

Simulated philosophy

My back feels fine again, so I've been playing The Sims extensively. Yes, I seem to even prefer it over Dark Age of Camelot lately. Sadly, The Sims is harder on my hand. All the micromanagement. I guess I just don't trust my Sims enough...

And now they are about to release yet another add-on, Vacation. Apart from yet more locations, it promises new interactions for kids and for parents. About time too: Kids are pretty much extinct on my machine.

This is ironic, I think: On my newest gigahertz machine with more RAM than I can remember, I play mostly singles. On the old portable with 32 MB, I played families with up to 6 kids. And guests almost every day. Yes, the game moved kind of slowly and jumpily. It was tolerable at first (I am a fairly patient person, especially when I'm having fun) but with each download and especially the expansion pack, it got worse. After two expansion packs, it more or less collapsed under its own weight, due to all the new stuff that was possible to have. I didn't even have to buy the stuff into the old games: The fact that it was linked into the game engine was enough.


Of course, this made me think. May a similar process be going on in real life? It does indeed seem that family size is inversely proportionate to the amount of stuff. The more things to do and the more things to have, the less children.

I've heard about a "yuppie infertility syndrome", in which two-career couples go year after year without children. Not because they actively avoid it - they want kids, and have plans for fitting it into their careers - but because they only do the child summoning ritual once every month or two. I won't launch into biology here, but there are a lot of people for whom that is not nearly enough. Stress doesn't help either.

But more commonly, people just choose not to have children, and take measures accordingly. When both do that, children are exceedingly rare. But most women want at least one child. Perhaps they don't believe their mother's stories about just how horrible it was. A large number of women stop after one child, though. If not for a minority that have really large families, population would decline sharply with each generation. As it is, it is well below replacement level in most rich nations. Not the USA, but that is largely due to the nation's large immigrant population. After a couple generations in the new country, they too fall down to the lower level of childbirths.

And just like in The Sims, it goes even further. More and more people don't couple up at all. We have solid numbers on the people who don't marry, but the people who don't live together in a marriage-like relationship is severely underreported (because cohabiting leads to less welfare money, typically). Judging from sales of various goods and services, though, there is a slow but clear trend that even lovers don't live together. They have their own life, their own career, their own friends. They don't do everything together, just the snuggling. In short, society is approaching The Sims Hot Date...


I also downloaded a program today that lets me create a townie (non player character) at least as exactly as I make my own Sims. I can even give them a job, and of course the personality I want them to have. Some people have wanted this to make a dream townie for their Sim to date. I think I would have just made a neighbor, in that case. But I see the potential for replacing townies that grossly offend fashion. Bald fat men in superhero costumes come to mind ...

I sincerely don't think real life will ever imitate that! But no doubt people are getting more and more picky. The relentless brainwashing by television, advertisement and movies make people unsatisfied with an ordinary partner; they want someone special. They want a dream mate.

(Of course, that is not the case with me. I don't even have a television, and I rarely go to the movies; only when I go there with a girl or two, actually. But that is pretty well covered in other, greener entries. And I'm sure I'll get back to it in the future, if any.)

Yesterday <-- This month --> Tomorrow?
One year ago: Going with the flow
Two years ago: Matters of the heart
Three years ago: Vacation report

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