The millennium gave birth to a beautiful and addictive baby when EA released The Sims 18 years ago today.
Yep, the wonderful life simulation that allowed us to play God for hours on end is finally an adult.
You’d think that disappearing into an alternate yet true-to-life universe would be bad for us, but it turns out it can actually be pretty healthy.
Compared to hard drugs, alcoholism, gambling addiction and other common forms of escapism, life simulation games like The Sims are a productive way to disengage from your own life for a bit.
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Steve McKeown, Psychoanalyst, founder of MindFixers and owner of The McKeown Clinic, told UNILAD:
Life Simulation games such as The Sims may replace the reality that we know and live in, when internet speeds become fast enough.
The suggestion that we may spend more time in a virtual world than the physical one has been developing speedily over the years and has fast become a way in which we can live an alternative life in exactly the way we want.
The Sims can allow a person to escape social normality, its pressures and chronic stresses that are so prevalent in the real world, it allows the gamer to create a perfect reality in which they play the main character and have full control over the outcome.
You can choose when to shower, eat, work, make love, make babies, and with the myriad of cheats available, you could even make the gut-wrenching decision to take your Sim’s life.
The choices are endless, but the real consequences negligible, making it a great way to exercise your creativity and imagination without boundaries.
It is important to remember that immersing yourself in your imagination periodically is actually a very positive form of escapism and is considered important for our brain functions as it can expands our creativity. It allows the gamer to express a part of their personality that may not have known if they hadn’t played.
Albert Einstein once said ‘creativity is intelligence having fun’.
Our consciousness is very adaptable and allows us to create an opening to different paradigms of reality every time we focus on alternate versions of life through our thoughts. With the assistance of life simulation games such as Sims we can enhance our inner experience.
Without escapism we would simply burn out. It’s the main reason why we dream at night when we sleep as it’s our minds way of disengaging from the state of conscious living.
Here’s a Sim dying from eating a magical jelly bean…
Technology companies are working hard to fulfil people’s desire for realistic and effective escapism.
Mark Zuckerberg has made a commitment to employing virtual reality and is making fascinating-bordering-on-creepy headway with his Oculus Rift collaboration.
Facebook Spaces has taken The Sims to the next level.
Using virtual reality headsets, it encourages us to actual immerse ourselves in the virtual world but also integrate it into our real life through our social media profile.
If you haven’t seen it, you may feel a bit uncomfortable about it:
This trend, which looks like something from the dark mind of Charlie Brooker, is a worrying one.
Escaping reality to the extent that we rarely choose to experience only what is authentic and existent can be very negative for the increasingly atomised society we live in.
The technology aims to ‘connect’ people better, while actually separating them and normalising e-intimacy over a genuine connection.
Those who tend overdo escapism are escaping real-life partly because reality doesn’t stand up to their expectations due to stresses and strains of 21st century living.
Through history this has indeed been the case as you find many people have used substances like alcohol, drugs to escape but as a society we are progressing and technology is allowing us to escape in other ways and not necessarily for the greater good.
The more we escape the real world and spend more time in a world of fantasy the less we engage in actual social interaction.
Social interaction is a huge indicator to being able to live a happy long life. We are not talking about strong tied relationships (family, friends etc) that may be part of your FB space but those weaker tied relationships (the shop assistant, the barista, work colleagues etc) whereby you meet people on occasion, these indeed are what actually make us happier and indicator to a longer life!
McKeown talked about how escapism ‘can create lack of productivity’ as ‘living in dream land removes focus on real life situations hence becoming less productive in work scenarios’ because you’re ‘distracted by fantasy situations and never living in the real world’.
Whether or not you think the desire for escapism is healthy, it’s important to question why we look for any opportunity to disconnect from our own real lives.
Is the desire to escape reality innate, and we were simply held back in terms of technology before now?
Are traditional forms of escapism like the UK weekly ritual of Thirsty Thursdays (and Fridays, and Saturdays) healthier than virtual life simulations because they’re still set within our own reality?
We’re probably all living in a simulation anyway.