I never have been a big video game player, but like with other things in my life, if I find something I like, I obsess. It never happens that I can find a way to moderate it, as I either spend all my time doing something, or none at all.
Sims. My son suggested it. We have Sims 2/3 pets for the PS2, PS3, and PC. We also have Sims Castaway for the Wii.
And I love the game. I will play it for days at a time, and I really feel that it helps me to be aware of the needs of others, and even to heal (a little) from the loss of my children. In Sims, I can create families, raise children, be successful… things I have failed at in real life.
It also gives me an outlet in my compulsive need to name things. It encourages me to spend time learning new things outside of the game, and it even allows me to build and decorate houses. All things that I love to do. So the game seems almost perfectly made for me.
Except when it doesn’t.
There was that time. I had made my family, with my pets (in that one, children weren’t an option) and my household was full. Only there are those little notifications that the Sims have desires, which should be filled (they do a lot better, and receive prizes and such for completing them.)
Well, my Sim wanted to place her pet for adoption. I ignored it for a while (I get really attached to my characters) but eventually gave in. I had never given a pet for adoption before, and expected I could go back and adopt her after.
So I picked up Chiku. I had created her based on my own cat by that name, who was still living at the time. I brought Chiku to the pet store, and gave her up for adoption. When I went back to get her, however, I found she wasn’t there. It really was a tragedy for me, and I cried for a long time. I went and picked up my own cat, and held her while I cried. It took a long time before I would return to the game, and I still remember the pain that came to me that day when I gave up my Sim cat.
A few years later, my son got the game for his PC. It was the ultimate version, meaning it had all of the bonus packs. So I created my family. As I was trying to figure out how the game worked on the computer, I was struggling to get my son, Ben, to do his schoolwork. They lived in a small house at the time (because it was the first time renting was an option, and I wanted to try it out,) and it was difficult to find space for everyone to sleep. Ben was too tired to do his schoolwork, and so refused.
I was also struggling to keep my daughter, Charlie (Charlotte), clean and fed. In the short time it had taken to try to figure out the game, a week had gone by. Ben was failing at school. Suddenly a social worker showed up at the house and took my Sim children away.
Shock is not a strong enough word to describe what I felt. This triggered the pain I always carry about our dealings with social workers in trying to adopt from the foster care system, and I fell apart. I could hardly breathe, and the tears just would not stop.
It makes sense, I guess, since I have PTSD from this event in my life – but it was just a game after all.
Well, I had to figure out what to do, and fast. I had to turn the game off, and get ready for work (nice state that I was in.) If I saved, I found out I would never be able to get my children back. So I ended up quitting without saving. I went into work in tears, and my entire shift was a struggle. To try and express that to others left them laughing at me, crying over a game.
For several days I tried to play the game in a way that my children would not be taken away, but time and again, the social worker returned to take my kids. And every time hurt worse than the time before. Even in a game, I can’t keep my children, I thought. I am such a failure, that I can’t even do this! And I fully believed it.
Trauma has a way of coming out, and for me, that was a big one. It took me about a week to get over it (when I learned to age up my children before their week ended, so they wouldn’t be taken) and I struggled with everything else I had to do that week.
When a person finds comfort in living a life of fantasy, I suppose, it is only realistic to think that they could also experience real life traumas in those very games.
It took me a while to return to the game, but I did. However, I took free will out of the equation. It was the only way I could succeed. I suppose that even in games, unpredictability is too big of an abstract for me to grasp.