To Kill a Sim

“She’s waiting for her parents to die,” my daughter Steph said. “Then she can marry her college professor.”

“She’s dating her college professor?”

“They’re engaged.”

“Isn’t that unethical or something?”

“She’s not in college anymore,” Steph said. “I want them to have a baby and send it to the university. Then I’ll have a family of smart people.”

“Why is she waiting for her parents to die?”

“Because I don’t like having too many people in the house.”

“Of course,” I replied. “Unless they’re smart people.”

“Yeah. Then you can work for a legacy.”

“A legacy?”

“That’s what the game is about.”

I’d always wondered what the game was about. Now I know.

If this snippet of drama baffles you, you’ve never played The Sims. The video game, an animated simulation of life, puts the player in charge of a character’s world, complete with kids, friends, careers, plasma TVs and espresso machines. Living through your Sim, you get jobs. Learn to cook. Buy bigger TVs. Take out trash.

As parents, it’s hard to find video games that don’t involve machine guns, armored vehicles and stunningly realistic gore. At first glance, The Sims sounds like a nice nonviolent alternative to offerings like Halo 2 and Blow Everyone the Hell Up 4.

Or not.

A Sim lives only around 40 to 55 Sim days. This, along with its fictional cartoon status, gives it an aura of disposability. If a Sim no longer fits the game plan, you can eliminate it. Since guns or pharmaceuticals aren’t part of the game, you have to be creative.

One efficient way to kill a Sim is to make it swim in a pool. Delete the steps so it can’t get out. After doing laps and shaking its fist at the sky (you) for a day, the Grim Reaper appears. The body morphs into an urn. Put in the back yard, it becomes a gravestone.

A messier method involves building a room with no doors for the Sim. Unable to eat, drink or use the toilet, the Sim will pace and cry for days. Then it will curl up on the floor and await the Grim Reaper.

I’ve never killed a Sim, but an adult acquaintance once created a family of Sims named after co-workers he disliked. He put them in a doorless room and watched them waste away.

Sound sadistic? Yes. But it is, after all, just a game. I’ve watched roomfuls of Xboxing teenage boys happily blow their friends to bits in first-person shooters.

We all like to judge.

Personally, if I decided I had the right to prematurely end the life of a Sim, I’d want it done quickly and painlessly. Death by slow starvation would be my last choice.

My family purchased the latest game iteration, The Sims 2, in December. Incredible graphics. Fun little movies. Programmers gave Sims healthier bladders.

We recently acquired the updated game’s first expansion pack, The Sims 2 University ($35).

My daughter’s first game involved creating a character, Seanna, who lived in a co-ed dorm.

“Do they have sex in the dorms?” I asked.

She giggled.

Seanna finished college at a rate of about three days per semester. She earned a degree in physics, got a job as an entertainer and moved back in with her parents. She’s engaged to her professor.

Why’s Seanna working as an entertainer when she has a degree in physics? Entertainers earn a starting salary of $700 per day. Physics, in The Sims 2, pays about $200.

“Once her parents die, she’s going to get a lot of money,” my daughter said. “Then she can get a job in her field.”

“Are you going to kill them?”

“No, I’ll let them die of old age,” she said. “It’ll only take a few days.”