Better Writing Through Computer Games?

Wednesday’s post is here on Thursday this week, because A) I came down with a rotten winter bug, last week’s “cold” actually the first stage of ick, and B ) Real Life Romance Hero’s laptop, less than a year old, abruptly stopped working, so we have had to share the single desktop. Not a lot of writing done this week, which is understandable because all power to shield, and better living through pharmaceuticals. One of the first things I want to do when I am climbing out of this stuff, is play Sims. Right now, that means Sims 4, and by playing, I mean largely refining my custom content to a fare-thee-well.

How does that relate to writing? Glad you asked (because somebody is probably asking. If not, you get my input anyway.) There’s no “right” way to play a life simulation game, and the methods of playing such are infinite, the same as telling a story, which is basically what I like to do with my games. It’s all storytelling. There are times when I blithely ignore what the game wants, er, suggests I do, and wander off the path to do my own thing, focusing on the aesthetics and letting my story brain take the wheel.

Everybody starts with the same basic stuff: the base game. It looks like this:

Now here’s one of my recent screenshots:

what I’m doing now

What’s the difference? Well, a boatload of custom content, for one. I think the only things in this picture that aren’t custom are the archway, the window, and the washing machine that’s almost in frame. Jacqueline, a Sim I have made in Sims 2, 3, and 4 versions, (yes, she is kind of probably going to show up as a heroine in a future novel, but she will have a different name, and will likely be historical) has custom skin, eyes, hair, makeup, eyebrows, and I spent longer than I would care to admit tweaking her facial features with not only the in-game options but custom presets. This picture is her taking a selfie, which she can do with her smartphone, a game feature, further tweaked by an in-game filter option, and ReShade, which adds post-processing to create some serious mood. Or vintage mood, or bright, cartoony mood, or, or, or, or…yeah.

Right now, my current neighborhood is all British New Build houses made by other players, which I download and decorate down to the tiniest bits of clutter, to best reflect the residents. It’s all character and worldbuilding, and I love it. Next float in this parade is to take one of my screenshots and edit it further in a photo editing program, maybe add some design elements and/or text. Now that I have a ne printer, this might turn into stickers that I can put into my planners and notebooks, etc. There aren’t a lot of words involved in creating Sims and their environments, but here’s one thing that does happen when I spend a good chunk of time playing around with this: I want to write more fiction.

I didn’t expect it to be like that, but maybe it’s not such a surprising thing. As above, it’s character building and worldbuilding. Sims have their own wants, which I can fulfill or not, and deal with the consequences. I can override all of that and make whatever I want happen, within reason. Sometimes without it; Sims actually have things called “whims” that affect their moods, which affects how likely they are to do what the player wants them to do. This isn’t entirely unlike how it goes with writing. There’s also the times when things will just…stop, due to a glitch. Possibly a bad piece of custom content that doesn’t belong in this version of the game, or got shafted due to incompatibility with a patch, or I forgot to tdownload a mesh, or any one of a few dozen things. Maybe my aesthetic has changed, and so the custom content or even dfaults that I ha been playing with for years aren’t going to work anymore.

That means diving deep into my files and ripping out what doesn’t fit with my current methods/desires and replacing it with stuff that does. Trying new things, rising perhaps to a few challenges, or knocking it down and starting from scratch, though I am setting myself the goal of sticking with a single save for a certain number of generations, which is not unlike oh, say, finishing a book.

Right now, Melva and I are focusing on finishing Drama King, and I am loving that. Still, I have my notebook for Her Last First Kiss set up and that’s probably going to be next, because I miss historical romance like I would miss my own right arm. The only way to stop missing that is to get back to it, and, like searching for Sims content, this is going to mean reading a lot and poking around and seeing what I love, love, love, now, and if that means changing a few things that I have already done, so that I absolutely cannot wait to get to that keyboard and get to Bern and Ruby’s HEA, breathless, worn out, but still with enough energy to pump my fist in the air because we did it, fates be danged.

Not at all a bad way to wind up one year and start another, the way I see it.

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