The first time a Sim died on me, my surviving Sims circled the body and cried their eyes out. Personally, I didn't feel the need to mourn. I was far too fascinated by the fact that the Grim Reaper had turned up to take the Sim away. The Sims is a game about managing the lives of little digital people. It's not just about life, however -- those little digital people can also die and turn into ghosts. For those that haven't played, the game handles death like so: any time a Sim passes on to the afterlife, the Grim Reaper will pop up, wave his scythe, and finalise the Sim's death. The player has the ability to plead with the Reaper for a Sim to survive, and depending on the Reaper's mood, he very well may spare the dying Sim. To be clear: I only know this is possible because I looked it up. When the Reaper appeared to me, I was too busy trying to "friend" him to notice I could save my beloved Sim. Can you blame me? When a game presents you the ability to get friendly with death itself, you do it.
See, you can interact with the Reaper much like you would any Sim. You can joke around with the Reaper. You can talk politics with the Reaper.
You can even flirt with the Reaper, if you'd like.
The second that I noticed this romantic option was possible, I became obsessed with a single idea: if you can interact with the Reaper as if it were any other human Sim in the game, could you perhaps get the Reaper to fall in love with you? More than that: Could you sleep with the Reaper? Could you have babies with the Grim Reaper?? Before I could find out, the reaper vanished into thick smoke.
I came up with a plan. The only way I could seduce the Grim Reaper was if the Grim Reaper was around. And the only reason the Reaper would show up would be if someone was about to die -- which meant I had to kill a Sim.
Phase 1: Someone's Gotta Die
This is where the story starts getting a little silly.
The first step was deciding whom to kill. It would have been easy to have simply made a new, random Sim -- I'd feel no attachment. But instead, I chose someone in my household. I kind of figured, hey, there are too many people in my family anyway, right? Why not pick the person I like the least?
Poor Shawn Goth. My son! He didn't know what was coming, because I decided I would kill him in his sleep.
The second step, to put it in morbid terms, was to set up the kill. I went ahead and got rid of the door in his room, so he couldn't escape.
I also added a little stuffed monster where the door used to be. I figured that if this was the last room Shawn ever got to see, then maybe I should make it a little nice for him?
From here, I had to pick my method. Since it seemed like the simplest thing to do, I went with fire. I took Yannick's advice in his How To Kill A Sim article, and put rugs everywhere -- that way, there were multiple flammable objects around my Sim whenever he interacted with fire. I picked the cuter rugs available, because why not? Then, I put both a grill and a fireplace in Shawn's room -- and told Shawn to get cookin'.
I started with something healthy. Veggie burgers. Why commit more murder than necessary?
Unfortunately, Shawn proved to be an excellent barbecuer. So the grilled items stacked...
And they stacked...
Until I finally decided that maybe this wasn't gonna work. So I started fiddling with the fireplace a bit, in the hopes that all the flammable items surrounding it would do the trick:
No dice. And to make matters worse, with the grill and all the BBQ food I'd made, I'd ensured that Shawn could never starve. Great.
Then something weird happened. Every Sim in the household started wondering where Shawn was, so they would repeatedly run to the side of the house and peek into his window. Sometimes, they'd lament the fact that they couldn't eat the delicious things Shawn was cooking. But mostly, they watched with puzzlement. Why had Shawn decided to lock himself into his room and grill? And why wasn't he sharing?
They had no idea what was going on. Blinded by the sweet smells of hot dogs, they didn't notice that Shawn hadn't slept for days, and had indeed repeatedly peed himself while BBQing. They didn't care. All they wanted was grilled goodness.
I was almost ready to give up, when suddenly...!
Phase 1, Step 2: Your House Is On Fire
I've never been so excited about fire, or watching someone burn to death. (Probably a good thing.)
Sure enough, as soon as Shawn died, the Reaper appeared. Everything was going according to plan! One problem, though: When something is on fire, you're not allowed to go into "build" mode -- which meant that I had no way to get my other Sims into the doorless room Shawn died in. This in turn meant that not only could I not interact with the Reaper, but it also meant I was forced to watch helplessly as my house burned down.
I watched the Reaper idly stand in the middle of the fire, seemingly unphased by everything that was happening. Eventually, he left me and my burning house behind, because silly mortal problems like burning houses and wasted BBQ don't concern him.
This failure only made my resolve to seduce the Reaper that much steelier. How would I do it, though? I imagined building a room full of only grills, with every family member ordered to make hamburgers. I imagined starving someone again, like I did the first time I intentionally killed a Sim. Truthfully, the idea of engineering a long, drawn-out death weirded me out -- so I got a bit creative with my next kill.
Phase 2: Things Get Dark(er)
This time, I'd use cheats. I know, I know. That sort of defeats the purpose, but stick with me here. They say all 'sfair in love and war, right? Besides, killing a Sim is simply the means through which I'd get to what I actually wanted to to do: woo the Reaper.
After enabling cheats, I went into the Sim editor and changed Shawn into an elderly Sim:
(He looks pretty good for an old guy, no?)
I figured that instead of torturing Shawn, I'd simply take advantage of his age -- elderly Sims are more vulnerable. Something as simple as strenuous activity can end them.
So, I ordered Shawn to work out a bit:
Healthy bastard that he is, he barely broke a sweat. So, I tried ordering him to work out endlessly, but the game wouldn't let me. Stop, the game sort of said to me. Can't you see that he's exhausted? And so Shawn refused to work out more.
Fine, I thought. I watched as Shawn slept, and I thought of a different strategy. Perusing the available cheats, I decided to enable all the ones that actively put Shawn at-risk for death.
Thinking back on it now, while I said that I didn't want to torture my Sim in order to kill him, this method is probably worse than just starving the Sim. I was essentially making my Shawn go insane. The things we do for love, right?
I don't know what specifically did it, but after enabling all those moodlets on my Sim, he did die.
Phase 2, Step 2: Let's Get It On
THEN THE REAPER APPEARED
Boy howdy, did I feel thrilled to see the Reaper. It felt like I was back in middle school, and a boy I had a crush on had just walked around the corner. Sweat, panic, racing blood -- it was like Drake himself walked into the room. After a few seconds, I braced myself, and thought, OK, pick the best person for the job. Who best to seduce Death itself?
I went with Alex Cooper, the only Sim in my household with a romantic aspiration. As my charming Sim made his way over to Death, I couldn't help but wonder, is this how pick-up artists feel? I was kind of thinking like one, anyway. There's my target. What's my f**kplan? Hell, does the Reaper even like men? Should I have picked a woman for this job? Does the grim Reaper even have a gender? Probably not, huh? A guy should be fine, I figured.
Deciding that I probably couldn't rely on the allure of my Sim alone, I tried to set the mood as best I could in the backyard...
...and I started flirting with the Reaper. Did I mention the fact that Shawn was Alex Cooper's son, and that he was now trying to seduce the Reaper just a few feet away from where his son had died mere moments before? Because...yeah.
The Reaper quickly told me that he wasn't really interested in love -- but, he nonetheless kept flirting back. Sure, he did call me a toilet and a trashcan a few times, but for the most part, he seemed receptive. I pummelled the Reaper with flirt after flirt after flirt, because it was the only romantic option the game gave me. Honestly, I felt kind of gross about it, especially after the Reaper was clear with me about the fact it didn't have time for romance. Obviously, The Sims is just a game, and harassing a fictional character like this isn't the same as ignoring someone's boundaries in real life, but still.
Sidebar: Games Are Weird
If I were to make a sweeping generalization about games, it's that they encourage persistence, regardless of whether or not it's appropriate. Of course, it's easy to blame the game, when the reality is that I'm the one making the choices. Consider some of my earlier experiences with romance in The Sims 4. There was one particularly f**ked-up instance where my Sim got caught cheating on his wife. The Sims 4 calculates relationships via bars; the fuller the bar is, the more the Sim feels a certain emotion toward you. I watched as the bar that was once full of love and affection toward my Sim turned red with hatred. I'd never seen something like that before. It was so bad, that nearly every interaction between those Sims turned ugly.
And yet, I persisted in trying to make them interact. Once I saw the bar of anger, I stopped considering the other Sim as a person -- the only thing I could think was, would it be possible to reverse that bar and make her love me again? So every time I interacted with that Sim, I made sure that the action was romantic. I was hoping that, regardless of her feelings, my persistence would win out as the algorithm that calculated our relationship slowly acquiesced to my demands.
To some degree, the fact the game would let me do this makes sense. Through this pursuit, I also noticed that the game told me our relationship was complicated and awkward -- which surely would have been the case between two married folks in real life, too. You typically don't stop loving someone simply because you're having problems with them. So I wasn't surprised when, in spite of the anger between the Sims, the game still gave me the option to ask her to sleep with me. This, too, is somewhat realistic. Just because exes hate each other doesn't mean they won't end up sleeping with each other anyway. I never took the option in the game, because that seemed like taking things too far -- or maybe I was simply scared that she'd refuse. Either way, I got that Sim to fall back in love with me again, but I felt so bewildered by everything I'd done to make that happen, that I separated the household and never interacted with her again. Which... I guess is also f**ked up when you think about it. The Sims is great for setting up situations that would be right at home on Maury, eh?
Anyway, the point is, what The Sims 4 makes possible in romance, coupled with the gamer neurosis -- which tells me to persist until I win -- made me think a whole lot about the harmful mentality behind not taking no for an answer.
Phase 2, Step 3: Be Persistant
Regardless, I kept queuing up the romantic interactions with the Reaper, even as my entire family mourned the death of my son right next to me.
The Reaper didn't mind, since death is his entire schtick. But I felt weird about it. The things I'll do for this job, I guess!
Eventually, I grinded enough affection from the Reaper that I figured I should be able to ask him to sleep with me -- sex is called "WooHoo" in the Sims -- but the game didn't give me the option.
I figured that perhaps I had to get the Reaper's love bar entirely full before I could propose the idea, so I kept flirting with him:
Eventually, the game rewarded me for befriending the Reaper:
And then the Reaper decided that enough was enough, and vanished into thin air once again. Which meant that, while I made a good deal of progress in seducing the Reaper, I was still back to square one: having to kill a Sim in order to make the Reaper appear.
Phase 3: I Will Not Give Up
This time, I decided that I would make things a bit more romantic -- I'd actually invite the Reaper into my house. But before I could do that, I had to make sure the place was up-to-snuff. So I redecorated this:
You know. Ambiance, some music, maybe even a gift. You don't skimp out when it comes to the bae.
Then, I had to decide who to kill next. I went with Kane Lawson, a dude in my household who I didn't particularly love. Just like Shawn before him, I aged Kane,then told him to work out endlessly. This time, it only took a few minutes for Kane to die. What an unsettling skill I'd acquired!
This time, when the Reaper appeared, I was ready.
Phase 3, Step 2: No Prisoners
I greeted the Reaper with some flirty banter and invited him inside with me, much to the dismay of my jealous, grieving girlfriend. Whoops.
I invited the Reaper to dance with me, and he happily obliged. Funnily enough, while my Sim got his boogie on, the Reaper simply stood still and spoke to me about literature:
I got a bit more intense about my advances, and pulled out some roses:
Still, nothing. I decided that maybe putting on some music would help the mood, but having to choose the type of music proved to be a problem, too. What kind of music would Death like? Is it better to go with something upbeat? Something romantic? Seeing as how the Reaper is a supernatural being, I went with something spooky, and tried to invite the Reaper to my couch in the hopes I could get some make-outs going. But the Reaper refused to even sit next to me!
Finally, after hours and hours of trying, the Reaper's romance bar was full. This is my chance. I invited the Reaper into my bedroom, in the hopes that the option to have sex would finally open up.
Instead, in spite of the fact that the Reaper's love-meter was full, in spite of the fact that he would actively flirt with me without my having to initiate anything, these were the only options available to me:
I couldn't believe it.
Final Phase: Your Loss, Death
I'll be honest, I felt a bit indignant about it all. That probably speaks volumes about how video games have primed me to expect sex after I've put in enough kindness coins into a character. Is this how Nice Guysâ„¢ feel? Ugh.
Still, I couldn't help but laugh as both the Reaper and I just kind of stood there in the wake of my unsuccessful advances,both of us unsure of what to do next:
Eventually, my Sim decided he'd had enough of that, and went to bed with the Reaper still in the room. I like to imagine he did it in some weird fit of rage, just sort of like, fine, f**k you then, Death.
So there you have it. In The Sims, you can flirt with Death. You can chat with Death, you can dance with Death, you can give death roses. But you cannot sleep with Death, no matter how hard you try.
Well, whatever. We probably would have broken up after a few dates anyway.
Art: Tara Jacoby
This article was originally posted on 1 November 2014.