The cover art of the game

I still remember when we got our Gamecube. It was Christmas, 2002, and it had come with Luigi’s Mansion, Super Mario Sunshine, Mario Party 4 and I believe Ghost Recon…I know that was one we had, but I don’t remember exactly when we got it. Over the months my dad would go out of his way to get us new games: Pacworld 2, Mario Gold: Toadstool Tour, The Sims. The Sims, the one game I could only associate with summer holidays, my sister having turned up her radio and the TV muted, playing with happy families with kids. I never understood the appeal back then, and was never good at the game when she let me play.

We lost the Gamecube on the first move after my parents split up. It, and the library of about 15 games, were boxed up and lost in the shuffle to leave. There were three other moves after that. At one point I know we had another Gamecube with a few games, but I lent it to a friend who never gave it back. My sister moved out and we downsized to a place across town, and me and mom went through all the boxes to figure out what we could lose. That was when we found it. Packed tight in a battered, unlabeled box, the controller wires taped in neat bundles and the games still crammed in. My childhood of losing game after game to my sibling and father was right before me.

Fast forward a few months after the latest move. I had started high school and was actually taking the bus for once, now living far enough away I had to. Mom was going back to college, finally deciding that she was going to get into the trades. My sister was living in Edmonton with her fiancé, and she wasn’t interested in the Gamecube. They had an X-Box and were happy enough with it, so I was now faced with deciding if I wanted to keep the old system. Just for fun, I decided to check out what was on the memory cards. See what there was to see, and figure out if I wanted to keep any of the games.

Luigi’s Mansion was just as good as I remembered, and I couldn’t help but smile as I remembered the finer points of the game. We had beaten it in one day once, on a cold winter’s day. School had been called off and the snow wasn’t wet enough to pack, so there was nothing to do in the yard.

Super Mario Sunshine was a lot of fun, if frustrating, and I wanted to keep it just to try and beat it finally. We never had beat it.

Mario Golf was golf with Mario in it. I could only remember being miserable at it.

The Sims. I tried the main memory cards but there was no save file, and I knew that was off. Then I remembered the white cartridge my sister had. All it had was Sims. The game loaded slowly, as always, and I decided to check out free play mode. All the houses were full, some with single sims, others with full families. I remembered one of them quite well. The Andersons, named after our neighbors. Two parents, both looking rather generic (as all sims did in that game) and two daughters. Like our family had been. I smiled and decided to play. It started off well, with everyone being asleep. The house was furnished to the point I could add no more, and everyone liked it. There were big windows, a pool, trees and healthy flowers in the beds (Even playing The Sims 3 on my laptop, a game I had bought at the beginning of the school year since it looked so great, I could never remember to look after plants). The kids had separate rooms across from the master bedroom. All were color coordinated, with dark blue rug and blue walls. The hall leading from the bedrooms turned off into the living room, where the front door was, which was also half kitchen. The bathroom was spacious and well-lit. It wasn’t a big house but they loved it, and it did look pretty damned good…and I wanted to play in it. For serious, not using a family that my sister had made. I was going to do this.

Recently, as previously mentioned, I had started to play Sims 3, and I was good at it. I made big houses and big families, and kept everyone happy. It was such a flexible game, and that was the issue with The Sims on Gamecube. It was stiff. Inflexible. The sims were so much needier than they needed to be, never having enough fun and then refusing to work. Sims 3 was so much better, as it should be, but I wondered if I could excel in the classic game now. After all, my sister could do it, and I could do anything she could do.

I made the family. Everything was unlocked so I tried to make them look good. One kid named Billy, a husband named Tyler, and a wife named Larry (she was at one point going to be the husband, and I forgot to change her name). I played with the old family for a bit. They were all friends with each other. The kids went to school, the dad to work, and the mom stayed home. Everything was perfect. I got involved, making sure light bulbs were changed and that the garbage was taken out. Beds were made (if they had a maid it would make this easier) and the garden tended. I didn’t notice the mom getting hungry. Her happiness meter was in the red soon, and she wouldn’t cooperate. The kids came home and wanted to eat, and they had a quick meal, tossing the trash on the floor. Instantly the room meter dropped. The mom was stressed, but I switched to the kids, assuming she could fix it. Things got bad when the dad came home. He was hungry and had no cooking points; the stove caught fire. Luckily there was a smoke alarm, and help came, but the damage was irreparable. Everyone was in the red now, tired and unhappy and hungry. I saved (the awkward Y to save thing got me every time) and then moved them out. They were now in sim purgatory, homeless and unhappy. With a twinge I considered moving them into a new house, but shook my head and deleted them. After all, they were just in a game, and felt no pain or suffering. It didn’t matter what happened to them, and my sims were more important.

My new family took some time to settle. I gave them a new stove and they were happy as clams, talking to each other in Simlish. Soon I was hooked into the game. I kept them happy. The dad got a slacker level job and the mom an art job, the kid going to school. Things were working great. Soon they were all close, buddy buddy with each other. The parents fell in love and got married (it was strange I couldn’t just set them to be married at the start, but whatever), and I got a message asking if they wanted a baby. I said yes and the crib poofed into existence. Perfect! The mom quit her job and the dad got a promotion. I had them hire a maid, to ensure the house stayed clean, and the kid grew up to a child without issues. I named her Cassie and went on with the game. Normal stuff, really. Cooking, reading, watching TV, the things I would have been doing if I wasn’t playing Sims.

One night in-game, a few days after I started the new family in real life (I couldn’t stay home and just play Sims the whole time), the husband didn’t come home. At all. I knew the glitch could happen, as my sister had it happen before. The worst one was when the music didn’t mute right and kept layering itself over the menus and playing on and on…

But this was different. You see, he didn’t come back. I remember seeing this happen to my sister well, and the sim came back. Some of his stats had gone glitchy, and he had full happiness and energy when he came home, but his hunger meter was down all the way. Luckily he hadn’t starved.

Two days passed and he wasn’t back yet. I noticed the social meter on his wife was starting to go down. His stats were getting low, hunger all the way down and the rest falling fast. Room was solid red, which was not normal at all when they’re at work. I hadn’t saved since I started playing and reset the console, hoping to fix it. However, he was still gone. Now I waited. His stats got all down to red, except bladder, suggesting he had wet himself. Was he maybe trapped somehow in the ground? There were no basements in game, so how could it even happen? Then his icon vanished. I couldn’t switch to him anymore. He was gone. The wife and kids were crying about it, mourning. I had never seen that before; my sister never lost sims. The mom got a job and I fired the maid, to keep them safe for money.

A week elapsed where I couldn’t play, bogged down with math homework. When I came back, it was night, where I left off. Dawn came, they ate breakfast and parted company. I watched the sidewalk for anyone passing by (I noticed the flowers were dead with a dejected sigh; I had forgot them again) and saw him.

The dad from the family. The old family. He walked off the sidewalk and stood on the yard, staring at the house. Then he turned to face the screen and shouted that he couldn’t get in. Before the bus came he walked off the lot and vanished.

I played on, the family recovering from the strange loss. I dug up the flowers and put in a permanent rosebush instead. Neighbors passed by and now I stopped to look at them. It was normally just the normal people; the single guy, maybe the mail lady, but sometimes it was him. The dad. Once the mother showed up, yelling about being hungry to me. It was strange, since they should have been dead, but I ignored it. Perhaps the game was getting old, or all the cheats my sister used to use had somehow damaged the code. It just seemed like it had glitched up somehow. That’s all I figure it was, glitches. That is, until I left the game unattended to get something to eat. When I came back, one of the kids was gone.

Cassie was at home, watching TV, but her older sister was missing. I switched to her and found she wasn’t moving. The room stat was red. Another glitch and I lost another sim to the strange void. I wanted to reset but hadn’t saved since I started playing, and didn’t want to redo anything. I let her go.

This time I got a message telling me she had died, and an urn showed up in her room. She hadn’t been there, and maybe I was right that my sims were somehow getting trapped within the ground. I sighed softly as the mom and Cassie mourned. I wanted to start over, maybe remake them on my laptop so I’d have more control.

Now the kids were outside. Both of them. Just standing in the yard, staring at the door. I watched my two remaining sims, the mother struggling to provide, and saw the daughter get the ‘go here’ command. I tried to delete it again and again but she kept trying. She went out the door, approached the two girls and then my game froze.

It was in those moments of surprise as I desperately reset the game, realizing I hadn’t saved since Billy had died. Maybe I could prevent it from happening, figure out what was wrong with my game. I waited for the game to load, tense, excited to see both kids alive and well. It was getting a bit late and I knew I had other things to do, but I had to see what had gone wrong.

I played for a few days, the girls were coming back from school…and Billy vanished. Again. I felt crushed somehow, as if guilty. How could I have caused this? Hell, it was just an old Gamecube game!

I saved and went off for the night.

The next evening I played again. The phone was ringing. I hoped it was something good, a lost wallet that contained money we were getting or a contest. Instead, it was one of the cryptic phone calls.

‘Be careful who you let inside. They’re coming soon.’

It chilled me. With the weird appearances of the old, supposedly deleted family, I couldn’t help but wonder if the game itself was trying to stop this from happening. But, if somehow the Andersons were responsible for the weird glitches, why would they be doing this. It wasn’t like I had rui-

Yes I had. They had always been the perfect family. When my sister had made them, they were just the parents. They got married and had the first kid, then the second. Both were A students. He was in a high paying job and they lived a comfy life. It had been like that as long as she played, but then we found the game and I had messed it up.

I imagined what it had been like for them. A dream life, everything perfect in every way, living in suburbia. And then the mom was overworked one day. The kids had no food and didn’t know how to cope. Dad was angry maybe, not understanding why he had no dinner. Everyone was tense and unhappy, and the fire started. Then they were forced out of home and sent to some great, black abyss to be recycled into more memory space, replaced by a wannabe family. Everything gone just like that. Maybe it made sense, in some horrible way, for them to want revenge. But they weren’t real. They were sims, digital humans with no real thoughts or feelings. They were simply meant to seem that way.

The kids showed up again and, in a panic, I paused the game. I deleted the front and back door so they couldn’t take the daughter. She wanted to go out but couldn’t. The phone rang. I watched the kid answer.

‘This is only a test. Next time it will be for real.’

I stopped playing The Sims for quite a while, too struck by the strange glitches and creepy coincidences. Instead, I honed my abilities in Super Mario Sunshine and worked on school work. I wanted to get a job but my mom said to wait until summer. Christmas rolled around and went, and soon it was spring break. My friends were all gone on holidays and mom was helping a friend on their farm, leaving me alone. Nothing was on TV, and I didn’t want to play any of the games I had been frequenting. Instead, I cast my gaze on The Sims. Why not? Maybe the glitches would work themselves out if I played again.

The game loaded and I chose Free Play. The house with only two sims, still without the front and back doors. I could remember the kids outside, which were gone, and knew I wouldn’t forget the strange things which had happened. It was like being in the Twilight Zone.

Morning came and I put the doors on the house. The game went on, as normal. Sims left, sims came home. They ate, bathed, watched TV and slept. Then the daughter glitched. She failed to come home and died. There was no message this time, just her icon vanishing, leaving only Larry, the mother. The widow. Alone.

The phone started to ring almost constantly and she had to work. In no time at all the sound grew grating so I deleted the phone. Then the electronics started to break down. I called the repair man but it started to get too expensive, so I sold them. She could always read or swim. I built a fence along the front way, in case the old sims tried to get in, and had it set up to be sealed at the front walk.

I noticed the mom was having trouble keeping her social meter up, unable to call her friends to chat. No one came by the house to visit, either. They just kept walking.

The wife of the old family showed up when I wasn’t watching a few real life days later. I came back and found her on the step, the widow about to answer. She couldn’t be stopped. She opened the door and game crashed. I reset it and waited, the loading screens seeming to linger. I needed to stop this from happening, beat whatever horrible glitches had come to life. I selected free play, the household, and then…

No one lived there. The house was there, empty of sims. The rose hedge was still there at least, and the fence. Larry was gone though. I checked the list of households and they weren’t there. Just the Newbies, the Goths, and the Andersons, all smiling at me, wanting to be placed into a home.

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