the walking writer

Playing The Sims 4 has had two downsides:

1. I can’t imagine going back to The Sims 3.

There’s a lot I left unfinished in The Sims 3, including maxing out skills, doing all of the careers in the Ambitions expansion and collecting stuff in the open world. Since The Sims 3 is a complete game with a number of expansions, of course there’s more to do than in The Sims 4. But I just can’t part with the silky smooth performance of The Sims 4.

2. I can’t imagine going back to The Sims 2.

I only got the Sims 2 Ultimate Collection a couple of months ago on Origin. The Sims 2 was easily my favorite game during college. I played that game for hours and hours and that was without owning most of the expansions packs. With the Ultimate Collection, I can play the expansions I missed and enjoy a smoother performance on a more modern computer. However, I just can’t bring myself to play it after playing The Sims 4.

This isn’t something unique to The Sims; I’ve discovered I feel the same way about other video games. For example, Final Fantasy 7 is easily one of my favorite games of all time. When it was first released, I played through it several times. Although I still love the game, I don’t foresee playing it again anytime soon. I think there are two reasons for this:

1. There are so many other (new!) games to play.

Although I certainly enjoy revisiting old favorites, including books and movies, my brain yearns for new things from time to time. Thanks to Steam and similar services, new video games are just a click away. Compared to the early days of gaming, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the available choices. There’s only so many hours in the day; why spend it replaying a game you’ve played several times before?

2. The technology is old and out of date.

I’m not really much of a graphics or audio snob, but most old games show their age. Some classics, such as many of the early Super Nintendo games, have an endearing charm to them that has aged well. Other games, such as the previously mentioned Final Fantasy 7, show their age quite clearly when compared to modern games. I will admit that if Final Fantasy 7 were remade for a current console, I would jump at the chance to play it.

Thinking about this topic should encourage me to consider tossing some of my old games, but I’m not planning on it. I guess I’m just a bit too sentimental sometimes.

Buying a Kindle a few years ago was one of the best purchases I’ve made in recent years. I was a big reader when I was a child, but as I aged, I stopped reading books that weren’t required for my high school or college classes. My excuses for abandoning my previous reading habits are weak, but that’s what happened. Everything changed when I picked up my Kindle and discovered my local library’s huge collection of ebooks.

Since then, I’ve read books at a pretty good pace. Unfortunately, this year I didn’t do as well. I can’t even bring myself to check my reading lists and total up how many books I read. I blame my lack of reading on an endless sea of distractions, including wasting time reading pointless stuff online. Now that I’ve recognized the problem, however, I think I can get back on track. Here is my master plan for reading more books:

1. Make a Habit of Reading at Least 15 Minutes a Day

Sometimes, the hardest part of getting back into a reading habit is just picking up the book (or Kindle) to begin with. Once I actually start reading a bit every single day, I think I’ll find it easier to keep up the habit. I started doing this two days ago, and so far it has worked.

Oh, reading stuff on Reddit definitely does not count for this.

2. Don’t Agonize Over Finding a Book to Read

This is something that I definitely struggled with this year. My library has so many ebooks available that it makes it hard to choose. Sometimes I felt like I spent more time reading about books than actually reading the books themselves. You can read reviews for hours on end, but sometimes you just have to take a chance and try a book. Sometimes picking a book at random may end with good results. I think it’s also important to maintain a policy of not finishing a book if it’s particularly bad. There’s no reason to spend hours on something that you hate.

3. Keep the Kindle Charged

All too often I would let my Kindle’s battery die, so when I actually did want to read something, I couldn’t. I could use the Kindle program on my computer, but I prefer the Kindle’s screen for reading books.

Since I’m not really a New Year’s resolutions person, I’m just going to adopt this plan now and hope for a month full of good books.

Over Thanksgiving weekend, Origin dropped the price of The Sims 4 significantly.  Since the cost was one of my concerns when the game originally was released, I took a chance and bought the game.  Although I have yet to play for a more than a bit here and there, I can say I’m enjoying the game and looking forward to upcoming expansions.  If you’re still on the fence about the game, here’s a look at what I’ve enjoyed most so far:

Sims 4 Screenshot

Beautiful day in the park.

Lovely Art Style

I adore the look of The Sims 4; I sometimes just stare at the houses, outdoor views and the Sims themselves. The pudding look from The Sims 3 is long gone, and the weird sameness of The Sims 2 is a forgotten memory. The cartoon style of the game fits perfectly. My only disappointment is that so far, the custom content for The Sims 4 is mostly done in a realistic style. Placing realistic hair styles and clothes into the cartoon world of the Sims is just weird to me. Hopefully there will be more Maxis-match custom content in the future.

Adjustable Speeds that Work!

In The Sims 3, changing the game speed to the fastest setting did little to actually speed it up. If my Sims were sleeping or off to work, I’d just sit there and watch the trees blow in the wind as I waited for something to happen. I probably had enough time to make a sandwich. In The Sims 4, however, the fastest speed is super fast and super smooth. When your Sims goes off to work, you only have to wait a minute or two before they’re back home. It’s amazing.

Create a Sim Screenshot

I could spend hours just making new Sims here.

Runs Like a Dream

My computer is over 6 years old, yet The Sims 4 runs quite well on my machine. I don’t have any of the issues I had with The Sims 3. It’s a true joy to watch a Sim walk from one place to another without a single stutter. The loading screens are brief on my computer.

More Realistic Behavior

One of my female Sims met a nice gentleman at a park, and I thought they might make a nice couple. He came over to her house, and it was a complete disaster. They spent the whole time together feeling embarrassed by their behavior and conversation. I suppose I could have spent more time trying to get them to like each other, but I didn’t really feel like fighting their natural dislike for each other. It was an interesting moment that made the Sims feel a bit more real than they have in previous games.

Small Design Features

The Sims 4 is also full of design features that are minor but still add to the experience. For example, you can arrange clutter items (such as tissue boxes) in various places on dressers and other surfaces. You can hang up artwork at different heights on a wall. You can even resize objects in your home to fit them more to your taste. These little features can help make houses that actually look realistic.

Overall, I’m satisfied with my purchase. If you’re still trying to decide whether to buy the game, I suggest waiting for it to be on sale again and picking it up then.

I’m not terribly great at shopping. Christmas usually inspires total panic and dread as I anxiously shop online and at the stores for the perfect gift. It’s taken me years to let go of the idea of finding the most awesome gift for each member of my family and instead just find something they will like and actually want to use. One of my kitchen cupboards is unfortunately home to a couple of gifts that I’ve only used once and don’t know what to do with.

Fortunately, this year, I managed to convince my family to do a gift exchange instead of what we’ve previously been doing. Instead of buying gifts for every single member of the family, I only have to find a gift for one household. I had the bad luck of getting the one household that includes a family member who is impossible to shop for. What do you get someone who seemingly has everything he wants and also has very few hobbies? Bored and frustrated, I started Googling for gift lists for such people. I was not amused when I came across a list that include about a dozen ideas that cost thousands of dollars.  Helpful? No, not really.

So what do you give someone who seems to have everything they want or need? The best I can come up with is gift cards for activities (such as movie theaters) or tickets to special events. The important thing to remember is that it really doesn’t matter and it’s not worth stressing over. As long as you put some effort into finding a gift, your recipient will enjoy it.