In The Sims, the best-selling PC game of all time, you play people’s lives. At least initially, there’s not much of a plot. Instead, there are houses and pets and people (and sometimes colleges and vacations and time travelers). You guide your guileless Sims through showering, eating, and eking out an existence.
Wikipedia classifies it as a “strategic life simulation game,” which is possibly the best genre title ever.
As is already clear, The Sims’ verisimilitude is kind of funny. Lots of situations come up where its straightforwardness is ridiculous. One of these—as the gaming blog Kotaku pointed out last week— is that it has superb software update notes.
In the past five years, direct quotes from explanations of Sims software patches have included the following:
- “Babies will no longer be born to single parents.”
- “Dead relatives will no longer appear alive in your Sims' family trees while traveling to Egypt, China, or France.”
- “Sims will no longer walk on water to view paintings placed on swimming pool walls.”
- “Pregnant Sims can no longer ‘Brawl.’”
- Fixed an issue that could cause a teen to be trapped in a child's body when traveling to the future at the exact moment of a birthday.
Kotaku has collected more; another gaming blog calls them “absurdly moving.” The notes’s brevity and their aura of magical realism led Andrew Losowsky, a journalist and Stanford Knight Fellow, to muse that they might be read as poetry:
I can't decide if these Sims big fixes are best read as poetry or satire. Either way, they're amazing http://t.co/QNEjmgOcGA— Andrew Losowsky (@losowsky) January 22, 2014
Well, you know what happens when you muse to the open web. Now, they are poetry. Joel Dueck, a writer in Minnesota, has set the phrases, text, and spirit of the updates into verse:
Once, you could wish to Become Enemies with a child.
This will no longer happen,
and fish will not be duplicated in your fridge when moving homes.
People will no longer receive a wish to skinny dip with mummies,
and you can no longer Try For Baby with the Grim Reaper.
Pregnant women can no longer “brawl.”
It fits into the long tradition of found poetry, and American poets have long converted the technological into the poetic. Carl Sandburg’s “Under a Telephone Pole” concerns the life of a “copper wire slung in the air.” But there’s something extra hummy about Dueck’s poem. The curt language of software and engineering, when applied to something ridiculous, delights in its directness. There’s even something juvenile about it. So no wonder it’s not only poems that have been crafted about The Sims: A Tumblr illustrates a new Sims patch note every week.