Shae, the Simmer who invented the virtual version of Double Shot, is a 30-year-old teacher from Arkansas. (She asked that I use only her first name out of concern for her privacy.) After Shae created Bambi and Evani, other Sims users sent her contestants to try out for the show. Shae has 30 virtual men to choose from so far, and she plans to whittle the list down to 12 or 16—more would probably crash the game, even with the modification she downloaded to get out of The Sims’s limit of eight virtual people per house. Entries are open until the end of the month, and Shae will post her first episode in the first week of May.
As she prepares to host Double Shot, Shae is also finishing up a Sims game of The Bachelor in which one contestant really did light herself on fire and die. “I expect some things like that to happen” in the new show, she told me. “With so many Sims in one house there will probably be quite a few fights. Lots of crying. Sims cry a lot.”
A game with the possibility of accidental death is more absurd, for sure, than your average dating show on ordinary television, but that absurdity is welcome. In a world without happy hour with friends, or a night at the club, or 90 minutes of prime-time screaming and kissing, passing the time requires some creativity. Shae’s project is one of many strategies people are trying out to re-create the things they miss most about their regular lives. It’s also a sign of how weird internet culture is flourishing as normalcy dissolves. Everything is weird now. When there’s nothing else to do, why not spend the summer watching animations court each other?
When the real world is bananas, you escape into a fantasy. People have been using The Sims to do exactly that for two decades. The game gives players the open-ended task of maintaining a career and creating a family and watching their characters carry on with their lives, responding to basic human feelings like hunger and loneliness and saving up for their dream houses. Sims can die—the current version of the game is the first to include ghosts—but the point of the game is to enjoy a life in which you control every input.
As of this January, 20 million people were playing The Sims 4, which came out six years ago. Patreon hosts a robust economy of custom content that can be added to the game, and the Sims community on Tumblr has long been one of the site’s largest and wildest.
Tumblr, the premier home of alt-twee internet culture, is the best place to be during a pandemic. The people there already live in an imaginary world, but right now they’re pulling out all the stops. Tumblr’s data team has reported huge spikes of interest in mermaids and pirates and cottages in the woods. “Oceancore,” a tag for people who wish to live by the sea like the heroine of a 19th-century novel, had a 1,000 percent jump in likes during the last week of March.