Freelancers, stop me if you heard this one. I quit my job to start working from home. My plants died, my finances imploded and my social life disappeared. I’m talking about the latest update for The Sims 4, which added new content to the game this week, in the form of a freelance career path. Countering last month’s release of the Get Famous expansion, which added Influencer to its line-up of chosen careers, Sims can now also choose between Writer, Programmer, and Artist, eschewing the daily grind of a 9-to-5 in favor of commissioning projects from the comfort of their bedroom computer. As ideal as it sounds in Sims terms (regular jobs don’t afford the scheduling freedom that freelancing brings), it has its own problems. Anyone who is their own boss can tell you that making it work means having a strong sense of self motivation and an amazing ability to provide your own structure; it’s something that’s come up for me a lot in the past 10 years in almost every stage of my freelance writing career. And so, as it often does, The Sims is now weirdly highlighting everything I hate about my life, making me question why anyone would play this game if they aren’t already an adult. And in this case, why anyone would work from home online.
The minute I heard that The Sims 4 was getting a freelancer career, I knew I had to see how much it was like the real thing. The Sims, for all of the liberties it takes with the human experience, still has an unnerving knack for accuracy. So I had my Sim, a former chef, quit her job as a florist to become a writer. Her life fell apart almost immediately.
The first casualty was her beloved cow plants. With no reason to keep track of night or day, she forgot how sensitive their feeding schedule is and before she could even realize they needed food, they were already gone. Had she not already maxed out her gardening skills to decrease deterioration rates, all her plants might have died. And it’s good they didn’t, because they were about to become her most steady source of income.
Her financial stability was the next thing to go. Because it’s almost impossible to project future earnings by estimating the pay rate and hourly commitment of each assignment, her income and budget became extremely unpredictable. To afford her a little breathing room she tried to pad out her savings by taking on lots of extra assignments to create a financial buffer. But in the panic to get ahead, her social life went to shit and come Winterfest, she had no one to even invite to dinner.
But the lack of friends was fine, as it turns out, because most of her time is spent in a single room, tapping away on her computer, only leaving to eat or use the bathroom. Her writing skills are improving, diversifying the types of writing she can do, but the only steadily available gigs are for clickbait articles, marketing or ghostwriting, so usually she has to just take what she can get. When she gets lonely, she chats online to raise her Social meter, but the friendships she makes there never build as quickly or last as long as the ones in real life, and her personal maintenance has also fallen to the wayside. She survives mostly on salad and exercises as often as she can, but no matter how hard she tries, the days melt together and she just can’t get in shape. And after every piece of work is completed, her Whims bar immediately suggests a cocktail. Give her a repetitive stress injury and the digital portrait of my life is complete.
Dry cynicism aside, I’m gonna take the gentle reminder here that it’s good to have structure and routine. My Sim’s life hasn’t really been worth living since she went freelance, and she doesn’t even have the time to study up for a better job, much less take any risks or do anything about it. I can really only recommend the freelance career path as a short term solution, something you can pursue so you can fit it around some other part of your schedule and move on from the minute you can, whether that’s real life or in The Sims 4. It’s not sustainable.
Let’s hope in the next update they let the Sims unionize.
Holly Green is the assistant editor of Paste Games and a reporter and semiprofessional photographer. She is also the author of Fry Scores: An Unofficial Guide To Video Game Grub. You can find her work at Gamasutra, Polygon, Unwinnable, and other videogame news publications.