Black Mirror is a show about the horrors of the internet and modern technology, so you’d think that creator Charlie Brooker would be particularly attuned to the toxic behavior people exhibit through their little black screens. During a panel at a recent event, Brooker explained one of the inspirations behind the dark episode, “USS Callister,” in which a man replicates the consciousnesses of his coworkers, and implants them into a video game so he can act out his fantasies on real people. Terrifying stuff! And Variety reports: “At the event, Brooker likened the episode to gamers who torture their virtual families in The Sims games.”
Okay, whoa. Hold up. I would be willing to entertain this scenario of gamers torturing their Sims as being a parallel to the violent “USS Callister,” if not for the fact that everyone tortures their Sims. And frankly, if you’ve never put a Sim in a pool, paused the game and removed the ladder, just to see what happens or killed off a family member you no longer like, then I think you’re a liar.
When you’re given a game like The Sims as a child, and anything similarly virtual that requires you to keep a fake-living thing alive (see: Neopets and Tamagotchis, both of which can actually die), where you have to feed, bathe, entertain, nourish them (digitally), what are you going to do? You’re going to do all the things you’re NOT supposed to do! You drown ’em in a pool; you lock them up in a tightly enclosed shed with no exits or windows; you set the kitchen, which is inexplicably filled with five ovens, on fire. There are a wide variety of YouTube videos that catalog such homemade torture chambers, which speaks to the ubiquity of the Sims approach. Maybe, as one particularly creative individual did, keep Sim in your basement known as a “Painting Goblin.”
All of which is to say, torturing your Sims is perfectly healthy and, in my opinion, universal. Don’t let Charlie Brooker tell you otherwise!