Survival mode: Level 2020
When you ask my friends to describe me, the word “gamer” will never enter the conversation. However, for some reason, a friend gifted me with Sims 4 through Steam. She even added in the Cats and Dogs downloadable content (DLC).
Throughout quarantine, I’ve been playing Sims Mobile religiously. So when I was given the opportunity to level-up to the latest desktop version (for free!), why would I say no? After installing it, I entered the virtual world, made a sim that looked like me, and made my roommate my celebrity crush.
As I finished decorating my cute house, I watched the sims live their day-to-day lives. I watched them get hungry, pee, and sleep. I felt like God overlooking His creations. At that moment, it hit me: “What if I’m a sim? What if we’re all sims?”
I know that it sounds ridiculous, but honestly, with the horrific events happening in 2020, is it that crazy? If we could go back in time and tell our 2019 selves that a pandemic would hit, ABS-CBN would get shut down, and Kobe Bryant would die in a helicopter accident, all within the next year, they would’ve laughed. The concept itself sounds like an awful plot for an apocalypse movie.
Most of us have seen the Netflix show Black Mirror; some episodes feel like complete fiction. Meanwhile, other episodes feel like they are slowly becoming real. Take “Nosedive” (Season 3, Episode 1) as an example. In this episode, everybody is so obsessed with their ratings that it shapes their real-life interactions and impacts their socioeconomic status.
The plot already sounds like what’s happening with social media right now. We can see the essence of “Nosedive” translating into our reality through the value of likes we get from social media. We’re now living in a world in which the more followers you have on your accounts, the more advertisers you’ll attract — which leads to more money. Nowadays, you don’t have to put so much elbow grease into your work to become a socialite. Some people can get so obsessed with their social media status that they value this more than making real-life connections.
Another episode I want to discuss is “Playtest” (Season 3, Episode 2). In this episode, a guy tries an augmented reality (AR) video game wherein he explores a haunted house and gets basic jumpscares. However, the Black Mirror twist is that as the game progresses, the horrors dig deep into his fears and become all too real. His friend unexpectedly appears and tries to kill him, he starts to lose his memories, and all of this while he tries to escape the AR experience.
The “Playtest” episode is what replays in my mind whenever I think of the idea that this year could be some kind of simulation we’ve been living in all this time. What if, at some point, the government medicated us or convinced us to play a VR game? Then, the events that have happened this year were all designed to trigger us? To test what our reactions would be? Once we’re in that “Play” mode, we’d completely forget the process we’ve undergone.
The simulation experience could be made by the government to prepare us for the worst-case scenarios. Imagine it as a carefully designed fire/earthquake drill. The government would probably be like, “Let’s start the simulation with a volcanic eruption! A pandemic sounds great; we haven’t had that before. How would that go? Let’s put everybody in quarantine for a whole year.” It could also be a psychological program where doctors ask, “How long can we put her in isolation until she breaks?” Then, after the simulation has finished, they gather the data from our reactions to events and take it all under consideration. In real life, they would make changes to avoid the mishaps that have happened in virtual reality. It’s messed up, but something like that could be somewhat useful.
The government could also anchor the simulation on modern-age natural selection. As dark as it is, a lot of people have passed away this year. What if the simulation tests the process of elimination? Who would survive the ridiculous events such a game would throw out there? Like the Capitol Arena from The Hunger Games, are there Gamemakers that give us challenges whenever the simulation’s plot grows dull?
So far, 2020 has been a hell of a year. Having so much time on my hands has led me to think — is all this even real? Even Black Mirror’s creator Charlie Brooker didn’t want to release the show’s sixth season this year due to current events. According to an interview, he basically said that the world doesn’t need dystopian narratives right now.
As much as I want this year to be a messed-up game, it’s not. No matter how grim situations are right now, they are real. Wildfires and climate change are real. People losing jobs and growing poorer are real. Most importantly, the virus is real. There are hundreds of people dying from it. No conspiracy theory about living in a simulation can prove otherwise.
Banner art by Hannah Sy