Before DD became a dippy he was a dr, namely a doctor of philosophy, and specifically one of those hard-earned doctorate degrees that take nearly half a decade to finish and leave behind a sense of weariness that’s almost as strong as the sense of accomplishment. He spent the final year of his PhD abroad, after placating me with a marriage proposal.
Yet again we were long distance, and with a five-hour time difference between us, DD was left to his own devices in the evenings, after long solitary days in the library and in Starbucks where he OD’d on free coffee re-fills. Back in his small dorm room after dinner, DD contemplated ways of relaxing and enjoying himself, and settled on The Sims, the popular life simulation online game. His real life might be a bit stressful and depressing at the moment, he thought, but at least in the evenings he could ‘live’ an alternative reality, which would lift his spirits and capture his imagination.
‘But it didn’t quite work out that way,’ DD recalled recently, when I brought up the subject.
‘Remind me what happened?’ I asked. I hadn’t been in the jolliest phase of life myself at the time, commuting to London from my parents’ house and adapting to a challenging new job. But now, years later, I vaguely remembered that DD’s Sims experience had amused me greatly at the time.
First he created a character in his own image, DD explained, as you’re supposed to do in The Sims. You can choose what kind of talents you have, what sort of things make you happy, what type of personality you are. DD faithfully recreated himself, a serious, sensitive bookish guy who prefers security to risk and treasures building a family.
‘But then, for some reason, it all went wrong,’ he continued. ‘I couldn’t get any of the women that I liked to go out with me, and finally I started dating this older blonde woman down the road. But the thing was, she already had two kids by another bloke. And it was only after she moved in and we got married that I discovered she’d been knocked up again, by another guy.
‘So there I was, slogging my guts out every day to bring up three kids that weren’t mine. And the oldest one was a right wrong ’un – he kept smashing the place up.
‘And then, as soon as I retired, I snuffed it.
‘I’m telling you,’ he finished forlornly, ‘my fantasy life was stressing me out more than my real life.’
Indeed, Fantasy-DD spent so much time being stressed, real-life DD has since adopted his ‘I’m stressed out’ gesture, which is a kind of one-handed salute by the eyebrow, with the hand vibrating up and down. Incidentally, the ‘I’m having sex’ gesture in The Sims is snucking into the bed or hot tub and shouting ‘woopee’– although fantasy-DD didn’t get too much of that, what with three step-kids around and dying soon after retirement.
While I’m glad DD’s reality proved better than his fantasy, I’m slightly disturbed that his alternative wife and life are so different to me and ours. I wonder what’s programmed into The Sims that led fantasy-DD down the wrong fork in the road, or rather, what’s programmed into real life that led him down the right one. Either way, he now spends less time on computer games and more time watching Friends re-runs with me, for which I’m very grateful.
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