This post is about artificial life ... well, not about the kind of artificial life you get in the movies, the kind that goes around destroying everything or taking over the world. It's a much more simple and far less dangerous type of artificial life - a sim. My sim, to be precise. That's her, over there on the left side of this paragraph, Mara Grey, my current sim. She's at college, studies literature, aspires to be a criminal mastermind one day (that's her life wish, something the game actually decides on it's own, you just get told, you can't influence it). Mara is currently a bit smitten with a guy she's met on a trip to the shopping mall - and she's very good at college as well, will surely make it on the list of the best students. In many ways she's not like me at all, she doesn't even look like me, but I nevertheless like playing her.
So I wonder what the reason for this really is. I spent hours basically doing everything I do in regular life as well. I take care of a household, I go to work, I go out with friends, spent some (though not too much) time shopping and so on. I even do things I don't really want to do in everyday life (like raising kids, I'm not good with kids at all). In essence the whole game is some sort of speeded-up life cycle. Your sim is born, a baby, a small child, a school child, a teenager, an adult and an old person ... and dies. So after eight hours of work, why spent two or three more hours doing the same stuff you've been doing all day?
The main answer may be: because you can try out everything you've always wanted to do in real life, but weren't brave enough to do. In the game I can start again as often as I want, I can be everything and everyone I want. I can have my own shop or climb the ladder to the top positions of every career. I can have lots and lots of children. I can be a very romantic and flirty person in one 'life' and a very sombre, knowledge- or money-orientated person in the next. There's no chance to ever play the same game twice, some things will always be different, no matter how you try to do everything just as before.
Back to Mara. What I plan for her? Not sure, but she'll finish college, maybe marry Claus (that's the guy she's currently smitten with). She'll probably try for a job in the criminal career (though I'm not sure, I would favour a job in the paranormal career, but they are rare). All the other things will happen when they happen ... maybe she'll have kids - with Claus or someone else, there's more cute guys around than just him - or maybe she'll have none, I've not decided about it yet. Maybe she'll dream about having some in her future ... and maybe I'll grant her that wish. Maybe I will fulfil her life wish and she'll be the sims-equivalent of Al Capone. There's a lot of 'Maybes' in the future of Mara, but one thing is for sure: she'll have an interesting life - maybe more interesting than mine. And that's the real reason why I sometimes spent hours playing the game. It may just be a shadow of real life, but it's an interesting shadow.