This is part two of Emma's ongoing diary, detailing her attempt to raise 100 children in The Sims 4. To read the first part, head here.
TV property shows love to ramble on about having a space that ‘works for you’—a nebulous soundbite that I’ve never fully grasped the meaning of until now. A house is a house, right? All you need is a roof over your head and the requisite number of bedrooms. Then comes the clearest possible indication that my Sims’ home is not doing its job: I catch Zara Centum napping on a pool float. Outdoors. In a blizzard.
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Obviously nobody can blame a knackered mother-of-16-and-counting for wanting to take a little time for herself away from the ruckus, but this is clearly not an ideal setup. A few more minutes of inattentive play from me and the Grim Reaper would have been knocking—and I need Zara to squeeze out more sprogs before I can allow that to happen.
Zara is my matriarch in The Sims 4 100 babies challenge, in which your goal is to raise said number of infants in as few generations of Sim as possible. Once Zara’s out of the running, the mantle will pass to her youngest daughter, but I reckon my girl’s good for several more offspring yet, so long as she manages to refrain from taking a dip in inclement weather.
I’d hastily tacked on an outdoor pool as an easy win for getting the kids to entertain themselves, with the happy bonus of also building up a skill (necessary for them to progress in school, and thus age up in line with the challenge’s rules). Given that I’d started out with the game’s basic allowance of 20,000 simoleons and was forbidden from gainful employment, my whole build had been piecemeal.
I started out with a sprawling bungalow, each child had a cramped, impersonal 2 x 4 room to call their own. In hindsight, it may have slightly resembled a prison. While things did improve slightly when I added a second storey with a larger living room, playroom and balcony, there was no hiding from the fundamentally clunky design. I do not profess to be an architect. Also, as I said: I was dirt-poor.
You have to learn how to make money efficiently to succeed in this challenge. Gradually level up your matriarch’s skill in something like painting, and eventually she’s cracking out multiple masterpieces per week (around the childcare) and even enjoying herself while she’s at it. Thanks to the Seasons expansion pack, the annual Harvestfest celebration also brings about a veritable garden centre’s worth of free seed packets. When planted up, these provide a decent level of supplementary year-round income. I like to assign responsibility for the yard work to my household’s teenagers, because nobody in this family is immune from earning their keep. Little by little, the bank balance starts to accumulate.
Time for a Grand Designs-esque redesign. I demolish the entire sorry site, keeping only those bounty-generating plants. I’m not daft enough to build a mansion—a palatial pad might sound like the dream, but every step costs a Sim time. With toddlers to chase after, practicality is the key here. Still, gone are those jail-cell bedrooms and dingy communal spaces. In its place, a generously proportioned three-storey family home with seven bedrooms—each decorated to match its occupants’ personality and interests. In addition to the downstairs family bathroom, every bedroom has an en suite. If there’s one thing I’ve learned during my time with a family this large, it’s that you can never have enough bathrooms if you want everybody to escape childhood with dry pants and minimal mortifying memories of being burst in on mid-shower.
And it works! With beds that weren’t purchased from the bargain basement, everyone is better rested, even when they’ve had to stay up past a sensible bedtime. Flashier kitchen appliances mean everyone is less hungry and more happy. The basement pool means nobody is likely to freeze to death. Family life swiftly settles into an almost peaceful rhythm. I feel like I’ve finally cracked this whole ‘big happy family’ lark.
Until, of course, I haven’t. Once wild-child Marissa comes onto the scene, I realise my illusion of serenity is as thin as the chipboard walls on their old house. Literally wild—it’s her sole personality trait—she’s the most unruly toddler I’ve had the misfortune of parenting so far. The critical element here wasn’t the surroundings; it was the balance of the family.
Around the time of the great move, Ingrid, Jessica and Kayla aged up in quick succession into a trio of teenagers. Which meant that the balance of the household had shifted towards older offspring, less dependent and more capable of helping out. After the oasis of calm lulls me into a false sense of security, along comes miniature wrecking ball Marissa, who appears gleefully resistant to learning anything. She's also defies all attempts to carry her to bed for hours on end, while she tantrums about how tired she is. Lord deliver us from the wild toddlers
What’s more, my reliable teens age up again and move out one by one, as along come Naomi, Oliver and Paul. For days on end, my family includes two toddlers and a baby. It’s been a while since I’ve been mired in those newborn years, and it turns out that hindsight has added a rose-coloured tint to my recollections. On the plus side, I can reassure myself that in a virtual week or two, everyone will be older, the wave of chaos will have passed and we’ll be back in the eye of the storm. Who said that teenagers were the hellraisers?
In the meantime, I spy pregnant Zara sneaking off during the midst of a particularly madcap day to the basement for another nap. I guess it’s true what they say: money can’t buy you happiness. It sure can score you a more comfortable pool float to cry on, though.