Zara Centum has become an elder, and I like to think she's lived a full and satisfying life. Or at least as satisfying as life can be in between the occasional 'napping on a pool float in a blizzard' and 'wetting yourself because the toddlers wouldn't stop tantruming long enough for you to make it to the bathroom' blip.
She's certainly succeeded on the 'full' front: as my original matriarch for the 100 babies challenge in The Sims 4, Zara has begotten a jaw-dropping 21 kids during her journey from sprightly young adult to grey-haired elder, which is impressive in anyone's book. 21! Not even the Duggars got that far.
As Zara's final few days of adulthood approached, I felt it was time to take stock of the family situation. The rules of the challenge mean that once your matriarch becomes an elder, the dubious honour passes on to her youngest daughter. At this point, the Centum household consisted of teenager Quinn, twin children Rowan and Sam, and toddler Thomas. As the only other female on the lot, this put Quinn in line for succession.
The problem was, Quinn didn't particularly strike me as matriarch material. While there were more than a handful of hairy moments throughout the challenge thus far, they felt like the kind of unavoidable chaos that accompanies trying to race your way to 100 children. Zara herself boasted a trio of personality traits that were deliberately chosen to keep things running smoothly: she was romantic (making it relatively easy to lure strangers into bed), family oriented (so she didn't get too annoyed when teaching the same block-stacking routine over and over) and creative (so she could support the growing brood by selling her paintings). In stark contrast, Quinn was a hot-headed loner, which didn't exactly jive with the idea of herding a gaggle of toddlers through their A-B-Cs, 1-2-3s and potty training.
I decided I may as well have one last roll of the dice. I sent Zara out to the Blue Velvet nightclub, where she swiftly ensnared Tamati Lahela and did the necessary deed. The 50/50 gender odds came out in my favour, and Unity was born. Even better, as a toddler she grew into a charmer—and then developed the 'good' trait as a child. Phew. Things were looking up.
Then, just before Zara's final birthday, came a sad phone call: Alice Centum had died. Still... these things happen, I mused. Perhaps she reached a premature end as a result of a tragic knife-throwing accident, a poisoned slice of pizza or a freak zebra stampede. A few days later, though, it was followed up by another: Daniel, too, had passed. Careless of him, frankly.
Then it clicked: these weren't untimely ends, but rather Sims reaching the conclusion of their natural lifespan. There's a quirk in The Sims 4, which means that getting a Sim pregnant essentially presses pause on the ageing process—not just in terms of celebrating a birthday, but even day-to-day progression through their life. By doing this 20 times over with Zara, I've pretty much doubled her lifespan. Her oldest children, born back when she was in the very first flush of young adulthood, have overtaken her and expired of old age. I've stumbled upon the Sims equivalent of Interstellar, with less space travel and more screaming infants. It feels a little like I've accidentally broken the game with some overly ambitious family planning.
Inevitably, the calls keep coming: Chelsea, Ethan, Beatrice, Felicity all fall like dominoes. Each passing casts a pall of sadness over the household, making each inhabitant 'very sad' for days on end. At one point, we have a solid week of grief. It's like living under a cloud. Even the very youngest members of the family, who never even /met/ their eldest siblings, are plunged into this endless sorrow.
It's also accompanied by a sense of guilt on my part. Once these previously valued members of the Centum family came of age, they were unceremoniously cast out of the family home, left to fend for themselves without so much as a simoleon to their name. Did they repeatedly try to visit their mom? Yes. Did I allow Zara to answer their calls or knocks at the front door? Never. She had her hands full with the newest additions to her brood; there weren't enough hours in the day for the rehashing of old times and the upkeep of familial bonds. In fact, as adults the Centum kids could have been anything—from superstars to street-sweepers—and I'd have been none the wiser. I wonder if Zara feels as bad about this as I do.
I'm determined not to make the same mistakes once Unity is head of the family. Rushing through family life is all well and good for ticking boxes and racking up the sibling count, but taking time to stop and smell the proverbial roses is what the game is really all about. Making sure that each child reaches the requisite skill and grade milestones to age up ASAP shouldn't come at the expense of them having a little fun, getting to know their extended family and even—gasp!—making a few friends outside of the house. Heck, I may occasionally allow them to skip their homework to hang out at the park from time to time. Only if I'm feeling munificent, mind.
When the notification pops up in the corner of my screen to warn that Zara's last few days are approaching, I ensure she spends plenty of time with Unity. There are hugs, kisses, expressions of love and pride. Unity is inheriting a large house, a sum in the bank that means she'll never need to worry about where her next meal is coming from, and the obligation to keep the Centum name going. I'd like to think she's also inheriting the wisdom that Zara picked up along the way: make sure the family is happy as well as big.