The COVID-19 pandemic has seen colleges shift to online classes, as professors and students search for ways to be productive from their screens at home. Many colleges have turned to platforms such as Zoom or Blackboard to simulate the classroom experience, but nothing can quite capture the experience of being on a college campus. The experience of Coran Ting ’22, however, is an exception. Ting has successfully been taking online classes on a college campus, in the glorious University of Britechester in The Sims 4: Discover University.
“I’ve never been more motivated to go to class,” said Ting, who controls a pink haired Sim named Ima Foenee ’20. “I’m trying not to use cheat codes this time, so that I can actually focus on giving my Sim a good GPA.” He shared his screen with me via Zoom, where we spent about five hours trying to decide what outfits Foenee should wear on her first day of class. “Do you think giving her a dog tattoo on her arm makes her look like a basic Vassar bitch?” he asked me. “And what about a flannel? That could give a Vassar or lesbian vibe—you know what, what’s the difference?” I asked him if he’s downloaded custom content from the Sim community, which can broaden his clothing options outside what the game offers. We spent another hour looking for a New Yorker tote bag for Ima to carry.
I learned from Ting that Sims must apply to college before they can venture into the university gameplay. “So my Sim is on the computer,” Ting explained. “And we’ll just wait for her to finish her apps, apply to scholarships…” Even though Ting fast forwarded this part, Foenee seemed to be taking forever on her computer, sitting before the colorful screen with a blank stare while her hands barely moved at all. “It’s just like real life,” Ting reflected. “You get to go through the whole painful process of submitting apps to schools you love with your whole heart, and either you get accepted or get your heart stomped by those rejection letters.”
I caught myself frowning on my camera, and asked, “Why would you force yourself to relive all of that?” Ting tried to compare it to transferring colleges, but I found myself focused on Foenee, who had suddenly skinny dipped into a pool when we weren’t looking.
After I went to grab a snack, I came back to see Ting’s eyes all puffy and red. Foenee got accepted into Britechester, he told me, and he was so proud of her. “Then why are you crying?” Ting showed me Foenee’s high tuition fee.
I asked Ting what major he wanted Foenee to choose. “I want something practical,” he said. “Something that will be of good use when she graduates.” He then picked villainy as Foenee’s major.
“That’s not even a distinguished degree in Britechester!” I exclaimed. Ting yelled back, “It’s her Aspiration as a Sim!” He waved his cursor at the bottom of the screen. “She wants to be a Public Enemy in her lifetime! Her mischief skill is level 7!”
After Foenee moved into her dorm, I watched as Ting proceeded to perform Mean interactions with everyone in Foenee’s floor. One of them was Foenee’s own roommate, who Ting managed to shout at, throw a drink at, physically fight, and declare a sworn enemy in just five minutes. I asked him if that was a bad idea, but Ting shrugged this off and replied, “No, it’s perfect. She needs to be disliked by two Sims to advance to the next level of the Public Enemy Aspiration.” I pretended to understand his words.
Later, while Foenee studied in her room, I realized that Ting had not fed nor put his Sim to bed. “Her Needs levels are low,” I pointed out. “Shouldn’t you take care of her?” Ting was dismissive, and blabbered about how this was just what college life was. “She needs to grind. Put her academic needs first before her actual Needs.” Foenee then stood up from her chair and collapsed to the ground, face flat as she fell asleep on the floor with her butt sticking out.
Ting put her to bed to increase her Sleep level. The next day, however, Foenee ended up oversleeping, and was late to class.
“Up, up, up!” Ting sighed, exasperated. “Go to class—no, don’t ride your bike! You’re on the fourth floor! Go, go, go—” and we said goodbye to her as she disappeared by the building entrance and headed off to class.
“So she’s inside the building,” I said. “We don’t get to see her work in a classroom?”
“No, we just wait,” Ting told me. “After school, we could join a club, go to a party or play water pong.”
“Water pong? You mean beer pong?”
“The Sims franchise is a family friendly game,” he informed me.
Foenee’s steamy WooHoo session in the shower told me otherwise. “There’s this mod called Wicked Whims where you can actually see your Sims naked,” Ting said, circling his cursor around the cloud of steam spewing out hearts. “You know, I can download it if you want.” I denied the offer, reminding him that Foenee was WooHooing her professor. But Ting seemed unfazed by this detail, and clicked on the shower again to watch another WooHoo session.
Intrigued by the seemingly unlimited game and its portrayal of the college experience, I asked Ting if the game had fraternities and sororities, and if there were mods for drugs and drinking. To my shock, Ting told me there were no fraternities and sororities, but instead a secret society that could be accessed if one offered food by a statue. “So like Vassar, with no frats and all,” I concluded. “But Vassar doesn’t have a secret society, right?”
At this point, our Zoom call mysteriously ended. And although I got a glimpse of Ima Foenee’s life in The Sims 4, Ting’s own life remains an enigma. Perhaps I will leave cookies by Matthew Vassar’s statue, hoping Ting will show up in a long coat and greet me in Simlish— “Seul seul, Janet, dag dag!”