Jessica Williams was asking me about Sims mods.
Earlier this week, I was chatting with her on the phone about The Sims. The game’s publisher had set up the call to help hype The Sims 4, and the latest expansion, Cats & Dogs. I would be talking to the former Daily Show correspondent and star of Netflix’s The Incredible Jessica James about the her obsession with The Sims.
As simmers often do when they talk about the game, we got distracted.
“I do, like, different versions of myself,” she said as she described the kinds of sims she likes to make. “I do find that I tend to love [playing as] black women in general.” When I mentioned that I use a mod to get more brown skin tones, she seemed intrigued. “That sounds amazing,” she said. She asked me to send it to her. And, later, right before she hung up, she asked me again.
Williams’s Sims obsession is pretty hardcore. On tour, it’s something she does after shows. “It’s really nice to like, get done doing a show and then go back to my hotel room and play The Sims for like an hour or two.” She doesn’t just play, though. She watches videos on of other simmers making houses on YouTube. “I can’t match up my walls sometimes and have equally placed windows in my sim’s house,” she said. “I just, like, cry because of how beautiful it is and because of my pure incompetence.”
Lately, she’s been taking her sims on comic misadventures, just like the most players. At one point, when she was trying to turn one of her sims into a vampire, the vampire sim combusted from being outside during the day.
“I had invested so much time in creating a friendship with this vampire, who was a snob, so he was such a pain in the ass to get to know. And then all of a sudden we were out at a park and that vampire sim just like, caught on fire and died,” she said. “Mostly I was pissed because I invested so much social time in that relationship and he just just lit on fire.”
Williams has played The Sims for most of her life, but for a long time she assumed there weren’t many games that would appeal to her. After her boyfriend got her a PlayStation 4 last year, that began to change.
“What it is, is that I don’t love shooting games,” she said, “What I like is sort of, more story-based games, and making choices.”
Through communities like the subreddit r/GirlGamers, Williams has found games that don’t alienate her. “The really great thing about it is that everyone there is not pretentious,” she said, “Everybody is willing to give a recommendation to other women out there, based on whatever their tastes are.” Through r/GirlGamers, she found the melodramatic time-traveling lesbian adventure game Life Is Strange, which she loved.
“Life Is Strange really just tugged my heartstrings,” she said. “If there were more games like that, I would start playing video games all the time.”