Sims At College Drink Too Much

Illustration for article titled Sims At College Drink Too Much

Addison, a Sim I made to check out The Sims 4’s latest college-themed expansion was tense. She was almost always tense on campus, given how much work she had to do to graduate. At the Britechcester University campus, there’s pretty much only one option to unwind: go to the bar.

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Sims don’t drink alcohol—they drink juice. Therefore there’s no hangovers, no being drunk, and no alcoholism. They might get a sugar high, or feel slightly uncomfortable from missing the sugar afterwards, but they don’t experience withdrawals. Still, after a year plus of not drinking, I try to make my Sims drink less juice than they normally would, but it’s not easy. Sims tend to drink autonomously if they’re near a bar, but I try to keep them occupied, or I just don’t take them to the bar if I can help it.

For students living on campus at Britechester, there aren’t a lot of choices for post-class activities. Although there are campus societies and a common area where there are sometimes poetry readings, one of the more populous places for socializing is the local bar. It’s one of the two community lots, which are public lots that played and non-played Sims can visit. The other community lot is the library. Therefore, after finishing a term paper, when Addison’s fun meter is in the red, the bar is pretty much the only option.

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When I went to college at Oberlin, I spent a considerable amount of time at the Feve, the one good bar on campus. I also went to every Wednesday theme night at the student union, which offered four dollar pitchers of PBR. I also went to the unofficial Wednesday afterparty at some senior’s house, regularly getting out of there at three or four in the morning. I used to organize my weekend nights by which parties or events I could drink at for free (my friends studying Fine Arts would always see me during their openings). On the weekends I loved to grab some Miller High Lifes and drink on my porch, sometimes falling asleep in the early afternoon, only to wake up and begin drinking again in the evening.

In many respects this was normal at Oberlin, but now, I look back at how much of my life was centered around alcohol and am a little shocked. All of my socializing included alcohol in some way. The only times I was reliably sober was in classes, and even then there were the occasional morning classes I’d attend class still drunk from the night before.

I haven’t been able to buck that trend for Addison, even though I’ve tried. If she wants to join the art society, she can check out the cocktail hour they have in the bar every Thursday. As a reward for completing a quest, Addison received a Juice Keg, which she can tap to use at parties or to do a keg stand. At the bar, Addison can play juice pong, which I’ve made her do quite a bit, because it raises your friendship with another Sim at the same time as it raises your Fun. It’s efficient, but she’s now drinking every night.

The way that alcohol—the game calls it juice, but let’s be real, it’s alcohol—is represented in The Sims 4 is realistic, in that it is ubiquitous. You’re assumed to buy in to alcohol and drinking culture by default. Most people do, after all. I just want to tell Addison the thing I wish more people had told me: you’ll have an easier time at school, and probably be a lot happier, if you stop drinking constantly.

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DISCUSSION

The thing about the ubiquity of alcohol in university/college settings is that it is largely ubiquitous because everyone expects it to be ubiquitous; it’s just another permutation of the aphorism about tradition “it’s that thing we do because it’s the thing we’ve always done.”

I didn’t drink -at all- during my first two years of college. I was so uptight and straight-laced it’s a wonder I had any friends at all.

Then, during my junior year, I figured, “Fuck it. Everyone else is doing it, so I might as well see what all the fuss is about.”

That decision triggered a heavy drinking habit that took me a hell of a lot longer than I’m proud of to get a handle on. It wasn’t anyone’s fault but mine, and the fact that I went from “I guess I’ll have a beer” to “if it ain’t a six pack, it’s not worth spit” is not the fault of the presence or prevalence of alcohol on college campuses. I was painfully socially awkward at the time, and took the liquid courage on offer as something of a crutch for approaching situations I’d otherwise have avoided out of fear of rejection.

Nearly twenty years later, I’m just too old to give a fuck if someone doesn’t like me—and I definitely don’t need the booze to feel at ease with myself or in a variety of social situations. I just wish I’d developed that attitude prior to diving face-first into several years of drinking harder than was good for me (I was probably a functional alcoholic for a couple of years in there—never went in to work hungover or got anywhere near the stuff when I had responsibilities, but if I had free time and no reason to get up early the next morning, I’d drink anywhere between four and eight beers in an evening).

There’s a lot to be said about drinking in college—good and bad. The one abiding truth that I attach to it is this: college kids are idiots when they drink, not because they’re college kids, but because for most of them, the activity is (relatively) new—and pretty much everyone’s an idiot with new experiences, freedoms, and activities the first few times they have a go-round with them.

If we taught our young folks about alcohol earlier—and made it something that was just a normal part of life, as opposed to something “forbidden” that many kids binge on when they -do- get access (for at least a little while; most folks get their heads out a lot faster than I did), I think we’d have less of a problem with folks effectively living out of a beer cooler during their college years.

Or maybe it’d be worse—but in any case, treating it like it’s part of some exclusive club or experience you only get to have once you’re “mature” enough (because legal age doesn’t seem to stop most people) seems to me to encourage problematic drinking behavior in those who do choose to indulge, rather than preventing it.