My Sim, Ivy, was about to propose to her boyfriend when she got a call and found out that a close friend had died. Immediately, she fell into a sad funk. In an unmodded game, this feeling would last for two days unabated, and also dominate any other feeling she might have. But since I was playing with RoBurky’s Meaningful Stories mod, the course her feelings would take over the next few days was a little less predictable.

The Sims 4 introduced an emotions mechanic that was meant to mimic the real life ebb and flow of feelings. Sims could be feeling Happy, Playful, Flirty, or a whole host of other emotional states, and those emotions would change their actions:Sims that were Inspired would cook better meals, Sims that were Focused would be better at skills like programming. The system was interesting, but it was so stratified that it’s very easy to predict how a particular activity will make a Sim feel. You can send them careening around a lot of different feelings in the course of a single day.

That’s not the way emotions actually work. If you have something big happen to you, like the death of a friend, you aren’t just going to be inconsolable for two days, and then be fine again. Other feelings may break through for a moment, giving you a respite from your grief, but that undercurrent of sadness may linger for a long time, even if you do something to make yourself temporarily feel better.

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With Meaningful Stories installed, that’s how it went for Ivy. Though she could break through her sadness for hours at a time, it always came back. A good meal and some WooHooing with her boyfriend made her happy enough to propose to him, but the next day her promotion at her job wasn’t enough to make her happy again. The sadness debuff hasn’t yet budged from its initial countdown. In fact, it’s gone up from two days of sadness to four. I’ll have to really focus on Ivy’s self care in order for her to feel normal again.

Meaningful Stories makes several small adjustments to how the feelings system works. Emotional buffs or debuffs sometimes have a random strength, meaning that instead of a one-size-fits-all state of “anger,” a Sim could now just be a little pissed or straight-up rageful. Emotions last longer and have inertia, so your Sim that spent the whole day Inspired may get an additional “Lingering Inspiration” buff if you don’t find a creative outlet before that feeling goes away. Being uncomfortable boosts negative emotions, so if your Gloomy Sim needs a shower, they might be extra sad until they can wash their stinky butt.

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The end result is that emotions play out like a tide going in and out, instead of a light switch turning on or off. When Ivy wakes up in a bad mood, it’ll be worse because she’s hungry. Sometimes getting promoted can make her day, at least for a while. Major life events seem like they affect her more in the long term, instead of just the immediate future. She seems just that much more like a person, despite me being the one steering her into all of the feelings she experiences.

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In my save right now, Ivy is still sad. I think I might buy a yoga mat for her, or maybe send her to the spa. I’m grateful for that sadness, though. It means the friend she lost mattered to her. Later on, when she gets married, I’m sure that sadness will be lurking beneath the happiness of a newlywed. Emotions can take you by surprise, and the Meaningful Stories mod gives The Sims 4's emotions that same subtle sense of wonder.