The only unrealistic aspect of The Sims 4's new freelance careers is that Sims get paid on time.
I remember being a freelancer all too well. I remember the late nights, the lack of socialization, the 2am meals, and the desperate chasing after paychecks. The Sims 4 manages to replicate most of that with startling accuracy. Here’s my Sim, a freelance writer I named after myself, working on an assignment late into the night. In the midst of that, her computer breaks. Typical.
Freelance careers in The Sims 4 are free with yesterday’s update, and they combine two previously introduced systems into one new one. There was one system from the City Living expansion that allowed Sims to complete work tasks from home instead of going to an unseen location for their shift. The Get Famous expansion introduced the Acting career, through which a Sim would join an agency and take on short term gigs. Freelance careers are a blend of these two, taking two systems that already work well and combining them into something that’s both familiar and unique to the game.
Once you choose the freelance career and decide whether to be an artist, writer, or programmer, you check for gigs in the same way you would in the acting career. Given my own life experience, I chose the writing career. The descriptions on these gigs are very charming. This one made me laugh out loud.
Once you’ve chosen an assignment, you’re given a due date and a few tasks to complete. Usually, you have to chat with your client over the computer before you start writing. This can either give the Sim an “Inspired” buff or a “Tense” debuff. You ever work with an editor who just doesn’t get you and also doesn’t know how to communicate with their needs? It seems my Sim ran into that kind of editor all the time, because she was tense constantly.
Being a freelancer in The Sims 4 is fairly straightforward: get your assignments in on time, and you get paid. Still, the way that the freewheeling assignment structure interrupts the usual day-to-day flow of the game is a welcome change. Even with the acting career’s relative degree of freedom, you still had to get up, go to work, try to eat a decent meal now and then, get your fun needs met, and go to bed. It can get monotonous, just like in real life.
As a freelancer, your days are varied, but it comes with drawbacks. Your Sims seem to have both more and less free time, in just the same way that real-life freelancers do. Sure, they could put off finding a new assignment for a day because they want to go on a date, or enjoy a holiday, but not working means not earning any money. I tried to complete a freelance assignment once every two days, meaning I had to keep turning down invitations to hang out from my friends and neighbors and worked at all hours. My Sim stayed up until 2 a.m. every night, more or less, and I quickly forgot what day of the week it was. For days at a time, the only socialization my Sim got was from her cat, Murry, a playful boy who constantly knocked over the damn trash.
This new career handily replicates the tension of being a freelancer versus having a fulltime job. A fulltime job is more stable, but it can be physically tasking in other ways. Freelancing is much more unstable and takes a lot more time, but it allows a Sim to have a lot more freedom to do what they want, when they want it. I don’t miss being a freelancer, but being able to play a version of myself that still is one was a fun parallel universe to visit. If only I got paid that fast back in the day.