This work is copyright (C) 2000 by The Sinner. You're welcome to download it for your own enjoyment. You're welcome to repost it to any newsgroup or on any website as long as you include the entire work without any alteration (including the author's byline and these fun little paragraphs at the beginning). If you do repost it, I'd appreciate it if you let me know about it; I like to know where my stories get to. Hell, even if you only read it yourself and enjoy it I'd still like to hear from you.
Psychology 101 Section D (Dr. Samuels) Semester Project Journal Nadine Murphy
Monday 9/25 8:13 PM
Well, Dr. Samuels liked my project proposal. When I got the paper back in class today, he'd written "I like it! Creative thinking!" across the top in big red letters. I don't think I've ever gotten that positive a response from a teacher before. This is exciting! If this goes as well as I think I'll probably decide to major in psychology.
Anyway, this document is the required project journal, in which I'll be recording my findings. Of course, Dr. Samuels told us clearly in class today that this was not a diary; we were only supposed to be recording our project results. So technically, this whole paragraph shouldn't be here. But that's the beauty of computers; I'll just edit this out at the end of the semester before I turn it in. In the meantime I'll write whatever I damn well please.
My semester-long project for Psychology 101 is an investigation of the state of the art in computer simulation of human psychology. I'll be using a program called SimFolks, which will allow me to create a number of simulated characters and watch them interact in a simulated real-world setting.
My God, I can't believe I actually made it my project to play a COMPUTER GAME! This has to be one of the greatest coups of all time! I wonder how jealous all the boys in the class would be if they knew that a girl was going to be playing a computer game all semester and getting credit for it. Don't they wish they could do a semester project on one of their macho bullshit games like Quake or something. Ha!
Okay, I have to get serious. My first simulation is of a married couple. The husband, Bob, is a stockbroker. He's about thirty, tall and dark-haired. His wife Cindy is a pretty brunette who works as a schoolteacher. I've built them a nice little house in the suburbs, complete with a white picket fence. To top it all off, they have a pair of kids: a six-year old boy, Robert, Jr.; and a three-year-old girl, Julie.
[Side note: Am I projecting myself into this a bit much? Maybe. Okay, I'll admit it's my dream to have a nice house in the suburbs with a handsome, rich husband and a pair of kids. But so what? I still want to have a career. Okay, I admit that schoolteacher is a bit on the traditional side, but it's still a perfectly honorable way to make a living, isn't it?]
[Okay, fine. I've changed it; Cindy is now a banker. Jesus, it's not like it's important anyway; the point is to examine the psychology of these people as a family; it doesn't matter where they spend their workdays. I'm not Cindy, and I think I have a pretty good grip on that concept.]
I've run the simulation through one day of sim-time. These people seem to require a fair bit of attention. I'd hoped when I first started this that they'd take care of their various needs on their own, but that turns out not to be the case. I have to tell them how to do almost every damn little thing. I have to tell them when to eat, when to sleep, when to go to the bathroom (and damn, it isn't pretty when you forget that one.) I realize now I should have started off with just a single character rather than a family of four, but I'm not giving up on these people now; I've got too much time invested in them already.
Anyway, I got them through the day more or less in one piece. I had to get them dressed in the morning -- Bob in a jacket and tie and Cindy in a power suit. The kids were easier; T-shirts and shorts. I tried to have Cindy cook breakfast, but it was a disaster; burnt toast and runny eggs. So I had her throw it all out and I fed them these instant-meal things that were in the fridge. Everyone ate, and the two car-pools and the school bus arrived simultaneously.
Everyone came home in the evening, and things were no less hectic as I tried to get them to eat dinner. I forgot to send little Bobby to the bathroom at the right time, and was rewarded with a nice puddle on the floor. When I finally got that cleaned up that and the everyone fed, it was already bedtime. I put the family to bed, saved the game, and shut it down. I don't have the energy to do another day tonight. I'll give it a run tomorrow.
Monday 10/2 7:55 PM
My parents called tonight, complaining again about how unsafe it was for me to be living alone in an off-campus apartment. Nothing new; we've only had this argument about a dozen times. I told them again that I'm nineteen years old, I'm a sophomore in college, and I'm perfectly capable of taking care of myself. First, of course, they asked me to move back into the dorms. I explained again (very patiently, I thought) that I was sick and tired of living in a closet-sized room with another person, and that I'd gotten quite enough of dorm life during my freshman year. Then they came back to the old why-don't-you-live-with-a- roommate line of questioning. There I was on shakier ground. I told them that I really preferred to live alone and have my evenings to myself so I could study undisturbed. I tried to emphasize that last bit.
They don't know the real reason I live alone, of course. The real reason's name is Brad. We met last spring in sociology class and... well, let's just say we got very friendly. He's an absolute dream -- handsome, intelligent, strong. He's majoring in Economics, so he'll probably also end up being very rich. That's not why I'm attracted to him, of course, but still, it makes it very easy to see myself married to him.
Mom and Dad don't know about him. It's not that they wouldn't approve of him. He's clean-cut, well-mannered, and very pleasant to be around. It's just that if they knew about him, they might begin to suspect that he's the reason I'm living alone. Which is, of course, the case. Speaking of which, he's coming over at nine, so if I want to get this journal caught up to date tonight I'd better do it now.
I haven't made a journal entry in the past week because I've been spending all my project time just trying to get the knack of caring for the sims. But I think I've got it. I can now have the family prepare a meal, get dressed, and get to the potty on time. I've been efficient enough to work in some family activities, too -- some conversations, some playing with the kids, and some TV viewing.
Tonight, after putting the kids to bed, I sent Bob and Cindy to bed and had them make love. It was actually quite nice. They got undressed and crawled into bed. I didn't get to watch the actual act, though; it was obscured by a large pink heart that rolled slowly back and forth over the bed. I guess the game had to keep a PG rating.
Speaking of making love, the doorbell just rang, so I'll have to close this entry now.
Wednesday 10/11 11:14 PM
I was in the middle of running through another day with the family this evening. The whole thing has become kind of boring. I've added in some neighbors and had the family socialize with them. That relieves the monotony somewhat, but it's still basically just the same thing every day -- they wake up, go to work, come home, eat, relieve themselves and talk, and occasionally Cindy and Bob have sex. But that's it. That's the extent of their computer-generated lives.
I tried to liven things up by having Cindy change careers and become a fashion model. Sounds weird, huh? Well, yeah, that's what I always wanted to be when I was growing up. And I've been told I have the looks for it, too. I even did a few jobs in high school for advertisements and things. But my family was more interested in me going to college and getting an education, so I gave it up. I guess I figured Cindy should have the life I never got to live.
But I digress. In the middle of dinner this evening (Sim dinner, of course), my computer just froze. Everything just sat there, the family in the middle of the meal. I couldn't fucking believe it. And I'd just spent two hours babysitting them through another day. Rebooting the machine would have erased all that and screwed my project up royally. I tried everything I could think of, but the game stayed frozen and I couldn't get back to Windows. So I did the only thing I could think of: I went to ask Irwin for help.
Irwin lives across the hall from me. Actually, we're down at the very end of the hall, where it takes a sharp turn, so our doors are out of sight from the main hall. It's more like a little alcove, really. I think our apartments used to be one big apartment, but they got chopped apart at some point. Anyway, Irwin is this nebbishy guy who looks like he's somewhere between thirty and forty. Thick glasses. He's kind of creepy, really. Before tonight I'd never spoken to him aside from a polite hello in the hallway; I only knew his name from his mailbox. But I knew he was into computers, and I was desperate, so I went and knocked on his door.
When he answered I started to regret it. He was looking at me in this really disturbing way. I get a lot of looks from guys (I told you I have the looks for modeling), and frankly, in most cases I like it. But this was more than a little disturbing. I fought through it, though, and asked him to come over and look at my computer.
He did, and he managed to fix it. Somehow he managed to get back out to Windows, where he brought up a few menus, all the time muttering "Stupid piece of Microsoft crap" and stabbing intently at the keyboard. But it wasn't long before the game popped up and started running again, with the family still in the middle of dinner.
I thanked him profusely, because he'd just saved me from the several hours of drudgery I would have had to spend re-living an entire day of sim-life. Unfortunately, he took my thanks as a license to start talking about anything he wanted. He's a system administrator for a local ISP and he sees that sort of problem all the time, blah blah blah, and I really should learn to use Linux and yadda yadda yadda. Still, I thought it would be rude to shove him off after he'd helped me, so I sat there and listened, nodding politely from time to time.
Once he looked back at the screen, though, he became enraptured by the game, and started asking me all sorts of questions about it. Apparently he'd never seen it. Made no sense to me; I knew more than a few people who've played SimFolks, and none of my friends are really all that into computers, so I figured a hardcore geek like him would certainly have heard of the game. But he hadn't, so I sat down and patiently explained it to him. He kept peppering me with questions, so I showed him how everything works, and explained how I'm doing a psychology project with it.
He asked if he could watch me play for awhile, and although I didn't really want him to, I thought it would be rude to refuse. Anyway, I wanted to stay on his good side in case I needed his help again. So I played through the rest of the day, answering his occasional questions about the game and my characters. One nice side effect of him being so interested in the game was that he was no longer staring at me in that creepy way.
After I finished the game day and exited the program, he left with very little fuss. It was quite a relief; I'd expected him to try to hang around longer and bore me with his computer knowledge.
In other news (i.e., irrelevant to the project), Mom and Dad called this evening. Thankfully they had nothing to say about my living arrangements this time, but they did tell me that they were running low on cash and that they might not be able to provide me with spending money this semester. My little sister Tiffany has already had to get a job to earn her own spending money, and my parents are asking me to do the same. I feel sorry for Tiff, because I would have hated to have to spend ten hours a week working during my senior year of high school. I feel even worse for myself because I really don't want to spend any less time with Brad. Looks like it'll have to be that way, though. I hope he understands.
Time for bed. Brad is studying late tonight, so I'm sleeping alone.
Thursday 10/12 5:30 PM
I had a brief encounter with Irwin again. I was leaving the building this morning to get to class and bumped into him as he was coming in. He smiled when he saw me. "Look what I just got, Nadine!" he grinned, holding up a plastic bag from the local computer store. Inside I could see a SimFolks box.
I suppose he was looking for some camaraderie, so I gave him a thumbs-up sign and said "Ah, SimFolks. Don't get addicted!" He laughed, making sort of an insane cackling sound as I walked off. I gave him a wave, just in the spirit of being friendly, trying not to let my face show that I thought he was a nut job. Who the hell goes shopping at nine in the morning?
Thursday 10/19 11:08 PM
Irwin knocked on my door last night just as I was getting ready for bed. He looked worn-out, but he seemed really excited. He started talking about how he could link my computer up to his network. Yes, apparently this guy has not just one computer, but an actual network in his apartment. What a geek. Anyway, he started babbling on about how it would just be a matter of drilling a hole in the wall between our apartments and putting a network card in my computer, which he had lying around anyway, and blah blah blah.
I was tired and just wanted to get to sleep, so I tried to hurry the conversation up by asking him what the point of all that would be. He started going on about how I could always have Internet access without tying up my phone line. That didn't sound like a bad idea, but hardly exciting enough to be worth allowing him to do God-knows-what with my computer. I started trying to explain this to him, but he kept going on. I was really just about on the verge of kicking him out, politeness be damned, when he mentioned that networking our computers would also allow our SimFolks to interact with each other.
That got my attention. Frankly, I've been having a hard time keeping up my interest in Bob and Cindy these last few weeks. It's like their lives are just one big continuous loop -- the same thing every day, with only minor variations. Sure, they occasionally visit friends, and sometimes they go for a picnic or something, but nothing really new happens. As an experiment in psychology it's staring to look like a dud.
So my interest was actually piqued by Irwin's suggestion. Maybe the problem is that I'm the only person creating characters for my family to interact with. Maybe Irwin's characters will be different and provide a spark of newness that I'm not getting. Yeah, I admit I'm a little nervous about this. Given what a weirdo he is, it's entirely possible that all his characters are psycho or something. I don't know if one character can kill another, but if it's possible for a player to make a deranged serial-killer character, Irwin is the guy who can do it.
But I have to try something or my project is going to be a flop. So I told Irwin sure, no problem, you can do it, but not tonight. He thanked me and told me I wouldn't regret it. Right, whatever.
Tuesday 10/24 9:45 PM
Irwin came over and installed the networking stuff in my computer last night. He came over with a drill and put a small hole in the corner behind my computer. I'm a little nervous about that; I don't think the super would approve. But Irwin seems to know what he's doing, so I decided to let him do it.
Brad showed up while this was going on. I introduced them, and being the polite, charming guy that he is, Brad shook Irwin's hand. Irwin, on the other hand, seemed less than warm toward Brad, looking him up and down in an almost confrontational manner. I was a little worried, but Brad's not the type to pick a fight, so everything was okay. I suppose Irwin must have a bit of a crush on me. Ah, such is life. Nothing that hasn't happened to me before.
Anyway, Brad and I spent an hour on the couch, talking and cuddling while Irwin opened my computer up and installed the network stuff. After that, he booted the machine, installed some software from a few CD-ROMs and told me I was all hooked up. I thanked him again as he started explaining how I could check my email now and how to access his SimFolks files. He told me I had to leave the computer on all the time now, which is okay with me since electricity is included in my rent anyway.
Irwin kept talking and talking, though, about all this geek stuff like bandwidth and ping times, and I didn't understand or care about any of it. I tried to listen and be polite, but I really just wanted to get him out of there so I could spend time with Brad. I think I was a bit rude when I finally told him to leave. He clammed right up and stormed out. I felt immediately guilty, but I didn't bother going to apologize to him right then. I really just wanted to spend some time with Brad. And I did. It was very good, not that that's any of your business.
I was at school late this evening studying for an English midterm. I don't have time to do a SimFolks run tonight, and I'm definitely too tired to go apologize to Irwin right now. I'll do it tomorrow. And while I'm taking to him, maybe I can ask him what's going on with my monitor. It's just recently started looking different. The image sort of flickers a bit. It's tough to put a finger on what exactly is different about it, but there's definitely something going on. It's giving me a bit of a headache. Well, it's time for bed, anyway.
Wednesday 10/25 8:18 PM
Well, the monitor still looks the same, flicker and all, but it isn't giving me much of a headache tonight, so I'll postpone asking Irwin about it.
Tonight I did my first SimFolks run since Irwin networked my computer. Cindy and Bob got a babysitter for the kids and went to visit Maria and Steve, a couple of Irwin's sims. Maria and Steve turned out to be a surprisingly normal couple. They had no children, but they did have a nice house in the suburbs, similar to Bob and Cindy's. I watched with interest as the couples began talking.
At first, they conversed as a foursome, but after several minutes they paired off by gender, with Bob and Steve going to the garage to talk, and Cindy and Maria wandering into the kitchen. This was interesting: Gender-based social pairing. I took some notes on a paper scratch pad; I'll transcribe them here when I get a chance. For the first time, I really felt like the project was going somewhere.
And then Ed showed up. The program identified him as a friend of Steve and Maria's. I've never seen anything like it before. A sim isn't supposed to just show up on his own, at least not according to the manual he isn't. But there he was, just showing up in his car at Steve and Maria's house. So I played along and watched as Ed walked into the house and joined the ladies in the kitchen.
You can't tell what the sims are saying, of course; they don't actually use words to speak, they just sort of make speech-like sounds. But you can tell what sort of mood they're in just by listening to the tone of their voices. And Ed sounded like a real sleaze. He had sort of an overly syrupy attitude, as though he was trying to charm the ladies out of their pants. Maria and Cindy seemed amused by his antics; laughing occasionally. A subordinate male trying to get some action and being rejected by the females.
I went back to watching Steve and Bob for awhile. Steve was showing Bob his power tools, which looked to me like a classic case of one male trying to assert his superiority over the other. I watched the posturing and listened to the tones of their voices as they talked. Bob seemed impressed with Steve's tools but unwilling to fully submit. Interesting.