The latest craze at our house this summer is The Sims, the wildly popular “life simulation” video game. Our 11-year-old daughter, who normally does not go in for gaming, has spoken of little else this month. Her big sister, just home from her junior year of boarding school at The Madeira School, has more urgent things to do this summer: college applications, two summer jobs, a learner’s permit. But even she will find time, no doubt, to create a virtual household of Sims, these strangely enchanting 3-D creatures with their sculpted features and own peculiar language.
For those not familiar with the Sims phenom (and that included me, until only recently), it is strangely addictive game. You create households of people, assign them their own identities, aspirations, goals, and physical features, then watch them interact. InformationWeek says Electronic Arts sold a record 1.4 million copies of this “recession-defying” game in the first week of its release. But as an independent school mom, administrator, and observer, I found one feature of the old version, Sims 2, absolutely intriguing: the ability to move a child from the regular Sims public school to a private school. Details on the site ehow.com “How to Get a Child or Teen into Private School in Sims 2” offer a “why” that could come straight from NAIS: “A Sim child or teen who is in private school is happier and has a greater chance of skill rewards from good school performance.”
The logic is impeccable. However, as we all know from real life, getting your children into private school is not so easy. “Is there an admissions interview?” I asked my daughter. “A test that the Sims child has to take, like the SSAT or the ERBs? Do they have to play a sport really well?” No, she replied, nothing like that. You simply invite the headmaster over for dinner. “See, mom, if he likes the dinner your Sims cook, and the children behave, and the house you’ve created seems nice, then he lets the child in to the school.”
There is so much wrong with this picture I don’t know where to start: the implication that this is how private school admissions are done? The lack of an admissions director anywhere in the process? The snarky looking headmaster with his rep tie and pompous attitude? Instructions on ehow offer these gems: “Interact with the Headmaster. The more fun he has and the more his relationship score improves with the Sims in the house, the more points he will award for “schmoozing.”… Rack up extra points by serving coffee, serving drinks from the bar or getting the Headmaster into the hot tub… Score 100 points within the time allotted and you have won the scenario. Your Sim will be told by the Headmaster that his offspring have been accepted into private school.”
Unfortunately (?) this charming feature of the last release of Sims appears to be missing from the new version. How do the Sims in the new version give their children a boost into the cognitive elite? We’re downloading the new program this morning, so I’ll let you know. Just Let’s just hope it doesn’t involve a headmaster in a hot tub.