Before 1900🌭, there was another beloved Internet comedy site with an all-star cast. The name of it escapes me, but here is the tenth column I wrote there. From 2009, rescued from a garbled stack of misaligned text, banner ads, and missing images comes the fully restored, visually enhanced 2009 psychology thesis that probably went on to be taught in leading universities, “Exploring the Mysteries of the Mind Using The Sims 3.”
Every scientist dreams of a world without ethics. Whenever a scientist sees a set of twins, he or she secretly wonders what would happen if you surgically swapped their faces. They already have a chamber set up to harness the power of their screams as they gradually realize what has happened. Every day, ethics barely prevent experiments like this from being carried out. But what if we didn’t have these ethics? When Nazi doctors were let loose during WWII, the incredible rate of their discoveries were matched only by the inadequacy of words to atone for them. They might have been monsters, but without them, we never would have discovered the yield elasticity of the elderly, or learned what part of a prisoner’s tongue detects the taste of angel meat. The Sims 3 is computer game based on these Nazi scientists that offers us a world of moral ambiguity, free to perform psychological experiments away from the leering eye of ethics. Which is exactly what I did. Here are the results of my findings.
The main focus of my experiment is a man known as Subject Beef. An artificial intelligence created for the purpose of playing video games, he’ll find out that he’s also a cog in the unfeeling machine of psychiatric progress. Some people might get squeamish at the idea of torturing an AI just to write down what happens, but look at it this way: Any day now Japan is going to fuck up and finally build the robot that can make decisions and run on blood. As it starts tearing into my human people, the least I can do is make that an act of vengeance. Without me and this experiment, all that robot murder is going to just be senseless.
Body: I made him as fat as possible since food in the game costs money, but packing a blubbery energy source into his love handles is free here in the character creator. It will also hinder any of the subject’s escape attempts. There’s a reason ranchers don’t have a term for it when all the veal cows make a break for it.
Accessories: In prison, a teardrop tattoo under your eye tells people that you’ve killed someone. Outside of prison, you say the same thing with clown makeup. Before they were torn apart, many scientists wondered if it’s clown makeup that causes a person to commit murder, or if it’s murder which causes people to wear clown makeup. That’s one of the things we’re about to discover.
Personality: I went to six years of middle school, so I know proper scientific method requires a control group. I also know that knowing what this means is for fucking nerds, so I didn’t include one. Instead, I gave my subject unpredictable personality traits like Insane, Hydrophobic and Can’t Stand Art. This almost felt like cheating since it saved me the trouble of causing the subject to go crazy, so I evened the odds by giving him Genius and Computer Whiz. Now he has the tools to discover what he is and what I am doing to him. I got this idea from Star Trek where some asshole said the wrong thing in the hologram room and spent the rest of the episode fighting an evil super hologram. I’m hoping for at least that.
The personality tools of The Sims 3 are very robust. I was able to select his favorite food as pancakes, and his favorite music as Kids. Finishing up, the game even gave me a list of Lifetime Wishes to select from, and one of them was, and I quote, “Creature-Robot Cross Breeder.” I picked the hell out of that. How dare they even include a second option. The idea of a tortured clown fusing robots and animals together sounds comically impossible, but that’s probably what some tortured clown thought right before he invented anal beads.
No doctor in the world would look at Subject Beef and say, “Sure, go ahead and stand near that.” Unfortunately, his psych profile got mixed up with NBC’s fall comedy lineup, and his landlord signed a —record scratch— baby to the lease! The baby was given only one personality trait: Brave.
His favorite food is sushi and his favorite music is Latin. I knew it was only a matter of time before it was destroyed, so I wanted to name it after something I love. Since I never learned how to spell pizza, I decided to go with either slam dunks or Dolemite. I went with a combination of both, by naming him after a dunk by the Dolemite of basketball, Darryl “Chocolate Thunder” Dawkins. There wasn’t room to type in “The Chocolate Thunder Flying, Robinzine Crying, Teeth Shaking, Glass Breaking, Rump Roasting, Bun Toasting, Wham Bam I Am! Jam,” so I settled on “Turbo Sexophonic Delight” or Turbo Sexophonic for short.
I took one last look at him. As soon as the naming stops and the leaving-him-with-a-madman begins, he is so dead. But that’s probably what some guy thought one minute before watching his prisoner invent gorilla anal beads, and two minutes before winning the Congressional Medal of Right.
I constructed my asylum with the default Sims 3 tools, without the help of any mental institution expansion packs. This meant a little bit of improvisation.
1. Crappy Fence – Surrounding the compound is a non-electrified three-foot metal fence. This is more than enough to keep anything in the game from getting in or out as robots can’t climb. And if I’m wrong, I plan on repeating these as my last words while I hug my own legs at the top of a building being climbed by robots.
2. Computer – In the center of the off-limits computer yard is a single personal computer. Installed on this machine are all the secret codes and Internets an artificial intelligence would need to Lawnmower Man into our world. It’s not password protected, but the on-switch is labeled “TRAP.”
3. Treadmill – A simple treadmill blocks the only entrance to the computer yard. The only way past is to jog faster than eight mph on a zero degree incline. Or, to translate that into Subject Beef, “IMPOSSIBLARG, WHERE IS THE TACO BAR.”
4. Cake – OK, I’ll join you in fantasy land. Say the subject somehow breaches the treadmill security– these birthday cakes will act as a secondary deterrent. With a man this size, four cakes only buys us a second. But a second is all I need.
5. Teddy Bear – This toy bear watches the treadmill from the safety of its little pants. It’s programmed to see everything and mock nearby failure.
6. Kitchen – The sink works, but the oven is only a toy. Opening it only makes the teddy bear on the other side of the wall snicker at you. He’ll fucking hate that bear.
7. The Refrigerator Canal – Knowing the subject has a fear of water, I installed a hallway with a water floor. If he wants something to eat, he has no choice but to flail and shriek across the pool for it. Teddy bears line each wall, their ceaseless gaze judging him.
8. The FunZone – The only way to enter the FunZone is down the FunSlide. There is no way to exit the FunZone. It is completely and unsafely surrounded by propane barbecues and contains toys and games for up to one toddler.
9. Toilet Alarm – This is a state-of-the-art alarm system set to go off any time someone uses the outdoor and only toilet. It speaks 25 languages, and unlike my computerized medical subject, is programmed never to betray me.
10. The ToiletZone – Flanked by 15,000 watt searchlights, the outdoor toilet comes equipped with an audience of gnomes. To add to the shame, a yellow arrow on the ground helps subtly draw the eye towards any men in clown makeup who might be shitting outside under spotlights and sounding alarms.
11. The Isolation Chamber – A simple booth of mirrors from which there is no escape. The walls will bring your reflection with them as they close in on you.
I moved my subject and his young companion into the compound. Left to his own devices, the inmate went straight for the food but couldn’t gather the courage to swim across the pool to the refrigerator. Trying to look like he intended to do it all along, he picked up one of the sentry bears. I tried to make him eat it, since it’s what a coward deserves, but the only option was renaming it. Very well. Dark Lord the teddy bear, meet Subject Beef, the pussy.
I soon learned there was a flaw in my design schematic. The wall of propane barbecues wasn’t baby proof, and Turbo Sexaphonic squeezed right through them. Subject Beef stood over the toddler and, to its delight, chose to speak to him through the Dark Lord. He did this for 14 hours without interruption. Then he put the doll down and walked directly through a barbecue for no other reason than to show me he could. The sun was setting on day one, and the three of them already seemed to be making progress on an escape plan.
How far would you go to survive? Subject Beef had to make a choice–cross his deadliest enemy, a pool, for food, or let his metabolism eat his body down to a recognizable shape and slow death. He was content with option B, so I clicked the wall of gas stoves that recently replaced the very pregnable barbecues and told him to make food for himself and the baby. He ignored this command, so I ordered him to Talk to Self, hoping he’d be more convincing. He had a violent conversation with no one, changed into hot pants, and jumped in the pool. While shouting the international symbol for “I am drowning,” he swam across for macaroni and cheese.
This experiment showed us two things: 1) survival instincts are more powerful than phobias; and 2) diapers are not to be used with macaroni and cheese. I’d like to see you try to prove either of those with ethics.
Observation: Subject Beef eats all his meals on the toilet, his body acting like a steady pipeline of disaster. If I didn’t know better, I’d say it’s almost like he’s trying to get back at water. You stupid fool, water isn’t your enemy. Your enemy is me: science.
While the test subject had dinner boiling on the stove, I interrupted to issue an order for him to go kick over a gnome. It was a test to see if his absurd surroundings were having any effect on his short-term memory. They were. With the adrenaline rush of the fresh gnome kill, he forgot all about his dinner, now a roaring wall of flame. His artificial behavior circuits analyzed the situation and selected “panic.”
The baby was trapped safely away from his aimless panic inside the burning ring of ovens. Also, trapped safely away from the fire was the local fire department, whose robot brains could only watch the facility burn from the other side of the tiny but robotically unbreachable fence.
How did they get there so quickly? Well, apparently there’s a malfunction with my compound’s toilet alarm that causes it to go off during fires. I may have to reread the directions on some of this equipment.
After the fire burned itself out, a child services woman named Linda Duran magically appeared and sent Turbo Sexaphonic away. My experiments were going badly enough without interdepartmental meddling. To make matters worse, the government’s demonic use of sorcery went haywire when facing off against my fence technology. The toddler was warped away, but Linda was stuck.
Pinned to one spot, she refused to interact with Beef or me, almost as if the game forgot she was there. But Beef still knew. He refused to use the bathroom from the moment she arrived. He howled a picture of a toilet at her over and over, and she responded by staring through him until his bladder detonated where he stood. Just to fuck with us, she showed she could move the whole time, and turned her back to give Beef privacy while he mopped up his shame.
I’ll have to watch out for this woman… she’s pushing his fragile mind in directions I don’t have protocols for. Speaking of, since the government took the child away, I began removing toys from the home while Beef sleeps. I want him to think that maybe the kid was never there to begin with, which seems like an inadequate mind game now that ghosts are forcing him to pee on himself.
Our anomaly Linda glitched more or less peacefully through the compound for a day and, despite her only partial existence, it seemed like she could still smell Subject Beef since she pantomimed disgust whenever he got close. But maybe if Linda doesn’t like the smell of fire-roasted pee, she shouldn’t have fucking locked herself in a ToiletZone with a clown afraid of showers while she was stealing our baby!
Luckily, Subject Beef had a plan. Remember, I programmed Beef to be a genius and a computer whiz, so he figured out a way to get rid of Linda when I couldn’t: deliberately starting a house fire.
Linda and nearly everything in the facility was destroyed by flame, except for the immaculate toy oven in the kitchen. It’s so not an oven that it couldn’t even start a fire while an inferno crawled over it. It’s so not an oven that its momma has to brown toast with a paint roller! It’s so not an oven that it thinks a pilot light lets you read while you fly the plane!
I might have overestimated my ability to control this world. The gateless fence continues to wreak havoc on the lives and intentions of the other artificial intelligences in the game. The neighborhood paper girl appeared in the ToiletZone for only a moment to howl from between worlds and vanish.
If I was a scientist in the real world, I wouldn’t be allowed to keep filling endangered species with different smokeless propellants until I found the one that ignites from inside a panda. But in the Sims 3, if I want to test a floor sealant, there’s no regulation against forcing a fat clown into a mirrored booth where he watches himself wet his pants to death. I found that there is also no regulation on the human spirit, even a video game simulation of it.
Day after day went by, and Subject Beef stood in that booth and refused to die. He babbled at the mirrors, glared at a bunny painting when I told him to, and every two minutes he would try to perform an activity described as “Contemplate Surroundings.” I had my finger on the trigger to click that away as quickly as possible. If he figures a way out of this, I fully expect him to be standing behind me in my world. I designed the booth to be inescapable, but I don’t trust that word anymore. I noticed four of the gnomes in charge of watching him on the toilet had left their post to surround his isolation booth. I don’t remember doing this, b-but I must have, right?
The subject survived over six days (his time) inside the booth with no water, food, or sleep. The strange thing is that at the moment of his death, he still had a full Fun Bar, which is technical jargon for a bar computerized beings use to measure how much fun they’re having. What did he enjoy about his slow starvation in a vertical coffin? I’ll tell you one thing: If it’s not the idea of killing me, then I’m a shitty scientist.
The Grim Reaper descended onto the corpse and made him into a ghost, which did wonders for the 380 pounds of baby fat he was still carrying. The slimmer, undeadier Subject Beef floated through the smoldering ruins of his former prison, and as I turned the game the fuck off, as if that would save me from this cybercurse… I could have sworn for a moment that I saw Linda.
When you create a Sim, it records a copy of them. This allowed me to go back to the menu and start the game over with a fresh genetic clone of Subject Beef and Turbo Sexaphonic. With science marching along next to me, I moved them into the burned-out, haunted remains of my old facility to recreate our grand experiment. What happened next is a true story: the clone rummaged through the trash for exactly 25 hours, then ran to the pool to sink and die. It’s like the first thing he did after being created was remember what I had done. Going over all this data, I can conclude that science and all the dark-sided Gozar-summoning magic it brings with it can kiss my ass.