In March, EA released new ways to enhance your Sims 4 experience called “kits,” which are more scaled down and less expensive than the game’s other downloadable content packs. Two of those kits, Country Kitchen and Throwback Fit, are pretty straightforward furniture and clothing packs that add new customization options to the game. In The Sims, you are essentially keeping these virtual people alive and designing their entire existence, from clothing to homes—these kits just offer a little more variety. But Bust the Dust is a little different than the rest, in that its primary purpose is to make your Sims’ lives dirtier. “Dust off the vacuum and tidy up in The Sims™ 4 Bust the Dust Kit!” the kit’s description boasts, making a mockery of the exclamation point by using it to try to sell one of the very worst IRL chores…
What makes Bust the Dust unusual is not just that it adds the new element of household grime to the game, but that it also only adds the new element of household grime to the game. Roaches and dog poop are very minor features of the aforementioned expansion packs, and even a more narrowly focused pack like Laundry Day, which gives your Sims the ability to wash their clothes, comes with a bunch of furniture and some new looks.But Bust the Dust isn’t interested in bells and whistles. It’s just … dust.
Maybe that’s not totally fair. The kit also provides vacuums you can buy (to bust the dust) and new character aspirations (so your Sims know how to feel about the dust and busting it). But mostly, paying $5 gets you a bunch of virtual dust, which accumulates over time on the floors of your Sim’s house, both in a thin coating and in interactive clumps around the room. Early reviews last month complained that the dust accumulated way too quickly—within a matter of in-game hours—but it took around two and a half in-game days for my house to go from clean to dusty. My Sim was thrilled when this happened, because it made the house feel “homey,” and presumably because Sims can’t have asthma. Around this time, a dust bunny moved in and became a kind of companion that you can feed (it eats dust) and pet (which again, is sentient dust).
One of the marks of adulting is the need to clean up after yourself. Dishes need to be washed. Laundry needs to be picked up, cleaned, and put away. Bathrooms need scrubbing. Dusting and vacuuming need to be done.
So why try to replicate this in a game? I suppose this is the point of the franchise: to simulate daily life. The various Sim titles over the years have replicated city building, ant life, towers, and more for multiple decades. Isn’t cleaning up part of daily life just as building water pipes?
Perhaps the odd thing here is paying for the luxury of doing this. The “Bust the Dust” is an add-on. And was this the plan all along: to get more money from users for the ability to clean? There are some people who like to clean. Some who will want the complete simulation. Others will want the twists here (you can feed the dust bunnies?). Some might have never known they wanted this until it became an option.
The commodification of the world continues: you can play a computer game where you pay to dirty and clean your house. Does it inspire players to stop the game and clean their own house? Does it stimulate the imagination? Maybe it is just fun to take what is often a mundane task and play it out on a screen.