Paying to dirty and clean up your (Sims) house

Players of The Sims can now pay for the ability to dust and vacuum their homes in the game:

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

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.

The home of the future will be controlled by your smartphone?

A report from CES 2013 suggests the smartphone could unlock the potential of the wired home of the future:

There will be some 24 billion connected devices by 2020. That figure certainly doesn’t seem beyond reach given the number of smartphones out there (300 million shipped in the first half of 2012, according to Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs) and the number of connected devices and appliances seen at CES 2013. The theme of LG’s entire booth, for example, was “Touch the Smart Life.” The Korean company had 20,000 square feet of space dedicated to showing people how appliances that can communicate with the web, and one another, will transform their lives for the better. Dozens, if not hundreds, of other booths stretched across the North and South halls of CES showed how this “world of tomorrow” technology is here now, in everything from web-connected TVs to vacuum cleaners…

Your smartphone or tablet is perhaps the best, most capable and feature-filled TV remote control on the market, if you don’t mind that it doesn’t have easily tappable gummy buttons…

For home appliances, a mix of apps and proximity-based technologies like NFC will let you start your washing machine remotely, give you vital stats about what’s going bad inside your fridge and even check on that roast in the oven…

And whether you’re focused on energy efficiency or just want to set the right mood, your smartphone can take the place of light switches and thermostat buttons — and then some.

In my mind, this seems like a shortcut to the wired home of the future promised decades ago. The best way to do this would seem to be to have everything hardwired: lights, security, sound, etc. Of course, this is best done at the construction of the home as it is cost prohibitive later. This goes a different route: every device has to be wired and then controlled by a central hub. Alas, no indication here about the cost for these upgraded home items or what happens if you lose your smartphone.

I see the benefits of some of these devices. On the other hand, some seem quite frivolous. A vacuum cleaner controllable from your phone? Do consumers need a refrigerator that tells them when food is bad as opposed to being able to look through the refrigerator? In the long run, would these devices save time on housework or give a householder more to keep track of? This was the promise decades ago with new appliances but time spent on housework has not been reduced dramatically.