The Liu Family: In Which Self-Discovery Becomes Self-Sabotage

The Lius are a happy family. They’re a segmented family, where the individual members usually split up and do their own thing, but a happy one.

Let’s save some time and document all of Aileen’s daily activities. Aileen is on the computer. Taking pictures of Aileen on the computer is not necessarily the most thrilling thing one could be doing. This irony is not lost on someone who spends hours playing The Sims 4.

For example, let’s take a time-walk through a normal day. Xiyuan and Aileen get woken up at bumfuck A.M. by Shu, who probably saw a monster under his bed and decided to rob his parents of precious sleep.

Here’s a confession: buff Xiyuan scares me. He can complete the Bodybuilder aspiration all he wants, but he has the heart of a scrawny introvert.

Their morning routine consists of leftovers whenever they feel like it, followed by mandatory Child Enrichment as dictated by she who has consciousness.

Look how smug this mofo is after beating his 6-year-old child at chess.

Let me clarify: before Shu came about, Xiyuan and Aileen spent all of their time in front of the easel and computer, respectively. Now Xiyuan is responsible for both working nonstop (by choice) and Child Enrichment. So rather than being a set of disorganized legos scattered on the floor, Aileen is an individual lego and Xiyuan and Shu are like when one of those really thin legos gets stuck to another lego and you break a nail trying to get it off.

As a natural consequence, Shu excels in his father’s areas of expertise. Painting, violin, and piano lessons are a daily occurrence.

This is maximally adorable, and I will never get tired of it

Here, we get a glimpse of the second-story Art Room: Xiyuan’s home-inside-of-home, his sacred space, where his soul comes alive and will eventually wither and die. (The rest of the house is really quite lovely, because it was designed by someone else.) The door behind them leads to Shu’s room. Both Liu boys spend most of their time in this room, in a near-constant state of extreme inspiration.

Before we leave the Art Room, allow me to share Xiyuan’s most expensive painting, Toast Cat.

Toast Cat: an exercise in postmodernist irony and contemporary meme culture

The extra parental attention is paying off: Shu has the willpower of someone who is going to go to an honors middle school, then a competitive magnet school, spend every summer at band camp, do 100000 extracurriculars, and eventually end up at the Sim equivalent of Juilliard.

This is turning into a self-roast.

At some point (because these dudes are Sims and get up at 4 AM regardless of employment status, mental health, age, or circadian rhythm), Shu goes to school, leaving his parents to exist in their separate, non-intersecting bubbles.

This is what is going on with Aileen. Aileen is on the computer.
He doesn’t move from this spot. There are two Converse-shaped divots in the carpet. Come to think of it, why is he even wearing shoes inside?

These two occasionally have to have breaks, and, aside from being all lovey-dovey around each other, choose between two extremes in their downtime. Extreme 1 is butchering utthita trikonasana:

Right now, I am repeatedly smashing my hand into the computer screen to hand this man a block

Extreme 2 is pretending to be social:

Mr. Spacesuit here is Case Su. He tried to hit on Claudia. He got shut down. He got shut down hard.

While his parents are out doing whatever, Shu is a model little boy: he can’t do his homework because it’s already finished, so he tends to practice instruments or paint until it’s time to put himself to bed. At 4 A.M. the next day, the cycle begins anew.

Now is a good time to clarify how this works. When we say “black comedy-drama,” it’s not black in the sense of spooky vampires running around murdering people, or having a main character whose tragic backstory maybe involves dead parents with some abuse thrown in for good measure. It’s more like, imagine a woman whose understanding of love changed after her wedding, and realizes after the honeymoon phase that she never really loved her husband, and grows to resent him more the longer she’s stuck in the relationship. Then she has to choose between finding a coping mechanism before she wastes away or getting a divorce for reasons she can’t really articulate, and either one of those might lead to her purposefully shutting herself in a sauna until she keels over. Or she could discover some deeper purpose and be fine; who knows? That’s more the general mood. If someone’s backstory involves dead parents, the parents are people you’re already intimately familiar with, and their death is going to happen right in front of your face, not in the background somewhere, and we have to watch them (the person with dead parents) deal with the death before we know they’re going to be okay. And nobody’s purposefully causing problems for the sake of it. Conflict only arises when someone’s actions suggest they’re unhappy, and they can then figure out a solution and decide whether to take action.

If the solution causes massive upheaval, so be it.

With that being said, let’s forget the big picture and zoom in on the details. Here’s one you already know: Xiyuan had an inordinate hell of a time finding a partner. While Mike was running around the club, he demonstrated interest in no one. He flirted with no one. No. One. He eventually ran into a randomly generated woman with somewhat compatible traits, and, even then, I had to force him to court her.

Sometimes breaking a large chunk of text with an image makes it easier to read.

Xiyuan did eventually open up to random romantic socials after he got married. He autonomously flirted with Aileen, and never flirted with any other women. But one day, when Shu was a toddler, Aileen caught Xiyuan autonomously hitting on a guy. (He was completing the Soulmate aspiration, by the way.) Yet the game categorized Xiyuan as 100% straight, so I wrote it off as a fluke.

Household life remained relatively stable for most of Shu’s childhood, aside from the huge fight. Then, I get up to pour another cup of tea during a routine hangout with Xiyuan’s best friend, Mike, and come back to Xiyuan being a little too complimentary about his quad progress. I had to spend the next hour practically tearing them apart from each other. That’s when it finally clicked.

Xiyuan wasn’t incapable of finding love. He was desperately in love with Mike! The source of jealousy had nothing to do with him being alone, and everything to do with the fact that Mike was taken. In context, then, his marriage to Aileen was a complete sham, something I forced him into, something that was never quite right. He was a deeply closeted man learning his mistake too late. But to end his torment, we would have to cause a lot of collateral damage in the process.

Many people find life-altering decisions are easier in a new sweater.

We were left with a tough decision to make: can he hold it together long enough for Shu to age up, or is it better to rip the adhesive medical strip off early? Will this situation be handled with the grace and tact of a human, or the lack of thought of a Sim? You already know the answer.

5 thoughts on “The Liu Family: In Which Self-Discovery Becomes Self-Sabotage

  1. Oh hell yes! I’m so ready for this. I’m such a huge fan of the more game-driven Simlits, cause they always give the most crazy, unexpected storylines that pose these super fun challenges for authors to have to find some way to make it fit for both the characters as well as the overall story. Your humor is phenomenal, so funny… the Lego analogy had me in tears. And the characters seem like entirely my cuppa tea, probably also for the main reason that they’re all messes and I like me a good mess. Your explanation of how this’ll be black comedy and how that’ll have nothing to do with any character’s sad and tragic backstory and abuse and what else do these current popular simlits tend to have? how many teen pregnancy runaway drug abuse abusive but hot bad boy boyfriend stories are there out there by now? I honestly lost count.
    Your story sounds like such a breath of fresh air and man, could I use one!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. OH MY GOD THE TEEN PREGNANCY HAHAHA

      A friend taught a course on supernatural literature exploring the different ways authors create tension and mystery to make a story feel supernatural, but 90% of her students were convinced supernatural=ghosts and would say stuff like “this isn’t supernatural because there are no ghosts.” Anyway—that’s how the Very Special Episode ones read to me, like someone tried to go for ‘supernatural’ by writing about ghosts. Like if right off the bat, a teenage character is like “oh no my boyfriend got me pregnant and now I want to kill myself.” Ok? Where’s the rest of your personality?

      Well, I mean, the game part is what makes SimLit SimLit, right? The interesting thing is that the characters have agency outside of the author’s imagination. Anything less is underutilizing the genre. Xiyuan, for example, knocks it out of the park quite early on. Knocks. It. Out. Of. The. Park.

      Like

  2. Ooh, plot twist! I did not see it coming (I figured the whole spending time alone as a segmented family is just them being introverted, as someone that’s once affectionately said my husband is the only person I can stand to be around for an extended period of time – intended as a compliment).

    This kind of gives me a Desperate Housewives vibe. Like that perfect licket fence life but with a skeleton in the closet. Should be interesting!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t see it coming either, really! Also assumed they were introverts. I’m lucky to have started documenting right at the point where Xiyuan became the beautifully insane bastard we know and love. You’ll see.

      Liked by 1 person

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