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 that 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.

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

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

  • November 28, 2019 at 4:22 am

    This is my kind of soap. Also, life altering decisions ARE easier in a new sweater.

  • January 3, 2020 at 9:44 am

    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!

    • January 3, 2020 at 10:39 am


      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.

  • July 4, 2020 at 4:52 pm

    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!

    • July 5, 2020 at 12:04 am

      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.

  • July 17, 2020 at 7:32 pm

    Buff Xiyuan scares me too. I’m going to pretend I didn’t see that and continue to imagine this dude as the scrawny introvert I know him to be. Put a shirt on, dammit! What is it with Sims and shirts off, shoes on in the house?

    • July 18, 2020 at 12:22 pm

      He just chilling in his jammies. I do wish there were a no-shoes-in-the-house mod.

  • December 21, 2020 at 3:21 pm

    Oh my! I thought I commented long ago. Wow… this is pretty bad that I spaced off because I read at least three to four chapters at one time.

    Okay, rereading and recapturing my thoughts. Sometimes the Sims’ daily activities can be so monotonous. Haha. I suppose humans in reality do some pretty monotonous things too and I bet no one wants to really follow us around with a camera and wait for something interesting to happen.

    “Toast Cat” is worth 10,000+ simos?!? o_0

    Shu seems like a very intelligent child. 100,000+ extracurriculars sound exhausting.

    I think I have a mod that lets Sims sleep in if they want to, and because I find it incredibly annoying to wake up at 4am with my Sims.

    Oof! Yoga poses are pretty awful in TS4.

    “Sometimes breaking a large chunk of text with an image makes it easier to read.”
    ^^ This line is gold. The sarcasm is palpable.

    Sometimes Sims move painfully slow when finding a love interest. It’s so tempting to “fix” things for them because their lives are so short in comparison to ours. It’s a beautiful thing when you realize your Sims are capable of making their own decisions, but it’s sad when you feel like you’ve forced them to do something they really didn’t want to do. At least, I feel this way sometimes.

    I’m looking forward to the ensuing chaos and collateral damage. I hope Xiyuan can be true to himself.

    • December 22, 2020 at 5:44 pm

      Ahaha! Welcome back! (And I don’t mind if you don’t want to leave comments all the time: it’s cool enough that so many people know my sims.)

      Man, I don’t want to think of anyone following me around with a camera. They’d be pretty disappointed.

      Sims can be slow with romance, can’t they? Although, as you’re seeing, where closeted Xiyuan drags his feet, de-closeted Xiyuan has no chill and no patience for slow burns whatsoever. There’s a reason he has his own spinoff comic. I’ll say that much.

  • January 5, 2022 at 10:19 pm

    The new sweater is nice. I hope Xiyuan moves on quickly, and I wonder about Aileen. Is she chatting up someone on the computer? If she’s not that into Xiyuan anyway, he might as well see himself out to live his best life. He elevated Aileen from townie status and now they can have a clean break. Suffering to keep a marriage intact is probably overrated. Poor Shu, though.

    • January 5, 2022 at 10:24 pm

      My gosh, there’s so much to explore here and I did such a poor job of telling too much early on! But you’ll get some answers soon. Very soon. Including exactly what crap Xiyuan pulled to get his own spinoff webcomic.

  • May 23, 2022 at 10:43 am

    Bahaha @ children robbing parents of their sleep. Since. Pregnancy. and from then on…

    The Lego metaphor was wonderful. Very visual. Very… yikes. Aileen, hun, you did all the hard work of incubating a life, birthing life, and most likely feeding/having your sleep ruined by this life, only to have your husband’s genes and interest benefit this child. Girl, accurate.

    Aileen on the computer. You on the computer. I love how the irony isn’t lost.

    Holy fuck. I didn’t realize how fucking ripped Yuan was until his yoga sesh. Mother of pearl necklace me!

    Case Su looks like a very robotic Terminator who just got his love life terminated.

    Dear God, they let Shu stay home alone? How does that work? Like doesn’t CPS take kids away if there are no babysitters? This poor kid is putting himself to bed at 4 am after workaholic’ing on his hobbies to most likely get his father’s attention/keep his father’s approval. Fucking hell, you two, get a clue.

    WHOA the big reveal about Yuan. I mean if I hadn’t known from starting with Haunted. And holy shit it is in-depth! So, gameplay wise, how does one classify a sim’s sexual pref? Like I didn’t know that the game registered a sim as 100% straight, I thought it was up to how the player interacted the sim. Sorry for such a nooblet question but I find this fascinating. So, Yuan is realizing (or YOU are realizing) his sexual pref, but what about Aileen? Was she completely clueless this whole time? Did she go into this knowing deep down that this man is closeted but not caring b/c she’s getting something from this relationship that she couldn’t manipulate from a non-conventional marriage? Like I clearly have questions. But it seems that the question Yuan is/or isn’t struggling with is if he wants to keep this charade marriage going for the sake of his child. Gawd I hope not. Like if you feel that level of guilt, Yuan, ship your child off to boarding school, he’s clearly smart, and doesn’t need parents anyways, and after a year or so away, he comes back to pink pastel Yuan living his MOST FABULOUS life ever, yaaaaaaaaaaaaaas.

    This was awesome. Everything was hilarious. The story. Your remarks under the screen shots. It was brilliant. I love it. I really dislike gameplay style stories b/c they can be weighed down heavily with such mundane banality (I realize that using these words back-to-back is redundant… but I did so on purpose). However, absolutely opposite with your storytelling. You take the mundane and poke fun of it (satire), and then poke fun of yourself for poking it (comedy). Like your elements are flawless. There’s this part of me that wants to pull up my gameplay SS and run a short story with them b/c of your approach. I probably won’t but I am inspired <3

    • May 26, 2022 at 1:07 am

      Speaking of Very Yikes: YUUUUUUUP. I love Yuan; I adore Yuan; I obsess over him and he is my clear favorite; BUT IT IS STILL A SERIOUS ASSHOLE MOVE THAT HE MARRIED A WOMAN BECAUSE HE WANTED KIDS.

      Reading on, though, gah. I’m constantly having to learn how much of my childhood was not normal. You mean small children aren’t workaholic-ing 24/7 for parental approval? Does that not happen in some families?

      Ooh, ok, so sexuality in TS4 seems to be weird? First off it’s mutable. There are two separate attraction percentages, one for men and one for women. I think it starts off as 0% men and 0% women, which I’ll notate as 0/0: so a straight woman’s sexual orientation would be 100/0 and a straight man would be 0/100. Yuan was at 0/100 and yet he was still chasing the dudes. I’ll admit to side-eyeing this attraction scheme hard because even if all sims have the potential to be bi, they can’t maintain a bisexual orientation without having multiple partners of different genders, so, grr.

      All of these questions are so good that they were beyond my storytelling ability at the time. Which is why Haunted exists! To try and rectify the issue where I fucked it up the first time.

      And I also have no idea how to respond to such kind words—I’m embarrassed by the early stuff because I know what CT eventually turns into, so for someone to look at it with fresh eyes and enjoy it in a way I used to but can’t anymore… thank you. If you publish that gameplay story I’ll read it. You know that. Something with the German officiant or the thong ghost idk.

    • July 31, 2022 at 10:01 pm

      Tiny child magnet school workaholic Shu! All alone and stuck with his mom who is disillusioned and has no one else to talk to! Yay!

      Yeah—before they changed the sexual orientation system, the game had two separate ‘percentages’ of attraction, one for women and one for men, that went up or down depending on how the player controlled them. If I recall correctly, they both start at 0, then increase every time the sim interacts with a person of that sex. It’s hilarious. There is no reason at all for this to not be stored as binary yes/no for men or women, and, of course, if you are a bisexual author watching a bisexual character in a committed relationship slowly go either gay or straight, it is super funny because you’ve never had anyone challenge your orientation based on that hahahah nope never.

      As for Aileen, it’s going to be a while before we get to explore her take! It could be that she prioritizes other aspects of a relationship, such as financial stability and personal compatibility, over sexual satisfaction, and so she was able to overlook the crappy sex life because Yuan looks so good on paper. And with his shirt off.

      Like if you feel that level of guilt, Yuan, ship your child off to boarding school…

      Knowing what you know now about Yuan’s childhood, let’s appreciate the irony here. APPRECIATE IT!

      It feels so good to have someone enjoy early CT, because you’ve heard me complain about its drawbacks enough times to know I’ve gotten tired of it. Oh well! I had to make it in order to get where I am, and even if the storytelling is weak in some parts, I did have a lot of fun making it. And at one point I was proud of it. Thanks for helping me remember those times. (Also I’d totally read the gameplay short story. Wait. Is that what 3.04 turns into? IS THAT WHAT 3.04 TURNS INTO?!)


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: