It’s past midnight, and Motherboard’s editor in chief Jason Koebler can’t sleep. There’s a ghost downstairs, sure, but he’s already befriended several spectors today. One of them even gave him a cupcake. There’s just… something off about this house he lives in with my colleague Edward Ongweso Jr. The creaks in the stairs, the chill in the air… it makes it hard to get anything done at all.
The Sims 4 Paranormal Stuff Pack comes out today, and it adds new gameplay mechanics revolving around ghosts. I saw no better use for the pack than to inflict its ghouls on the facsimiles of my coworkers that I’d made for a previous article last year. You can hold seances, become a paranormal investigator (Motherboard’s Edward Ongweso requested that I make that his career), and meet and befriend ghosts that you invite into your home. What I like the most, though, is the addition of a new mood: scared. The Moods system was one of the much ballyhoo’d additions to The Sims franchise with the fourth entry. The idea is that certain behaviors are affected by Sims entering different moods. Sims that are feeling flirty are much easier at flirting and being flirted with; Sims that are Sad can’t flirt at all. In the past, Sims being frightened by things was often covered by catchall moods like “Tense” or “Uncomfortable.” In general, it didn’t ever feel like there were enough moods to track the complexity of how a person’s moods affect how they behave. Bundling scary things with Tense or Uncomfortable moods never felt quite sufficient.
Being afraid of things is more than just tension or discomfort. Over the past year, we have all become a lot more accustomed to fear; if it’s not a global pandemic, it’s a literal attempted coup. Just like the Sim of Jason, we have had to adjust to living with fear as a constant background vibration. And in The Sims 4, just like it often is in life, being Scared is contagious between Sims. After a long day of practicing his medium skills, Edward would often render Jason too scared to sleep from all the ghosts in the house (not to mention Bonehilda, a skeleton maid that arrived in a Flirty mood, doing body rolls in the corner while Jason and Edward ate dinner). I’d send Jason to bed, but he’d leap out of it, running down the stairs and out of the house, spreading his fear to an exhausted Edward by screaming at him.
Living like that, in a haunted house where angry ghosts are rattling the windows every night, is exhausting. Jason and Edward are often tired by six pm, barely shoveling their dinners into their mouths before taking a nap on the couch. It’s essentially the schedule I have now, where by the time I clock out of work I’m already changing into sweats and melting into the couch cushions. The Scared mood is the best realization of how moods work in The Sims 4 because you feel its after effects even when you’re not scared. An ever present film of fear over everything changes all aspects of how you live, even if the ghosts only come out at night.