Creative jobs can be dreamy. They may offer or seem to offer dreamy things; things that can surface only as dreams in other jobs: engaging your curiosity and knowledge, materializing contents of your imagination, making something to love with love. We have entire television shows that let us watch others pursue their creative dreams.
In the United States, we’ve got American Idol, for example. Or Project Runway, or America’s Next Top Model. HGTV’s nearly erstwhile Design Star. Participants on such reality shows tend to arrive with experience under their belt, the pursuit already began, but the dominant narrative theme of such shows, predictably enough, places the crux of the pursuit within the domain of the show. The show is your ticket to Making It (if you Make It Work). Reality television participation becomes your job, and by law, only one person really survives, and even them, maybe only ephemerally.
Despite the precariousness of success for entrepreneurs, artists and artisans, the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity reported a burst in business start-ups in 2009, and Etsy stores just keep opening, as the un- and under-employed do what they can to try to make ends meet.
But dreams are easier to live in the virtual environment of The Sims, EA Games’ “strategic life-simulation” game. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, this is a computer game that lets you play various personas in a virtual environment. You make a character or two or more, bestowing upon each a name, skin color, gender/sex identity, particular facial characteristics, and personality traits. Then you buy your Sim a piece of property (we’re almost all landed individuals here), find a job (maybe in law enforcement or business or science or politics, for example), make a few friends, lovers and/or enemies and otherwise live your Sim’s virtual life. It’s kind of like playing an ensemble television cast or a playing with a dollhouse, depending on how you want to play and how you want to gender that play.
It used to be that you were more or less limited to playing your character in her off-work hours only.* Each job has particular hours, and while your Sim is at work, you can’t see him or control his actions. That changed a little this past June, with the release of the second expansion pack for the Sims 3, Ambitions. Not only did this addition to the game provide new career fields, it also introduced a new kind of career – a kind that made the Sim available for play at all times. Players can channel their inner Tim Gunn or David Bromstad by embarking upon a career as a stylist or architect (read: interior designer), for example, choosing what projects to take on and guiding Sims through those projects (e.g., giving makeovers, designing wardrobes or renovating living rooms).
In a world in which the unemployed are increasingly turning to entrepreneurial arts and crafts to get by, the Sims offers a much more promising environment for success. Creative types, listen up: not only is each Sim automatically entitled to about $16000 with which to start her life (buy a home, furniture and other life necessities/niceties), but look – the job market never tanks. There’s always room for one or one hundred more stylists or rock stars or sculptors in the Sim economy, and as long as you keep doing what you do, you’ll be rewarded continually with rising income and social status. We can all reach height of success in our dream jobs in the Sims. I’m not saying you won’t have a couple of years of shabby furniture and cereal for dinner when your Sim first starts out. It’s not that easy for Sims in the beginning. But in the Sims, you play the dream from start to finish. You pull yourself up by your friction-free bohemian bootstraps all the way, and the world around cannot stop you, not by economic inequality nor inadequate healthcare nor structural oppression. And no one ever has to pee in a bottle.
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