Back in the nineteen hundred and nineties, Maxis released a game for pcs that I thought sounded like a heck of a lot of fun: SimAnt. I had played, and been impressed by, the original SimCity, so I was enthusiastically looking forward to a game that did the same thing but with an ant colony. My inner science nerd was way more advanced than my inner city planner, you see, and I wanted nothing more than to control an ant city located deep under a human lawn. Designing the tunnels, the pupa rooms, the food storage rooms, the great chambers that hold the aphids which are used by ants as sort of stock animals which they milk and farm. You know, all of that wildly spectacular stuff that ants really do!
Maybe SimAnt would even go the extra mile, I hoped, and allow the player to choose which kind of ant you play as, and have appropriate settings. Would you choose the Bullet Ant colony of South America? Would you have a sound button used to rally your friends and call them to battle? Would you have a fiercely venomous bite and your only enemy is tribal people who would collect you for their own coming of age rituals? Would you choose a Carpenter Ant and dismantle the trees around you? Will you not live underground at all and choose to be an African army ant: the scourge of ALL in your path! You could be a Pharaoh Ant and use all of your cunning to infiltrate the kitchen of a house. Or will you merely select the Little Black Ant and live a small life quietly under a human’s lawn? Unfortunately, you can pretty much only choose to be such an ant as that. Although hopefully they will bring out a SimAnt 2012 or something that will have all of the biology-science and variety that I continued dreaming about there. Maybe a developer from that game company will see this article and steal my ideas! In just this one instance, I will allow it. I darn well ENCOURAGE it!
But what I got instead of all this scientific splendor and natural wonder was a game that I couldn’t immediately understand how to play. There were all these charts and graphs and little details to comprehend and tweak. I just wanted to play-pretend being a little ant, not be plunked down and expected to understand controls that would baffle even the gentle folk at NASA. As if that weren’t dismaying enough, there were these other ants being dicks to me. I knew how to dig tunnels and gather a little food, but that was not enough to allow my little colony to survive more than a day in game-time. And if I am just vastly gametarded, and the charts and this game were actually simple – and that IS a possibility – I do have another excuse: that damn spider.
The SimAnt spider was the worst of the SimAnt Enemies, and there were plenty. The first time I encountered it, I exclaimed, “WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT!?” But I knew. I knew instantly. That was a spider. And I mean, it was even a pretty scary spider to my human size. It is large on the screen with long spindly legs, and it moves in a way that fills me with a deep unreasonable dread. But, when I was sitting there pretending to be an ant, trying to get by in an ant’s world, thinking my best ant thoughts – that spider took on much more horrifying proportions in my imagination. It towered over me. It was fast. IT WAS HUNTING ME.
So SimAnt swiftly took me through the most terrible emotions I could experience: Disappointment at the lack of variety, bafflement at the controls and goals and general game play, stark arachnid terror, and the hollow sense of failure that follows just plain giving up. There was no way I could keep my mind clear enough to learn what needed to be done in order to succeed in that game when I was too apprehensive to leave the ant nest in order to forage. Sometimes I would just exit the game as soon as the spider floated onto the screen. I wouldn’t think, I would just turn it off and flail a little.
I consider this game to be a considerable flop in terms of bringing joy and entertainment. But I suppose as far as a game encouraging physical exercise via psychological terror, it is top of the line. Oh my god, with current game technology and graphics, maybe they SHOULDN’T make a new SimAnt. My heart couldn’t take the strain of living the simulated life of a simulated ant. And that fact makes me sadder than anything else has in a while.
This spider has a laser for some reason. I have never gotten that far in the game, of course. Thank god.
Amanda lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, and is a complete hermit in many respects, so if you find her out-of-doors, consider yourself lucky, Bucko!
Contact her: email@example.com
or maybe AIM: octocakes