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University of Massachusetts Amherst

Family Business Center

The Only Perfect People Are Those We Do Not Know (anon.)

By Ira Bryck

As my both kids are fixated on controlling people's lives, manipulating them in such a cruel manner that they become depressed and ignore their own wellbeing, till they throw up their arms and plead for mercy, I decided to get in on the fun, and play Sims with them.

The Sims is the best selling video game in history. I personally invented it, but as I never patented, manufactured or marketed it, had to pay retail, and didn't get to enjoy the billions earned by "real" inventor, Will Wright. I new from the beginning that people would love creating fabulously successful, creative, fulfilled virtual people, or, for kicks, dysfunctional, desperate losers that make you look great by comparison.

My kids' thrill is building outrageous dream houses for Sim characters, which they engage in such knotted up relationships that they can't quite relax. With a home life like that, you'd think a Sim would lose oneself in work. But no Sim job makes quite enough money for the palaces they occupy, so my offspring enter "cheat codes" resulting in fortunes credited to their Sims' accounts…no work required.

Will Wright started as a designer of computer generated weapons of destruction that would decimate paradisal island populations he would also create. He become more devoted to the supreme task of maintaining his Edens than destroying them, and guessed the buying public would share the obsession of making life better for cyber-counterparts than they were managing for themselves in real time and space.

We own several Sim versions to create a self contained heaven or hell; but the next evolution, about to hit stores and our pocketbook, allows you to birth your counterpart into an online world, trying to co-exist and compete with the Adams and Eves of a million other consumer gods.

The goal of life as an Online Sim is to make your life so marvelous that others want to be around you, visiting your fabulous barbeques and dance parties. Based on attendance at your house, Big Brother rains some virtual moolah on you. If you're a virtual deviant, the worst that can happen is other Sims can throw you to the ground and stomp on you- but no jail or capital punishment, certainly no dollars from Sim Heaven.

As I lost the chance to be Will Wright when Will Wright beat me to the punch, I figure I'll orchestrate my next big scheme. Run personal and professional self-improvement seminars within the Sim Universe, so that Sims can achieve a level of contentment and competence that their creators have not found here on Earth.

Playing off the game's slogan "Be Somebody Else", I'll appeal to the Sims' desire to "Be Themselves", to see through their veil of illusion, and fully realize that they are simply a flawed creation of humans who are themselves unfulfilled, who've opted to create a perfect cartoon character, rather than cure what ails them in their love and work. Assuming their human creators have tried to not replicate their own pained egos within their virtual counterparts, the Sims will be much more open to change than even their own creators. All they really need to do is figure out how to gain access to the Personal Profile Creator, and re-configure their way to perfection.

But, seriously, I'm not going to do any of this. Will Wright would, no doubt, nip it in the bud, charging that I've illegally evolved
his utopia to the point nobody could enjoy manipulating beings superior to themselves, becoming despondent how difficult it is
to improve themselves, compared to the Sims' effortless personal upgrade.

So I think I'll stick with helping business owning families to make slow and steady improvements in their processes, perspectives and visions. Actual human beings find it hard to improve: no cheat codes filling bank accounts, no tweaking the Personal Profile Creator, no avoiding the voices in your head and tremors in your heart. And so much of where you end up seems like luck, in addition to non-stop hard work. And our random improvements seem so hit and miss, we might think they're not worth our time and effort. But in the end, you get to live those Improvements, and not have them frittered away by an inch high electronic figment.

There are no easy answers, but I'm so proud to be a part of even difficult solutions. I feel privileged to have my work be about helping real live people improve their lot in life, and enjoyment of it. But I give a lot of credit to the people who discover and realize that they want to make the effort to improve, in their work and their family.

I invite you to take a closer look at the UMass Amherst Family Business Center. It's no Sims, but that's a good thing.

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