Effing Stacy Ferguson
I’m wearing a day-glo pink pimp suit, watching apl.de.ap take a shit, and wondering what the fuck happened to my Friday night.
This is not real life. Fortunately for all parties involved, this is the universe of a nearly decades-old EA/Maxis game for the Playstation 2 titled The Urbz: Sims in the City. Now normally console Sims games are about as fun as a round of seven minutes in heaven at your grandma’s wake, but this game is different. As I re-discovered while sorting through shit to move into a new apartment, all four members of the Black Eyed Peas are NPCs. NPCs your sim can interact with like any other character within the game.
For some reason fifteen year old me found this completely normal when purchasing The Urbz-with-a-z. Yet it seems deeply strange to me now why anyone, especially a famous person, would volunteer themselves as NPCs in a game known as the world's foremost murder-fuck simulator. We’re talking about a game series best known for players creating precise digital replicas of their bosses in order to entrap them in empty concrete rooms to watch them piss themselves and starve to death. (Note to all future employers: I would never starve a digital replica of you.) (I'm more an arson girl.)
Back in high school, when that sort of thing was popular, a friend telling me "I made you in the Sims today” always turned my blood to ice. Somebody making a Sim version of you is not unlike them telling you they made a voodoo doll out of your dandruff and toenail clippings recently— sure, they could sit that doll atop a tiny throne of cashmere-upholstered platinum, but they could also spend all day making it bump uglies with voodoo Grover Norquist. And you have absolutely no control over it. That is disturbing on a fundamental human level— even if it’s not your actual body/flesh/self, someone toying with a representation of you is fucking creepy. So why would someone like Fergie, whose career relies heavily on how many people masturbate to thoughts of her on a daily basis, opt to take those fantasies to another level and make a digital version of her available to be fondled and fucked by anyone with a Playstation 2 and a dream?
I decided to find out. By, you know, fucking her.
Hep cat that I am, I opted to spend my Friday evening coaxing my wheezing PS2 into running The Urbz so I might have a crack at dat (virtual) ass. The game greeted me with the Black Eyed Peas bombastically ignorant 2004 hit “Let’s Get Retarded,” with all of the lyrics translated into Simlish. Oh, right. That’s the game’s soundtrack. Black Eyed Peas songs (some recognizable singles, some tracks I assume are their lesser-known “I guess we have to let Taboo write one” pity-the-Ringo toss-offs) with the lyrics all altered to mush-mouthed gibberish. Honestly, it’s kind of an improvement.
I start a new game and arrive at the “create-a-Sim” menu. After sifting through the bare-bones options I design a pale, chubby dude-Sim named Plucky. From there Plucky is whisked away to his small, sparsely decorated apartment, which doubles as the tutorial level. I would discuss the tutorial further, but the Sim who explains the game to Plucky is a member of the Black Eyed Peas who I cannot, for legal reasons, discuss in this publication, so I will instead refer to him as NEO and refrain from mentioning him more than is absolutely necessary. Anyway, NEO explains the game’s stupidly easy mechanics, and Plucky’s sent off to the first real “level” of the Urbz.
Let me backtrack: the Urbz isn’t the usual “build a nice house and a nice family and destroy them” game the Sims name evokes. Rather you build a single Sim, have a shitty apartment foisted on you and travel from level to level, acting sycophantic and forcing people to like you. That’s the point of the game. To become popular. Each level is inhabited by sims who fit into urban stereotypes determined by aliens who have never once been to an Earthling city: you have your skaters, your goths, your prissy rich people, and your rooftop dwelling ferret-wrangling MDMA abusers, among others. I started Plucky off in the level primarily inhabited by the Black Eyed Peas and immediately set him on his goal of nailing Fergie.
Step one in boning Stacy Ferguson of the Black Eyed Peas: tickle her, I guess?
Interactions in the Urbz are color-coded. Green-colored interactions mean go for it, interactions written in yellow text mean it might work, and red interactions are almost guaranteed to blow up in your face. The only green-colored interaction Plucky had under the “act friendly” heading for Fergie was “tickle.” “Brag” and “joke” were both in yellow, and Plucky isn’t exactly a looker—better play it safe. So Plucky tickled Fergie like, 18 times. They became fast friends.
It’s worth noting that in the same strange velvet-covered bar which takes up most of the Peas’ level, (called Cozmo Street, motto: “Keepin’ it original!”) (I know, too easy) while plucky was putting the moves on Fergie, apl.de.ap and NEO were playing electric gutair at each other. And then, somewhere between hugs twelve and thirteen, something genuinely surprising happened. apl.de.ap slapped NEO across the face.
Well, I thought, that’s not good PR. Aren’t bandmates supposed to be friends? Wouldn’t the point of injecting your band into a video game be making people like you more, rather than assume you’re all in-fighting jerks? No matter. Moments later, gambling on a yellow-colored interaction, Plucky saw his first major victory. He kissed Fergie. AND THE CROWD GOES WILD. Actually, they didn’t. Instead, NEO rushed over and slapped Plucky. Slapped him! Moments after apl.de.ap slapped him in the face. Truly, violence is a cycle.
Actually this brought up a strange point: traditionally, Sims only get pissy at sims mackin’ it in public if one of the mack-ees is the slap-happy sim’s love interest. Am I to believe Fergie and NEO are dating in this universe? Is that Black Eyed Peas canon? Is Monkey Business the Peas’ Rumors? This is what happens when you let digital versions of real people run free. You leave me to wonder if there isn’t actually some deeply broken-hearted subtext to “My Humps.”
Leaving these Important Questions unanswered, Plucky instead turned his focus to his next mission: buying a double bed. See, Sims aren’t like you and I, they can’t just get it on in bathroom stalls and empty subway cars and McDonald’s ballpits. To get your groove on, so to speak, you need a bed. Fortunately the level after Cozmo Street was Diamond Heights, land of the rich and effeminate, and the place where the most money could be made in the shortest period of time. Within half an hour Plucky made enough cash from modeling (modeling!) to afford a simple double bed and the fluorescent pink suit I mentioned in the intro. Plucky rushed back to his apartment, dropped the bed in the middle of the living room, and booty called Fergie on his Blackberry-esque cellphone. The conversation was in Simlish, but I’m hoping Plucky just spoke the first verse of “Hey Mama” in asking Fergie—Fergie, the singer, the pop star Fergie who sims can just casually call up to hump and dump— to swing by for a quickie. Moments later digital Fergie, clad in a midriff-exposing yellow sweater and pageboy cap, showed up to Plucky’s apartment.
And that’s when I realized they couldn’t fuck.
See, usually you can just click the bed and order your Sims to lay on it together. After they get comfy, the option to bone presents itself. (Developer Maxis has chosen to use the phrase “woohoo!” as the Sim euphemism for “fuck senseless.”) This option was not made apparent to me. After some Googling, I discovered the Urbz is the one fucking Sims game where your options for who you can and cannot sleep with are limited. Players only have something like seven NPCs they can bone— the rest are off-limits. The Black Eyed Peas are on the no fly list.
Disheartened at the premise of this article basically being shot, Plucky trudged back to Cozmo Street. And just stood. And watched. Back in the real of the digital Peas, I watched the digital surrogates of actual pop stars right around the peak of their fame do banal, digital-people shit. I watched apl.de.ap use the bathroom. I watched Taboo play dice with another NPC. I watched various bandmates gossip about each other behind their backs. It felt like a strange, Bradburian zoo— watching famous people fufill basic human needs too insipid for even the basest reality TV to broadcast, because it’s simply dull. I probably watched Taboo eat six or seven meals, by himself.
Reflecting on it now, perhaps Fergie didn't mind offering up her digital body for some 14 year old's avatar to smooch when she already realized countless dudes and ladyhomos already fondled their very non-digital genitalia to thoughts of her doing filthy sexual deeds no Maxis programmer could even imagine, let alone categorize under the heading "act romantic." After a few more hours of playing (I’d already sacrificed my Friday night, after all) the most aggressive Plucky was able to get with Fergie was “grab booty.” It’s exactly what it sounds like. And, let’s face it, it’s closer than I’ll ever get in real life.