07 December 2005

Sarah visualized as a Sim

Here is what I think Sarah would look like, if I were to meet her in person.

I used The Sims 2 to come up with this image of Sarah. In The Sims 2, which also happens to be the best-selling computer game of all time, the player creates Sims, or simulated people, and puts them through the grinds of daily life. In short, it's a virtual, intelligent dollhouse. The creation tools allow me to define Sarah's facial features in excruciating detail. I made sure that Sarah has pronounced browbones and jawline, as well as thick eyebrows and large nose, that give away her male past, yet when put together as a whole, she is still a very attractive woman.

Even though The Sims 2 is an extremely flexible game, there are still limits on what I can do. For example, I cannot simulate anything transgender on this game, so here, Sarah is a biological female; if she were to fall in love with a man, she can surely get pregnant and have a baby. Of course, I am making sure that this won't happen, since Sarah is a lesbian, just like in the novel.

The career options are also somewhat limited; Sarah does not have the option of entering the airline industry, as a flight attendant or otherwise. I decided to simply put her through the corporate ladder; she is now the Vice President of a mega-corporation, where I sit as the Business Tycoon. (Yes, I made myself a Sim as well - and a biological female too.)

In the game, Sarah is my roommate, sharing a not-so-small house together. Sarah is single, while I am in a civil union with another woman, who also lives with us. Sarah has a well-rounded personality, and her aspirations are to get as many friends as possible, hopefully to become the most popular woman in all of SimCity; I think this reflects Sarah's "people person" personality that is so crucial at her flight attendant position.

I can wrap Sarah in the latest fashions, such as the see-through tunic blouse and wide-legged pants seen here. (I could even indulge her in the whole leg warmer revival thing.) However, I can't dress her up in late 1990s fashions, such as wrap skirts, to simulate her early days of womanhood. I will have to edit the clothing graphics to come up with such looks, especially since I am myself a fan of the fashion of that era.

Due to the limitations of the game, I don't think I am able to use this virtual Sarah as a model to play out the storyline of my novel. Nevertheless, it's nice to have a visual image of what she looks like, and to give this virtual Sarah a personality mirroring the actual character's from my novel - and see how it works out.


gayle said...

This is so cool, Rachel! And quite similar to how I pictured Sarah! When I was getting my MFA, I took a seminar with Alice Sebold. She had us draw a picture of our characters with crayons. I was writing The Book of Dead Birds at the time, and drawing Ava helped me so much; it was the first time I was able to visualize her clearly. It's awesome that you've done this with Sarah.

Rachel said...


Thank you for sharing your experience... And as you point out, it makes the character, and the novel, more clear.

By having this virtual Sarah interact with other characters in the game, I get to "see" some aspects of how Sarah would react to certain situations. This game is notoriously accurate at portraying different personalities' reactions to given situations.

And I am sure that Ava would have been quite a distinctive, unique character to draw, from her black-Korean background to her inverted nipples.