TV

We recreated this year's 'Love Island' using 'The Sims' and things got very weird

It all went a bit Lord of the Flies

It would’ve taken you approximately 37.5 hours to watch this series of Love Island, which is basically a day and a half of your life, and you could’ve turned off after the first five minutes when Jack coupled up with Dani, because of course they were always going to win.

The conceit whereby they could split or steal the £50k prize money was rendered entirely pointless, given that Adam - who was massively hated and went out weeks ago - will earn a reported £300k from his two month tour of the UK’s scuzziest nightclubs, and that Jack and Dani would’ve immolated an extremely lucrative future as this generation’s Richard and Judy right there and then if they’d have broken up over fifty grand.

The producers had tried their best to tear them apart. They introduced Jack’s ex-girlfriend halfway through, showed Dani misleading footage of his reaction, and then later subjected them to a bogus lie detector test, but it was to no avail. Ultimately, there was no jeopardy, and the final was a bit of a dud.

So I redid the show in The Sims 4. 

Some housekeeping:

-First of all, the villa was lovingly crafted over seven hours by Georgina Moulsdale, a Tweeter who appeared to have many more expansion packs than I could reasonably expense, and so her realisation of the environment was a lot more complete than I was able to realise.

- My versions of the contestants, however, were crafted over about an hour of desperately trying not to let anyone else in the office clock me editing computer generated women into pixelated bikinis. 

- The Sims 4 really doesn’t give you that many different types of option for hairstyles. I thought I’d got Jack’s vibe pretty much nailed on, but then it turned out I’d actually somehow given him a ponytail. As such, their likenesses might not be entirely accurate - either because the options for customisation weren’t good enough, or I wasn’t good enough.    

- I started this before New Jack, New Laura, Alex and Alexandra got dumped.

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- Look-wise, the islanders are all (almost - the pink doctor aside) equally conventionally attractive, and all (almost) equally attracted to one another. This is vital. The ideal villa would be made up entirely of people who were all each other’s ‘type on paper’, thus allowing for limitless pairings, couplings that could change at the turn of a kaleidoscope and still work together. It also means that objectively beautiful people regularly get ‘dumped’, their beauty having been rendered moot.

At surface level, (almost) every islander has a virtually identikit personality. They are either people who work in a gym or people whose main hobby is ‘going to the gym’ or they get to be models because of how well they’ve honed their bodies at the gym. And (almost) all of them want to find The One and settle down, despite being randy beautiful people in their early twenties.

The variables are minimal. They are conventionally beautiful people looking for conventional relationships. They are nonspecific avatars, blank canvases for us to project our specific standards for love onto. They are default Sims characters, with their physical attributes set to the maximum, their traits reduced to crude brush strokes like ‘sporty’, ‘nice’, ‘joker’, ‘family-orientated’ and ‘romantic’, their life aspiration set to ‘Finding The One’ and then forced to live together, to see what happens. To see what love is. 

- I am giving the islanders complete autonomy, but also enough Simoleons that they don’t need to get into careers that might get in the way of their lovemaking. Last pair standing wins.

Week One:

The first few days are something of a disaster. In Love Island, the phrase “get to know” - as in, “I’d like to get to know you” - is a not-even-thinly-veiled invite to initiate a merciless back-and-forth flirtation that escalates until you’ve both been sent to the Hideaway for a steamy session of under-the-covers night-vision fondling (also known as: “doing bits.”) In The Sims, it seems to mean literally attempting to get to know someone, which results in the islanders disinterestedly asking each other about their hobbies and then walking off.

Happily, a number of the islanders are interested in cracking on with the same people as irl, but unlike irl, no one acts on their desires and risks so much as a cursory flirt. Except Alex, who asks Old Laura about cars.

As a result, nobody couples up. They all sleep one to a double bed, or on the sofas. Worse still, they become increasingly and alarmingly isolated in their behaviour. Dani seems intent on dancing on her own for hours in the garden. Paul sits by the pool staring forlornly at his own reflection. Kaz eats a bowl of cereal and cackles to no one. Megan sits motionless on a chair for hours. Wes develops a worrying habit of eating through the night, before going into the garden to drink by himself. He doesn’t sleep for days.

Things take a turn around day four, when several of the toilets, showers, sinks and fridge all break overnight, and none of the islanders take it upon themselves to attempt repairs. To his credit, Alex undertakes the responsibility of cleaning the dirty water cascading from the burst pipes, but he can’t mop as fast as they leak, and gets stuck in an infinite loop of mopping. The islanders struggle to contain their bladders before giving up on washing, electing instead to wallowing in their own filth. Apart from New Jack, who keeps falling asleep in the hottub.

In a scant week for sauciness, Kaz throws Caroline Flack a bone to pick over on Aftersun. She begins a quite disturbing habit of standing beside Josh’s bed, watching him until he wakes up, and switches places with Alexandra, who Kaz continues to watch. It’s a strange and sordid act, a sort of tantric ménage à trois. Meanwhile, Alex looms over New Laura, staring at her longingly, and then promptly pisses himself.

Dumped: N/A

Remaining: Wes, Megan, Josh, Kaz, Alex, Alexandra, Old Laura, Paul, New Laura, New Jack, Old Jack, Dani

Week Two:

Kaz sets herself alight attempting to make grilled cheese. Instead of rushing to her aid, her fellow islanders leg it to the fire exit, a move that reflects particularly badly on Wes, who watches her burn for quite some time before fleeing. Alex returns to grab his lunch. It’s up to Cool Paul, who waits for the exact moment she collapses dead to extinguish the flames. Some might call it a gameplan. Whatever the truth, the villa’s had its first dumping.

Dumped: Kaz

Remaining: Wes, Megan, Josh, Alex, Alexandra, Old Laura, Paul, New Laura, New Jack, Old Jack, Dani

Week Three: 

There is a tangible change in the villa, although only Dani seems to actually acknowledge Kaz’s passing. Most significantly, with the oven reduced to ash, the islanders have no way of cooking food.

A traumatised Wes walks the perimeter of the villa and spends days losing his mind in front of a wall, presumably racked with guilt, reliving the moment he watched Kaz incinerate before his eyes.

During the fire, Megan and Josh somehow managed to glitch themselves behind a sofa - perhaps in fright - and they’ve been stuck there ever since. Their other islanders do not attempt to help them but do come over and chat to them, even going so far as to sit on the sofa that now makes up their prison. I think about intervening, but the game still thinks the villa is on fire for some reason, so no furniture can be moved. Their trappings should provide a decent opportunity for the pair to crack on, but they row constantly and terribly, largely because Megan insists on talking about tanks.

A weird little boy named Christopher Garrett inexplicably turns up at the villa and talks to New Jack, and then - disturbingly - starts trying it on with Alexandra.

Eventually, Wes dies of starvation. Megan and Josh follow suit, but because of their sofa-limbo situation, they simply disappear. That’s Kaz, Josh, Megan and Wes dumped - almost eerie given they constituted two actual couples in the villa.

It all goes very Lord of the Flies. Then New Jack succumbs to starvation. As does Alex, who snuffs it as a nonplussed Christopher Garrett walks past, taking the bins out in his pants(?). I think he’s moved into the villa permanently now. I don’t know who allowed this.

Old Jack throws caution the wind and assumes Josh and Megan’s position behind the sofa, putting something of a spanner in the works for Jack and Dani to live up to their real-life counterparts. Their chances take a further battering when Dani collapses dead. I didn’t manage to catch it, but I swear Old Jack disappeared from behind the sofa at almost the exact same moment. It was very beautiful, as though they each had a piece of each other’s heart in their own, their half-lives elapsing together. I swear.

Finally, there’s a shock return to the villa for Kaz, whose ghost attempts to fight New Laura for reasons I couldn’t work out.

Dumped: Wes, Megan, Josh, Alex, New Jack, Old Jack, Dani

Remaining: Alexandra, Old Laura, New Laura, Paul and Christopher Garrett

Weeks Four to Six

I suspect irreparable damage has been done to the game since the sofa glitch as the remaining islanders are now completely unable to sleep, eat or urinate.

There is now a fatal-fourway for the Love Island crown, including the trio of Paul, Old Laura and Alexandra - who were at one stage, a real life love triangle. New Laura is the wildcard.

Old Laura has done herself no favours by getting trapped under a stairwell due to another glitch. Given New Laura has no pre-existing connection with Paul, there was a golden opportunity for Alexandra to swoop in and claim victory. In something of a surprise, she has instead become overcome with grief for Alex, attending his urn every day and night to mourn. He does not deserve her.

Meanwhile, New Laura and Paul decided to spend every waking hour stood in adjacent bathroom cubicles containing broken toilets. Whisper it quietly, but their might be something in the air, and it’s not just the visible stench marks emanating from the pair, could it be… love?

A lot of time elapses and the islanders become pensioners. For some cruel reason, the game only issues notifications about Old Laura growing older, taunting her with time. Alexandra eventually leaves Alex’s side and spends her Autumn years paddling her feet in the pool, until she gets up one last time, lies down peacefully, and finally sleeps the final sleep. Shortly afterwards I get a notification that Old Laura is “dying of old”, which seems entirely personal and unnecessary. It’s a good innings though, outliving all but one of her juniors in the villa.

I don’t know where Christopher Garrett has gone, or when he left, but he is no longer in the villa for personal reasons. We ask you to respect Christopher’s privacy at this time.

Dumped: Alexandra, Old Laura, Christopher Garrett

Remaining: New Laura, Paul

Week Seven

In a completely unforeseen turn of events, New Laura and Paul take the title. I instruct them to leave their toilets to celebrate. They stand at the entrance and don’t even acknowledge one another other. After a lifetime, Paul’s bladder finally gives way, and he defecates next to her.

If you’ve seen Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster, then you’ve seen a series of Love Island, and vice versa.

Singletons scramble to find their true soulmate within a set period of time, and within a confined space, or else they will be ‘killed’ (‘dumped from the villa’ in Love Island terms.) Outside adjudicators (the tyrannical managers of The Lobster, the tyrannical general public in Love Island) decide whether their pairings are genuine. If a couple are judged to have fabricated their connection, they are killed/dumped. They are both explorations of a society that demands absolute faith to monogamy, that sets rigid parameters on what constitutes love, and that discards the lonely as abject failures.

Love Island asks the viewer to contemplate what we think ‘love’ is, and which of the couples exhibits the closest approximation to it. Jack and Dani were put on this earth to find each other on reality TV, and we were there to witness the beginning of future history, a light entertainment dynasty passed down from the heavens as a gift to primetime telly.

Their union is almost too perfect - two ethereal beings destined to spend eternity dancing in each other’s light. It’s not a love the majority of us schmucks know, or will ever likely experience.

In some ways, I feel like my villa had a more a perfect ending. It contains what this obsession with finding ‘love’ amounts to? Coupling and recoupling, constantly having to revise your partner based on life’s circumstances, until you have to settle for whoever’s left, just so you’re not alone in the end.

When Alexandra’s Sim gave up on Alex’s ashes - a man who, in death, in a video game, could reciprocate her affections about as much as he did in real life - she was able to live out her final days in blissful contentment, at peace with her own company.

But for the sake of the format we have to believe that this is a fate worse than spending your remaining existence in the company of someone you can’t even bear to look, standing in a puddle of their own urine. Otherwise finding The One wouldn’t seem so important. And if we thought that, then it would be inconsequential to win Love Island.

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