It was a Monday night like any other. And by “any other,” I mean that I was standing in my kitchen, water all over my floor, soot all over my cabinets, my father with two holes burnt clean through his shirt, and an empty blender in my hand. At that moment, I knew one thing for certain: The Sims was to blame for this.
When I accepted this job at Gamepur, I had no idea it would be this hazardous. You see, I was wrapping up what should have been a simple article about Scenarios in The Sims 4, and the last thing I needed was a few pictures to go with it. The rest of my article was ready; it would be easy enough to hop on The Sims 4 for a bit and get the screenshots I needed before heading off to bed. The whole thing would take half an hour, tops. So, I loaded my game, made a few new Sims, and got started.
It began innocently enough, a couple of shots of unsupervised youths from Aliens Took My Parents, a few tantrum-throwing toddlers from Too Many Toddlers—but little did I know that the Scenario I really wanted to feature, Unlucky Chef, would nearly be my undoing. Had I realized what havoc I was about to wreak, on my Sims and myself, maybe I would have stuck with something a little safer.
I’m usually kind to my Sims. I don’t drown them en masse to see if I can fill an entire lot with ghosts. I don’t trap them in rooms full of cow plants and then take away the doors. I’ve heard if you have enough dirty dishes, your Sims can be eaten alive by flies… but I’ve never attempted it myself. However, sometimes exceptions must be made.
And this was one such occasion. I had an artistic vision, an image of the ideal screenshot that would perfectly capture the dangers of this Scenario. The image in my head was clear: A Sim on fire. And I would do whatever it took to get what I needed.
So, I started up the Unlucky Chef Scenario, unaware that my Sim wasn’t the only unlucky chef in my home. I commanded my tiny Sim chef to start cooking up a storm—grilled cheese, pan-seared fish, dumplings, and mac and cheese. Anything that I knew would involve the stove and might spark a fire.
With the help of the Unlucky Chef Scenario, I was able to start one fire, and then two, then three, then four. Fire after fire blazed in my Sim’s home (and rung up a hearty repair bill) as each one wasn’t quite right. The first was put out too quickly as my Sim possessed a surprising will to live and to save his furniture. On the second, I missed my moment and was unable to get him to strike the perfect pose. The third was too catastrophic, wrecking my Sim’s kitchen and nearly taking him out in the process.
Immediately after the damage was repaired and my Sim was no longer covered in soot, I made another attempt. Deep in my bones, I knew this would be the one. And it was. I paused and captured an image of my Sim on fire, panicked but not too panicked. Toasty, but not flambeed. In short, it was perfect. Exactly what I wanted.
All I had to do was get the screenshot into the article, and I could call it a night. Or, so I thought.
Just as I was about to pull up the draft of my article, I heard a noise behind me and casually turned my head to look into our kitchen. My eyes widened as I saw clouds of billowing black smoke enveloping the kitchen as my father was quietly batting at a flame roughly the size of my arm that was darting out of our toaster oven. I plopped my laptop onto the ground and instinctively blurted out, “Fire!” waking my mother, who was dozing on the couch. She went left, and I went right into the kitchen to see what exactly was going on.
In front of me, I saw the inferno in the toaster oven and a patch of fire on our floor, which was licking at our kitchen cabinets. Then I noticed that my dad was on fire. He was slapping at flames that had caught onto his shirt while stamping at the fire on the ground, but he was not accomplishing much more than melting the sole of his sneaker. I looked around and spotted our almost comically large blender sitting on the counter. All I had time to do was hope that the bottom of the blender’s pitcher was actually screwed on as I filled it with water. At some point, my mother had arrived behind me with a fire extinguisher, but she was unable to pull the pin out to activate it. Without thinking, I doused the scene in front of me, creating a massive puddle while putting out the flames
It was truly the most mind-boggling moment of life imitating art I have ever experienced. Even our movements, with the exception of the blender, were remarkably Sim-like, and I began to have a dim stirring of responsibility. Not, of course, for the way the fire had actually happened—that I am off the hook for— but perhaps for why it happened.
How it had happened was simple enough. Have you ever bought a box of hard shells for tacos? Have you ever noticed that on every box, there is written, in just slightly larger than small print, the warning “Do Not Put In Toaster Oven?” Well, I have. My dad… not so much. And it didn’t help that he’s got a bad habit of putting things in the toaster oven and leaving without setting a timer. That, coupled with the surprisingly flammable hard shells, was a recipe for disaster.
Luckily, things didn’t turn out too bad in the end. The toaster was, well, toast—but its replacement was already waiting to be assembled. The cabinets didn’t catch fire, which is good because they are from the 1970s and probably full of asbestos. The worst of the damage ended up being a scorch mark on the floor and the destruction of my father’s favorite shirt, which had two large holes burnt clean through it. My dad himself managed to avoid being roasted because he’s a big fan of layering. All the shirts he wore wound up, at a minimum, scorched, but he escaped unscathed. I decided that my article could wait until the morning.
Upon reflection, I think there’s a lot of things we can all learn from this. The first is to wear multiple shirts. Not only is it stylish and convenient for places with fluctuating weather, it might just save you from a nasty burn. Secondly, never put away your blenders. Will it take up most of your counter, making the space look cluttered? Yes, sure. But isn’t that a small price to pay in the interest of fire safety?
Perhaps the most important lesson to take away from this is the most obvious. Always listen to the safety guidelines printed on boxes of taco shells, and maybe think twice before torturing your Sims.
But all of that reflection happened later. In those first moments, once the fire was out and we were all standing in our darkened and dampened kitchen, I with empty blender in hand, my mother continuing to fruitlessly struggle with our fire extinguisher, my father bemoaning the loss of his favorite shirt, I had a sudden clear realization. There was no doubt in my mind that I had somehow manifested this real kitchen fire through my relentless pursuit of the perfect kitchen fire in The Sims. I surveyed the scene, surrounded by the destruction wrought by my own hubris, certain that my quest for the perfect screenshot was the cause. And in that moment, what do you think I did? I pulled out my phone, and I took a picture.