Behind Patti Negri sits a doll, not too dissimilar from the creepy one that came with the new Sims 4: Paranormal Stuff. It’s not an entirely unexpected guest, because Negri is a psychic-medium and “good” witch. Even at opposite ends of the world and through a computer screen, her energy radiates beautifully bright. The doll behind her? Not so much.
“I have a 100-year-old haunted doll right behind me,” she casually says midway through the interview, as if it’s something that is easy to ignore.
“Her name is Belle. She’s a German doll. She’s 105 and she was sent to me by a girl in Belgium who saw me doing a séance with a much darker, haunted doll,” Negri explains.
The formerly haunted doll now lives in a museum while Belle is in Patti’s care – because she did not get on with her former owner in Belgium, who she made feel quite unwell quite often. Patti, though, is what we would consider maxed on the Medium Skill in The Sims.
She’s felt a deep connection to the spirit world since she was a toddler (with the Brave Trait, clearly), rubbing shoulders with many celebrities. She’s cleared spaces on Jeff Lewis’s Flipping Out and cooked up some magic on Masterchef with Gordon Ramsey, to name a couple of examples.
Negri knows her stuff, so she is the best person to ask about the addition of paranormal gameplay to The Sims 4.
Surprising to those of us who aren’t versed in such, worlds beyond ours are about much more than just figuring out why Guidry’s scorned lover is showing up and breaking your Sim’s toilet. The Sims franchise has always included an expansion specifically focussed on the more popular aspects of the paranormal, but there’s much more to it than that.
All that appeasing your Sims do during Harvestfest, as it turns out, is not all for nothing.
“There is also what we call the everything else realm, which is things that were never human, that’s getting into the angelic and demonic and the elemental realm of, you know, fairies and gnomes and captives and all sorts of things,” Negri says.
A paranormal safety blanket
In these trying times, video games offer an escape from the real world, but with The Sims, it is almost impossible to completely eliminate it. The game’s tagline, after all, is Play With Life.
For Negri, this is a good thing, especially when the representation and the adaption is done realistically, showing both the positive and not so positive side of the paranormal world.
And, to an extent, she muses, the paranormal in itself can be a sort of comfort blanket when it feels like everything is just getting a bit too much.
“I think it is great that gaming companies are going into the paranormal because the paranormal is big right now.
“And I believe the paranormal is big right now because in reality, paranormal stuff is happening more and more and more. I don’t want to get into the spirituality or philosophy of it, but as we’ve literally moved into this age of Aquarius, the veil between our world and the other world is thinning and more and more stuff is happening,” she explains.
“I never had to do more clearings of people, of homes, of spaces, of offices, because crazy – unexplainable by science or logic – stuff is happening,” she adds.
Ah, clearings. A key part of the gameplay of the new Sims 4: Paranormal Stuff is a career as a freelance Paranormal Investigator. This requires Sims to do “clearings” of their own, ranging on levels of difficulty. But is this an accurate or fair reflection of how it usually works?
Considering the limited scope of a Sims 4 Stuff Pack, the answer is “sort of”.
“If you’re a paranormal investigator, you don’t clear until after you investigate,” explains Negri.
In The Sims 4 Paranormal Stuff Pack, there is a bit of investigation going on when your Sim is out on a job, but with Sim hours being somewhat shorter and their lifespans a bit more restricted than us mere mortals in the real world – the extent of opening up communication is not explored quite as much as somebody like Negri would usually do.
The Stuff Pack has sort of blended two careers: Psychic or Medium – what Negri does – and Paranormal Investigator, which is something a little bit different.
But the two careers do have some overlap and it’s all about opening your mind and allowing for a channel of communication.
“In looking for it, when you want to talk to them, whether you’re seeing you’re in a place that’s haunted or supposedly haunted, you know, there’s haunted objects like haunted dolls and things you want to communicate [with],” Negri says.
So, while your first instinct for your budding Paranormal Investigator Sim might be to just start kicking those weird hands and creepy dolls into next Tuesday, talking to the spirits (or the paranormal spectres) first isn’t the worst idea.
“You don’t want to clear first. You want to open up. You want to open portals. The way I work personally and I’ve been doing it, I literally lift that veil. I lift that net between lots of ways to do that,” advises Negri.
Gather round, Sims 1, Sims 4 and all
One way of opening up a portal is through a séance. To the uninitiated, the crystal ball might feel like a cheap stereotype, but it’s something Negri uses herself and if there are canny custom content creators out there looking for ideas on how to improve – there’s a whole lot that can be gleamed from those crystal balls.
Portals can be found in anything, according to Negri. From a bowl of water, a candle flame, a raging fire, the sun or the moon bouncing off the water. But a crystal ball offers something tangible. How useful it is though depends on how willing you are to let go.
“I certainly use them, they’re old school. What they are is a doorway, a crystal ball is for scrying. It’s literally like a mirror. And you can use a mirror to a black mirror, but it’s for you to let go of the logic and see through the veil into the other side,” she says.
And, as Negri explains, not all crystal balls are created equal and CC creators have a golden (or is that clear?) opportunity to make a little enhancement by tweaking these.
“There’s a difference [between] the old school led crystal balls, and quartz crystal balls, because led crystal balls, regular glass crystal balls (which most are represented as) those are just pure mirrors between the worlds. They’re just a window.
But there is another type of crystal ball which takes things to a whole new level, so to speak.
“If you’re using a quartz crystal ball, something’s made from a real rock actually, that has a spirit of its own that has that mineral spirit in it. Anything animal, vegetable, mineral has its own spirit. So, you’re working through the spirit. So, it might somewhat colour what you’re looking at. I use both and they both work great and they both have their things, but most people don’t know that,” she explains.
As for the visions that appear in the ball, Negri says they are a perfectly reasonable reflection and the Sims Séance ritual, although a bit exaggerated with levitating, reflects how all-consuming and exhausting talking to the other side can be.
Inside and outside vision
Mediums all communicate differently, though, but everyone’s method is valid. And, just like in The Sims 4: Paranormal Stuff, not everyone uses a crystal ball to open up the communication channels.
“You have your outside vision and your inside vision, just like you’re inside hearing and you’re outside hearing and you might say I’m a ghost and you might literally hear it with your ears or you might hear it in your head.
“When you’re working with a crystal ball, you’re not staring at it, you let the eyes glaze because you’re going into your inner mind.
“Some people literally will see it in the ball, just like in the game, in TV and movies. I am seeing this appear in the ball. Sometimes you’re seeing up here in the ball in your mind, sometimes both. And both are equally valid,” Negri adds.
While some might scoff at these ideas, Negri is chuffed that the craft (no, not that one) is getting some mainstream attention. Not just because of the time we are living in, but because it is all around us, quite literally.
“The two worlds are getting closer together and kind of colliding. More and more of us on this realm are seeing stuff on that realm.”
She implores those who are curious to explore their intuition and “let go of logic” every once in a while.
“You don’t have to be an intuitive or a psychic or a medium to walk into a thrift store or an antique store and just feel energetically your way around and you’re going to be drawn to things with a positive energy or a negative energy.
“Pick it up if you can (after making sure it has been wiped down, of course), hold it, and allow logic to slip away for a second and then just see the story and you will be amazed.
“If you then go talk to the shopkeeper, you might be very, very correct in what you were seeing, if they even know the history of it. I think that we are all born with it, you know, we use a very small percentage of our brain anyway,” Negri says.
And just like in The Sims, it is often children who are more willing to explore these curiosities. It’s the kind of intuition and connection that is often celebrated and encouraged in other cultures – including in The Sims with Elemental Island Spirits from Sulani and the mountain spirits in Mt. Komorebi.
“I think little kids see through that spirit. I certainly did, but it usually gets taught out of us. I thought everybody could talk to the dead people that were around. But we in our modern society and especially our Western culture versus some Eastern cultures…we don’t have any mysticism.”
Awakening the spirit
Her tone seems almost exasperated, but that soon turns hopeful because Negri believes that the holistic inclusion of these elements in video games will awaken something in all of us.
“That’s why it’s great that it’s coming into games and it’s coming into the media and films. Because we are not very mystical or spiritual, even with our religion. So, as it’s coming back, as we’re moving into that age of Aquarius, more and more is happening,” she says.
While she certainly does not encourage anyone to just go around opening portals, especially without knowing how to close them again, she does emphasise that spirits can be playful.
And while The Sims 4 is yet to see the addition of fairies as a life state or engaging NPC, they are one of her personal favourites in the real world.
“Fairies are great. They will bring laughter and mischief. You got to bribe them sometimes because they get too rambunctious. They steal your earrings, they steal your phone, they steal stuff. You got to bribe them.
“Just give them some honey or some cream or some whiskey, they’ll give it back. It’s just like with the gnomes, you bribe them. You make deals,” Negri smiles.
As the interview heads for a natural conclusion, the internet connection suddenly cuts off completely, despite the laptop still being connected to an ethernet cable and no other machines dropping their line.
Negri blurs back into vision in full voice and formal goodbyes are exchanged. Behind her, the creepy doll suddenly doesn’t look so creepy anymore. In fact, for just a few brief moments, everything looks a bit less daunting.
Editor’s Note: This article is not meant to be a definitive analysis of The Sims 4: Paranormal Stuff – and Patti has not played this specific DLC. Like many of us, though, she has played the game through the years and has a reasonable understanding of what The Sims offers and represents.
This article was first published in Simmed Up Magazine, an online magazine for everything about The Sims.
Antoinette is a recovering journalist, having written for Sports Illustrated, The Guardian, Daily Maverick and others. She has won multiple SAB Journalist of the Year awards, across a variety of categories. She thinks it’s strange writing about herself in the third person, unless she’s playing as herself in The Sims…which she’s been doing for over 20 years.