Making Happiness in West Egg and Simburbia: An Inquiry into Consumption in The Great Gatsby and The Sims

The freeform world of both the Jazz Age and the DotCom explosion create surreal intoxicated hilarity, and both The Great Gatsby and The Sims allow the participants to immerse themselves in the experience. Nick Carraway, the narrator of the novel, affords us some distance from this world and critical insight into the excesses of this culture. In contrast, The Sims reinforces what Peter Plagens has called the ?ecology of evil? and promotes a certain libertine democracy. The very players who buy and play The Sims are the suburban dwellers themselves. This self-referential experience does not allow for critical distance but reaffirms a certain wasteful organization of resources and encourages a self-satisfied materialism.


The flappers, performers, and merrymakers of Gatsby‘sparty seemingly come out of a character generator similar to that at work in The Sims. They are given short bios and quirky personalities. Gatsby‘sparty frees the characters from their traditional roles and identities. They try on and act out in a new skin. —Shawn ThomsonMaking Happiness in West Egg and Simburbia: An Inquiry into Consumption in The Great Gatsby and The Sims (Reconstruction 6.1 (Winter 2006))

Thanks for the link to the collection, Mike.

I like how Thompson equates the happiness-creating objects in the world of the Sims (a bed if the Sim is tired, pizza if the Sim is hungry) with the alcohol and other amusements Gatsby provides. In a way, Jake Gatz creates Jay Gatsby as his in-game avatar. This connection is really quite clever.

Thomson does make an obvious mistake about the novel, however. “Tom and Daisy’s two-year old baby, the only child of the novel, remains unnamed and unseen,” he writes (par. 9), although the child appears and has a few lines near the beginning of Chapter 7, where she is introduced to both Nick and Gatsby, the latter of whom “kept looking at child in surprise.” Nick observes, “I don’t think he had ever really believed in its existence before.” In that scene, her nurse calls the girl “Pammy.”

I also think that Thomson’s initial positing of Tom as rejecting the riotous West Egg culture is somewhat misleading, since Tom is not only a prig but also a libertine. And Thomson mentions Tom’s reaction to the sight of black men driving a fancy car, without noting that Nick reports that event in a manner that turns the black motorists into caricatures. Thus, Nick shares at least part of Tom’s bias. So I don’t think Tom is meant to stand out quite that much.