The Sims 4 100 Baby Challenge and the humanizing aspects of streaming

The The Sims 4 100 Baby Challenge has been ongoing since 2014 release of the game. It originated on a thread on The Sims 4 forum, and since then, the rules have been defined and explored to almost academic lengths with a healthy amount of fanfic to boot. Buzzfeed got in on the action by producing a lengthy series on the subject. In this, Kelsey Impicciche, a Buzzfeed producer, social media personality, and performer, endeavors to complete this time-consuming challenge and put out an entertaining video on her trials every Saturday. And what started as a simple challenge about churning out children grew into something that showed how human streaming can be.

Hit me baby, 100 times

The Sims 4 100 Baby challenge is as self-evident as the title suggests but holy hell, are there a lot of rules. The full list can be found here as detailed by the original creator of this particular version, but in a nutshell, there are no cheats or no prolonged life. One matriarch is impregnated by as many donors as possible in order to create a family of 100 babies of different parentage. It’s not confirmed whether it’s possible to complete the challenge with the same matriarch without cheating, but after she had left childbearing years, the burden of procreation falls to her youngest daughter. The whole thing smacks of fundamentalist religions a little bit, or perhaps something deeply feudal and disturbing, but it is incredibly entertaining. 

The challenge itself is fairly straightforward, but Impicciche’s personality, vibe, and woke references keep the views growing and the hits increasing. It’s something we are seeing in parallel with PewDiePie with his Minecraft videos. With him, his existing fame and the fame of Minecraft co-conspired to make the hit, but for the 100 Baby Challenge, it’s a little different. This has brought Kelsey to prominence in a way that her Twitch stream had struggled to. The YouTube series on challenges is a little friendlier, a little more like Netflix. The draw is, of course, the heart behind the screen. The Sims 4 (and indeed, all the Sims games) is an already fairly human game, as concepts go. You make a few Sims, build them a home, and keep them as happy as possible in order to unlock cool rewards and behaviors and off you go, grow an empire. Sure, you’re well within your rights to kill your darlings in whatever cinematic ways that you like (everyone has deleted the pool ladder, and if you say you haven’t, you’re lying to yourself), but it’s a game about life

And so, Kelsey Impicciche entered the ring and made this game about life even more personal. She is funny, bubbly, and already fairly well-known on the Buzzfeed YouTube circuit. She positions herself from the outset of the videos as if this series is coming from a place of humor, and points out the irony (hence the “sup, boys” greeting at the opening of each video) in her playing out the role of the matriarch of 100 bambinos. Her avatar (Chelsea, not Kelsey — the catchphrase which resulted in merchandise, as is the classic YouTuber way) looks like Kelsey, is dressed like Kelsey, and for all intents and purposes, is Kelsey of the pixelated screen. This all makes Chelsea’s struggles a lot more relatable, and makes you more willing to accept it when Kelsey is frustrated with or proud of Chelsea. And thankfully, she confuses the names of the matriarch and the tons of children constantly. Another tick in the humanizing column. 

The 100 Baby Challenge has been done on YouTube before, with the oldest accessible video being from 2014, but Impicciche’s version is the perfect storm. The first video from her came out on December 18, 2018, and it didn’t take long for the video to go viral. She was already an established streamer at this point, and the upload was posted to the Buzzfeed Multiplayer account, with a pre-existing solid fan base and a brand to boot. Impicciche’s manner and presentation of the game is accessible and humorous, which suits the absurdity of the challenge.

MineHeart

Impicciche joins a long line of creators who have made their fame (and likely fortune) from a YouTube series. It’s become more than mere vogue, as people are always on the hunt for long-form videos and series that promise no end in sight. Shane Dawson’s expose works are a good example of prime YouTube content, but as a creator, PewDiePie has pretty seamlessly transferred across to gameplay videos. His growing love of Minecraft has added to the resurgent spike in popularity for this eminently accessible and family-friendly game, following a spin-off announcement at the most recent E3. The views speak for themselves.

Here again, though, it’s the human element which has people hooked. Yes, the pure skill of something like CSGO is amazing to view, but our hearts were heavy when PewDiePie had to bid farewell to his second horse, after so much trauma the first time around. It’s been the same with poor Impicciche, as the twilight days of Chelsea’s life ebbed away and finished with a traumatic bang that none of us were truly expecting. Seeing a creator who is so jocular and amusing actually suffer the sad news that we all feared all along is a level of emotional vulnerability which is only truly gained by the continued viewership. If you’re watching the 100 Baby Challenge, you’re playing the long-game, and in both cases, it’s the personality and vitality of both PewDiePie and Impicciche which make it worthwhile. Skill is important, but the charm of watching someone game is the strange ASMR comfort or (admittedly, sometimes dangerous) feeling of companionship with a gamer who seems approachable and casual, rather than boorish or unpleasant.

Impicciche’s investment in her matriarch avatar, Chelsea, and each of her children is what makes it so compulsively watchable. Hers is no flippant flight to victory: no one is going to get out of this challenge unscathed, and it’s clear from the very beginning that at some point, viewers are going to watch Impicciche’s heartbreakWatching her build Chelsea’s family is strangely touching and brings an oddly human side to streaming that we don’t usually see, especially as streamers only seem to break into the news when they are doing toxic or harmful stuff.

Bye, bye baby

There have been some great moments so far in Impicciche’s series that help serve as antidote to those harmful streamers. There was a long, torrid but ultimately unsuccessful romance playing out with the grim reaper. Chelsea’s OG love-match Craig met an untimely end but was returned to wed the aged Chelsea at a later date, only to lose her yet again to the cruel ravages of age. There’s been Willow the artist, the vampire twins and our sweet baby Olive the LGBTQ+ icon rocking the film-scene now that she’s branched out on her own. There’s even been Bran the Alien Baby and his host of Game of Thrones-themed siblings.

The best part about watching Kelsey play the game through isn’t her skill at popping out those Sim sprogs. When you’re watching a streamer who knows their stuff round out levels with a perfect score, it’s awe-inspiring as all the pieces fall into place. The joy of the 100 Baby Challenge with Kelsey is that sometimes she’s not that good at it. At the time of this writing, her second matriarch Kasey has six Sim toddlers and one Sim child, and Kelsey is incapable of seeing the game as merely a game. She’s stressed, overwhelmed and as exhausted as a parent of a flesh-and-blood child (or seven) might be. She’s so invested in the challenge that it’s easy to get on board and not feel stupid for your own investment. It’s a challenge, it’s a video series, it’s seeking views — but it’s very human.

It’s easy to wonder how long the fascination will last, or if Impicciche’s warmth and terribly human fears and vulnerabilities for her electro-babies will keep the audience hanging to until the last baby drops. These human fears, whether played up for the camera or not, are an intimate and warming look into streaming that we don’t usually get from other video game streamers. But either way, it’s never really been about the destination — it’s about the babies we’ve made along the way.

[Image Credit: Kelsey Impicciche and PewDiePie/YouTube]