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Being an adult is great, but it’s also chaotic. Through my naive childhood lens, I grew up expecting life to play out a certain way and part of that included owning my own home. Whilst I remain certain that one day that’ll be the case, like my fellow Millennials and Generation Zs across the UK (I’m a cusp year, so I vibe with both in equal parts), I do worry if I’ll ever land a foot on that infamous ol’ property ladder.
On the whole, I’d like to think that the video gaming community is a happy space so I don’t want to drag everyone down by bringing up the dreary topic of the cost of living crisis, but I think we’re all aware that like everything else, housing prices have skyrocketed. According to Statista, the average price of a starter home in the UK was £264,000 in 2021. I know I’m not alone in feeling daunted by that figure and whilst I dream about the day I can renovate my own place, for now I’ve found something to ease my woes. I may not own a real home, but I’ve owned some pretty incredible virtual real estate - and that brings me a certain sense of peace.
The Sims 4 Cottage Living is essentially my decor style made into an expansion pack. Check out the trailer below.
There are plenty of great life simulation games out there, but The Sims 3 and Animal Crossing: New Horizons are my go-tos. There’s so much you do and experience in a life sim, just like there’s so much to do and experience in real life. You can try out virtual careers, travel, or learn new skills but for me, I’ve always been drawn towards building and decorating my virtual home - and this isn’t a new development. I’ve been at this since seven-year-old me got my hands on The Sims 2 back in 2004.
I’ll load up The Sims 3 (I’ll upgrade to The Sims 4 eventually, okay? Old habits die hard.) and move my virtual Kate into a virtual home, usually with one of two approaches. The first method is how I imagine The Sims is supposed to be played, and also how my childhood self imagined my adult life would play out. I’d buy a modest starter home in Sunset Valley - close proximity to the beach was always a plus - and slowly expand and renovate my new home over a long period of time. As my Sim got promoted every few days at work, I’d tackle my next DIY project working my way through each room in the house.
First, maybe it would be the bathroom or kitchen. Eventually, I’d upgrade the living room or bedroom and ooh, maybe I even have enough to add that garage now. Maybe my Sim would get married and have kids, so now I’d need to save up to build an extension or eventually, even upgrade to a new home. It’s simple, but there’s something comforting about playing out a virtual version of your life where everything simply goes to plan.
The second method was slightly more unconventional, yet a technique that we’ve all utilised at some point. I’d move my Sim into a blank lot and stock up my virtual wallet with the motherlode cheat. Armed with thousands of Simoleons, I’d get to work on building my dream house - and my dream house came in a number of different forms. Typically, I opt for a cottagecore-inspired rural getaway complete with an open fire and sprawling gardens. Other times, I’d build a New York-esque city townhouse, or an uber-modern Malibu mansion. The latter isn’t really my style but there’s a nice ‘What if?’ element to it all. Social media may have taught us otherwise, but it’s okay if you’re not ‘on-brand’ 100 percent of the time.
I think part of the reason why Animal Crossing: New Horizons appeals to me so much (Besides that fact that it’s pure and wholesome goodness) is that the game naturally embodies the cottagecore aesthetic that I love. My picture-perfect virtual home is essentially a Pinterest board brought to life, complete with houseplants and rattan furniture galore - an interior dream. Outside, my white picket-fence garden is split into two areas: the rose garden and the orchard. Nothing in Animal Crossing: New Horizons looks out of place - even the weeds are pretty. I fully realise that it’s an unattainable ideal, but that’s why the game is so successful and why I love it. The real world can be a messy place. Don’t we deserve to dwell in a daydream from time to time?
Video games mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Heck, they can mean different things to me within the space of a single day. Gaming can be a stress release, a distraction, a community, an escape, or sometimes it’s simply just a dose of fun. Regardless of which reason draws you into switching on your console, the end result is always the same. There’s something healing and therapeutic about disappearing into a virtual world. I’m confident that one day, I’ll finally own that dream home of mine. It might just take a little bit longer than my childhood self imagined but for now, I can lose myself in my virtual real estate. It’s not quite the same as the real thing, but it eases some of my longing for the real thing and for now, I’m okay with that.
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