Video Games Let Me Live Out The Fantasy Of Owning A Home

Video games offer people a wonderful form of escapism. For hours at a time, I can leave my life on the sofa behind and become a dragon-slaying adventurer, the sole survivor of a shipwreck, a soldier on an alien planet, an engineer stuck in space, or even the wind.

There are so many fantastic and wonderful things video games let me be, but the main appeal of them right now is letting me be a homeowner. In a world where house prices and rents are going up far faster than wages, getting on the property ladder seems just as farfetched as finding out I’m the Dragonborn.

Me and two friends moved into our current flat a year and a half ago. We were all happy to be moving out of our grotty student house, but there was one issue: the new place was completely unfurnished. No bother, we thought, we all grew up playing The Sims. This place would be a home in no time.

In a game like The Sims, you move in, go out and start a career, and before you know it your little bungalow is a three-story townhouse with a conservatory, private garden, and all the amenities of a gym, casino, and pub combined. Well, reality is very different – most of your work earnings go to rent, furniture costs A LOT, and rugs are so, so unbelievably expensive. Also, you can’t just knock a wall through or add an extra floor… It took us about a year to get the place exactly how we wanted. A year of giving money to a landlord who didn’t do anything except calling a repairperson when something broke, and we could do that ourselves – we have phones too.

I always used to think renting gave you the freedom to move around and live where ever you want, but the thought of moving out and either shipping my furniture or having to start again from scratch makes me want to puke. I can’t just pop all the stuff we’ve amassed into a household inventory; if we choose to move, we’d have to actually move all the stuff ourselves, which would be entirely out of budget and impractical if we moved abroad. On top of that, it feels like we’ve improved this place for someone else, as we don’t own it in any way.

That feeling of wasted effort is what’s led me to playing games like Summer in Mara and Stardew Valley all weekend – which is a bit ironic, I know. In those games, I improve a farm or an island for me. It’s mine. I own it. I put the effort in to improve things and I’m the one who benefits, not some landlord. Making a flat into a home gave me a real sense of accomplishment, and I realize I’ve been chasing that feeling in video games for years.

In Assassin’s Creed 2, it felt good to upgrade Monteriggioni, Ezio’s countryside estate. A home grounds us, it’s a sanctuary. Giving video game characters a home makes them feel more tangible, it gives them something physical to root for, they help to improve RPGs drastically. I want that too. I want it so badly that when the Hearthfire add-on for Skyrim got released I stopped adventuring and settled down in a nice house by a lake.

In Stardew Valley, you inherit a dilapidated old farm in a nice little village and slowly but surely restore it all while taking on an evil megacorporation. That is honestly my dream – even if I did grow all the wrong crops to begin with – working the land and romancing a bunch of villagers while simultaneously dismantling capitalism. When I started the game, I saw an overgrown beach farm and thought to myself “I’m never going to be able to clear all this,” but a couple of days later I’ve got some good crops going and have even bought a chicken coop – things are on the up. And while I’ve managed to make my real flat nicer to live in, I’m still no closer to owning it.

Every game with base building or homeownership sells a very traditional experience that tugs at a territorial or nurturing part of us: you work hard and make somewhere your own, sometimes you have to defend it from those who would try to take it from you, but it’s yours. A time where you could work one job and then buy a house seems like such a long time ago. Games sell us the old dream that we could just work hard for things. Now, unless you have an incredibly high-paying job, move to an outrageously cheap area, or have some serious generational wealth behind you, homeownership is an unreachable dream. In the UK, you generally pay a 5-10% deposit, in 2019 that was, on average, £11,700 – £23,400. That will be even higher in cities and the Southeast of the country. That’s a pretty high number when you have to spend so much on rent. I grew up in a council flat in London, and being able to go back and own a home there seems like more of a fantasy than any of the games I play.

In games, I can own an underwater base, or an Italian town, or a monstrous five-story mansion with extensions that clearly didn’t get approved planning permission, or even a quaint little farm in a picturesque valley. In real life, all I want is somewhere to call my own.

Next: 11 Best Cottagecore Games, Ranked

  • TheGamer Originals
  • The Sims
  • Stardew Valley
  • Summer In Mara

Issy is an avid film lover, writer, and game-player based in the UK. He combines his love of film and games in his writing, trying to find as many connections between the two mediums as possible. When he’s not writing, playing, or watching, Issy loves to DJ and look after his growing collection of houseplants, as they make him feel more adult.

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