Living the dream of home ownership through The Sims

If you can't buy a real house, why not create the house of your dreams in The Sims?
the sims ea origin

Growing up, all I wanted was a little witchy cottage to live in. A space to call my own. For a brief period, this seemed achievable – but with every passing year of my childhood, I was longing after a more impossible dream. The story will be familiar to most millennials. Across our lifetime, we’ve seen housing prices ratchet up to unbelievable heights. We all know the mistake we made: we should’ve bought housing in the early 2000s, when we were five, with our $2 per week pocket money allowance.

We should’ve invested that money in stocks. We should’ve bought lottery tickets. Something, something, avocado. Coffee. Stop going out. Stop having fun. Don’t look after your skin. It’s always something like that, isn’t it? The over-spending of millennials. It’s never the fault of a failing economic system, or a government that refuses to intervene. The dream of home ownership, for the vast majority of millennials, is dead.

And so, I turn to The Sims: ultimate millennial fantasy of home ownership.

Beyond being a simple life simulator, where you can explore the risk and reward of living in a virtual world, The Sims is also a wonderful way to to claim or build the homes you will never own. You can build that dream witchy cottage. You can claim a cabana by the beach. You can move to a luxury apartment, and see the sights of a pseudo-Hollywood.

You can live by a pond, and dip your feet into pixel water. It’s not the same as the real thing – it could never be the same – but there’s still a real satisfaction in buying your dream home in The Sims.

Read: Every major rival to The Sims currently in development

Living in a virtual world

sims 4 build mode for rent
Screenshot: GamesHub

It’s all about indulging your imagination. Do you want a pool in your virtual home? Of course you do – and a fountain, and a lake, and three stories. And one of those chairs that swing! And picnic tables for all the spare time you’ll have to enjoy the quieter moments of life. Living in The Sims means kicking back, and finding your own path forward.

Is it sad to give up on your dreams in real life, and find solace in a virtual world? Certainly, there’s elements of sadness in the act. But I also think it’s quite lovely that a game like The Sims can help in the grieving process.

If you can’t fix a problem yourself, it’s best to accept it, and find ways to move on. I can’t fix the economy with my bare hands. Instead, I’ve found joy in virtual estate.

In The Sims, I own a giant multi-room lot with apartments for all my friends to rent. There’s a pool out the back, and tiny kittens will often wander into the lot for adoption. I also own a seaside mansion, with a jetty that leads to the open ocean. I have a motorboat, and there’s also a pool by the jetty, in case I don’t want the sting of salt water. Another of my homes is a rustic country escape, complete with a space for raging bonfires, and a guitar for a halcyon tune or two.

sims 4 horse ranch review
Screenshot: GamesHub

And yes, I own a little cottage where I am a literal witch, brewing my potions, and casting my hexes. Tiny rabbits populate the lot, it’s surrounded by flowers, and there’s a cobblestone pathway leading up to the road. It’s not real, but it’s mine.

All the time in the world

When I spend time in The Sims, I love to just be in these virtual spaces. I love spending time arranging and rearranging furniture, picking out colours and patterns, and placing each item in just the right spot. It’s nice to plot and plan, and stress out over home decor choices. It has same effect as playing pretend as a child: escape.

Now I’m not suggesting that living in a virtual world is any substitute for the real thing. Young people should be taking to the streets over the raw deal we’ve been handed – the terrible housing market, the terrible jobs market, and just how unsustainable modern living has become. We should be rallying against landlords greedily slopping up the housing market, and then overcharging tenants for shoebox properties. Shelter is a human right – and what right do they have to take it away?

In those moments when I am most angry about the state of the world, and the lack of opportunity for young people, The Sims is a soothing balm. It’s the perfect escape for the frustrated millennial, and even younger people fearful of the future. It doesn’t fix anything, but sometimes it’s nice to indulge in the pretend, and to imagine yourself as a luxury property mogul.

I still dream of my witchy cottage, but perfecting a virtual version, and imagining a brighter future, is a nice escape from the dream-dampening ways of modern living.

Leah J. Williams is a gaming and entertainment journalist who's spent years writing about the games industry, her love for The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS and every piece of weird history she knows. You can find her tweeting @legenette most days.