If your standard reaction to watching HGTV is, “I want to do that, too,” but renovating a fixer-upper is out of your budget (and your skill set), there’s a new virtual way you can satisfy that renovation itch—without having to take out a mortgage or hire a contractor.
Last month, Steam, a computer-gaming platform, released a game called House Flipper, in which users can buy a run-down home, replace broken windows, demolish walls , exterminate pests, buy all sorts of furnishings to pimp up the space again… and sell it for a profit. Yes, it’s a renovation simulator and it might just be fun enough to replace those weekly HGTV marathons.
If this all sounds like something you are very much into, you’re not alone: Since it was released last month, the game has dominated Steam’s bestsellers list. When YouTube user jacksepticeye posted a video of him playing the game, the video reached 2 million views in just three weeks. And users aren’t just interested in the concept—they’re enjoying the game, too. Many reviews note how certain actions in the game—like taking a hammer to demolish a wall—are satisfying ways to blow off steam.
To begin playing, you pick either a completely-devastated or an otherwise decent house to zhush up. Then you pick up your toolbox at plan your attack: Tear down or install walls, rewire the electricity, fix the plumbing, and paint absolutely everything. You have all the supplies (all sort of nails, hammers, screws, and drills) for every repair you could possibly imagine.
When you’re done with fixing all the damage, then it’s time to go wild with decorating your interiors. The rooms usually start cluttered with broken objects and all sorts of junk, but you can go through and throw away or sell what you don’t need. There’s a running account balance in the game, and the virtual money from the trash you sell can be used to buy something nice, like new tiles for your wall.
When it’s decorated just-so, you then can grab a Swiffer and polish all the corners of your home, first-hand, until the devastated space becomes something livable again. Tadaa! It’s apartment clean-up therapy at its finest, and you don’t even have to plan a trip to IKEA!
I thought the hacking away at old walls was fun for sure. However, when playing, the most interesting part of the game was how rather true-to-life the installations and repairs were. For example, I found it rather useful to watch how I was supposed to install a new sink or tub. Of course, all I did was guide the installation through a series of clicks, but it was interestingly educational to see how the pipes and screws connected together in the end. It’s a simplistic tutorial on how home plumbing works, and I think it might actually come in handy if I ever need to replace my own sink (with additional YouTube videos—and a professional plumber’s number on hand—of course).
Also, I’m personally a bit of a claustrophobe. My therapeutic feelings are derived less from hacking away at old walls, and more sitting outside and admiring the greenery. Unfortunately, even when my virtual house was neat and tidy, there was no option landscape, so when I look outside, it’s a wasteland. I’d love to see this game allow me to work on my virtual yard, pluck at old weeds or install a flower bed. It’s hard to justify refurbishing a house on the inside only to have it look so shabby on the outside—and who’s going to buy a house overgrown with weeds? Thankfully the developers of the game have already flagged the gardening aspect as a missing feature on Steam’s message boards, so hopefully I’ll be able to get some yard work done soon.