Although one might think of video games as primarily a diversion of action and destruction, there are many games where the goal is building, designing, and even decorating; allowing players to indulge in the act of making a house a home. Personally I find the act of designing these virtual spaces fulfilling and entertaining...
The Sims 3
PC / Mac: $38.95 - iOS: $7 - Android: $7 - PS3: $16.47 - XBox 360: $23.37
My favorite part about any Sims game is building a home and decorating it. Creating a virtual avatar and providing an imaginative home for my virtual self is almost as fulfilling as the real thing (and cheaper). The popular life simulation game gives players the opportunity to create virtual counterparts to manipulate and spoil in nearly every way, including home furnishings and architectural projects.
Harvest Moon: Animal Parade
Nintendo Wii: $18.75
Way before Farmville there was Harvest Moon, the original farm simulation game back from the days of the original Nintendo Entertainment System. The objective is to successfully run a farm, get married, and own a home together, complete with decorating options. Easy controls and cute graphics make Harvest Moon a fun family game updated for Wii players seeking the virtual farm life.
Design This Home
A fun and free iOS game big on customization, Design This Home allows players to assume ownership of a virtual home (or many) with 6 possible floor plans to choose from, each possessing up to 9 rooms ready to be decorated to your heart's content. There are a myriad of wall and floor textures to choose from, as well as a selection of 700 furniture items to fill up the rooms. However, it's up to the player how to combine them to their full potential, and that's where the fun in this casual gamer title lies.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf
Nintendo 3DS: $31.31
There is a special place in my (and many other gamers') hearts for the Animal Crossing series. How can you not but love a game that takes place in a small town whose inhabitants are cute animals, and the most important part of the game is designing and keeping a home? Players are even scored by the decorative aesthetics of their virtual home, including how it functions, flows, and follows the rules of good feng shui!
Home Sweet Home
Where The Sims was initially conceived as a real estate designing game but now covers a wide variety of virtual life(style) gameplay, Home Sweet Homes has remained focused on the home decor aspect. Players are tasked with hearing how a homeowner wishes their space to look and finding the best way to meet their demands. Sounds like a game Apartment Therapy's own Maxwell would excel at!
One of Sony's initial selling features for the Playstation 3 was the online world of Home, an virtual city where players can try out games, see movie trailers, interact with other players, and outfit an entire virtual apartment to their liking. Best of all is it's free to everyone who owns a Playstation 3 with an internet connection.
PC: $26.49 - XBox 360: $11
It's tough being a monarch. The latest entry in the Fable series puts players in the shoes of the King or Queen. As virtual ruler, a player must make tough decisions for the good of their people, even designing the interiors of their many castles and cottages in period specific style. Unfortunately the main objective of this side-quest is to sell real estate at a higher value, but I often find myself preferring to hold onto the properties rather than parting with them.
Second Life earned widespread notoriety after a certain episode of the Office, but the game's open ended and creative virtual experience is as worthy of praise as ridicule. One of the game's most satisfying features is the ability to own/create imaginative or extremely realistic homes, then decorate it with furnishings with real world equivalents or wholly imaginary. Hanging out with friends in a virtual condo or cottage may appeal to some who never want to worry about cleaning up!
Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny
Nintendo Wii: $19.68 - Playstation 3: $19.33
I would be difficult to simply label Rune Factory as a RPG, or an action title, or a simulation game. All of these gaming elements make up the title's experience, blending into an experience where players are charged with maintaining a home while also saving the world by adventuring through dungeons. The reward? Furniture for home, sweet home at the end of a long day of adventuring!
Home Design Story
iPad / iPhone: Free
Unlike most of the games on this list where interior design is an amusing bonus or side quest, Home Design Story for iOS is a game revolving specifically around the goal of home design. Players start off small, but as their designs truly take off, players are granted bigger spaces with more decorating options. Each room can be individually modified in an endless array of combinations, offering the possibility of either a "love it or list it" interior space.
A surprisingly rare feature in MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role playing game), Everquest 2 allows players the ability to own and decorate a home to their liking, albeit in a fantasy realm style. Coming soon to Guild Wars 2, but already available for Everquest 2, those exploring the world of Everquest can return to enjoy, admire, and arrange their own house decorated with furniture and booty from their virtual travels.
(Images: Linden Research Inc./Second Life; all other titles as linked above)