What Makes A Videogame House A Videogame Home?

Oh boy, am I conflicted. Fallout 4’s main plotline requires that I do this thing and as far as things go, it’s a pretty major thing and a major thing that you’d expect someone with the maternal instinct of my character Halle to crack on with straight away. The trouble is, rather than doing this major thing, for at least an hour now, she, and when I say ‘she’, I mean ‘I’, have been poking around Sanctuary, scrapping anything that glows yellow so I can salvage enough materials to build a house big enough for me and my Minutemen companions. I had largely avoided Bethesda’s drip-feed of Fallout 4 pre-publicity but when I somehow found out that the game had settlement building, I think I might have involuntarily passed a little wind in joyous anticipation.

That’s because I’ve felt a similar rosy inner glow while hanging around other hubs and houses in many other games I’ve played. I think it’s easy to underestimate the value of having a ‘home’ base option, especially in open world games where there is a free-roaming element, but it’s a part of why I love certain games.

Fallout 3 presented you with a couple of housing options and a scorched world of possibilities yet in all my run-throughs of the game, I can only recall once not heading straight to Megaton. Get your Explosives skill up to 35, defuse the atom bomb and Sheriff Simms will give you the key to your own house and all the other townsfolk will be in your eternal thrall. I can overlook the fact that the lacy sheet-metal walls of the town itself look like they could be breached with a good can opener; the Megaton house feels safe and it’s where I like to make my home even if Tenpenny Tower does seem more impregnable. However, Fallout 4’s mind-boggling suite of construction tools and decor options has upped the ante considerably in terms of how you can choose to live in a post-nuked world, even if the Commonwealth seems to already have a head-start having suffered less than the Capital Wasteland damage-wise.

Not everyone will be bothered with the game’s optional settlement building but I love the ambition of it and the sheer scale of the choices you have. Build a tin shack, a wooden house, a towering edifice, a squat Frank Lloyd-Wright-inspired dream house or some aesthetically-bereft monstrosity that’s the architectural equivalent of a pimple on the arse of someone extremely attractive – it’s entirely up to you. The end result of your efforts will always look slightly tumbledown in what is, after all, a broken world, but can be justified in the manner of ruthless property developers in real life who in trying to convince local town planners of their good intentions are wont to bullshit that ‘the materials and structural profiles are generally in keeping with the local streetscape’. And the best part about being able to endlessly toy with the game’s simple-to-use rotate and snap building tools is that there’s no chance of Kevin McCloud and a Channel 4 camera crew treading something deeply unpleasant that Dogmeat did in the garden into your house, generally getting in the way and making ponderous observations about you ‘realising your vision’.

Of course, Fallout 3 and 4 are not the only games to give players such a profound sense of belonging and unwavering immersion through the inclusion of a nest-building element. Yes, it’s great to be out in an open world, shooting, looting, gathering resources and the like, but equally there are times when you just want to go somewhere safe to admire your stats, rearrange your inventory or barter with traders without the ever-present risk of being stung on the tassel by a Radscorpion or getting a lead injection in a drive-by shooting.

A month or so back I was looking out the window of my apartment in Pillbox Hill in GTA V’s Los Santos. I could hear outside the not-so-distant rumble of a griefer rolling around in some high-level death machine, the boom of its gun sending a steady series of obits scrolling through the event log. Every so often, the text stream was punctuated with what has become a recurring phrase in GTA Online: “R U a hacker?” I’ve ranked up to 61 and for the most part enjoyed doing so but for some time now, after signing in I’ve been reluctant to venture outside – a person can get killed out there, you know.

Instead I’ll move around the apartment for a while admiring the views. I have no compunction about killing and robbing in the game but I’m strangely prudish and resentful about the presence of the drug paraphernalia; for me a bong is something that punctuates the headlines on the News at Ten, so I give that a wide berth. The radio station is tuned to Self because, let’s face it, everybody’s musical taste except your own is a bit shite, isn’t it. Looking around, I admire the ways in which Rockstar have made the down time in the game so engaging and reflect that owning an apartment confers on you a sort of proprietary air. I’m not talking of the virtual real estate per se but of the game itself: you’ve spent your real world cash on the game and your in-game cash on your own little corner of Los Santos and it feels like a very secure, cosy place to be. I can even ignore the thought that there are thousands of players all around the world looking out at the exact same views as me; as far as I’m concerned, it’s my apartment.

In games where pacing and momentum play a greater part in the overall experience and I’m thinking here of say, the Dead Spaces, the BioShocks and Alien: Isolation, apart from shops or stations where you can re-stock with health and other items, there are no real hubs, nor any real areas of safety – you’re reliant on reading the sound cues and NPC chatter to ensure your continued survival. And obviously in all those cases, that’s the whole point, but even a save station or, for example, spending a few seconds at Team Fortress 2’s bountiful slamming lockers affords players the opportunity to go “Phew!” and take stock of their situation for a short time. However, to have your own special bolthole in a game world, that’s something to treasure.

BioShock 2’s multiplayer had a short-lived existence but one thing it got spot-on was the player’s personal hub, a spacious art deco apartment as finely appointed as anything Andrew Ryan might have built for himself. You could customize your playable characters at the wardrobe, fiddle with load-outs at your own Gene Bank and listen to some cornball oldies on the music player. Quite wonderfully, you also accessed matches via your own personal bathysphere. But a game, or at least its multiplayer element, hasn’t got an automatic right to survive merely on the basis of how good it looks and this one sure as hell didn’t. After a few months of initial excitement your bathysphere ‘journey’ was most likely to terminate at a bank of empty servers.

Skyrim’s optional purchase houses were a mixed bunch. Breezehome in Whiterun was pleasant enough and convenient for the local shops but I was never tempted by the properties in Markarth and Windhelm which seemed way too dark and cold. Honeyside in Riften, on the other hand, I always found quite acceptable despite the socially toxic atmosphere amongst the locals. Proudspire Manor in Solitude was also quite handsome but despite the option to fast travel between locations, it still seemed too far removed from the action. The game’s Hearthfire expansion provided a fine house-building toolkit with many customisable elements that allowed you to put your own stamp on the landscape. I built Lakeview Manor on a hill a few hundred metres from gloomy little Falkreath, taking advantage of its commanding aspect over Lake Ilinata then installed Lydia as a companion. She never said much but I found her surly belligerence strangely reassuring when helping keep at bay the bandits and beasts that occasionally spawned near the house. It was a great place to come home to after a long day shooting arrows into guards’ knees.

It’s been a while since I’ve played World of Tanks – certainly the 937 emails Wargaming have spammed into my Inbox tell me so – but one of its great joys was outside its battles when you returned to your garage to fiddle with your tanks. Things may have changed since the last time I logged in but that the developers could convey to the player an atmosphere that evoked images of industrious, hard-swearing grease monkeys and the smell of oily rags with just a dimly-lit shed, a ‘rotate tank’ function and the looping sound of something going ‘clang’ in the distance was quite an achievement. Upgrade any component of your tank and you really felt like the next time you took it into battle you would detect a noticeable difference in its performance.

Another beautifully realised hub appears in Wolfenstein: The New Order. Improbably concealed deep within the concrete bowels of some brutalist Nazi-built edifice, BJ Blaskowicz and the rag-tag bunch of resistance fighters with whom he teams up go about their daily business in this believably ramshackle safehouse. With its warren-like structure and deft human touches such as Max the man-child’s endearing infantile bedroom decor and J endlessly playing (ahem, left-handed) Jimi Hendrix’s Little Wing on his guitar, your visits there – for a time at least – provide much-needed respite, punctuating as they do the fantastic excesses of the main story and its wonderful shooty-bang stuff.

One of my favourite exchanges in Batman: Arkham Asylum is when the Dark Knight explains deadpan to Barbara Gordon over comms that years ago he built a secret laboratory on Arkham Island against the possibility that the shit might hit the fan there at some point in the future. On reflection, they may not have been his exact words but in any event, how prescient of him, eh? But while I’ve stumbled into Bats’ secret cave hideout accidentally outside of the plot-driven visits, trying to track down Riddler trophies, it’s not really the sort of place I would want to stay in for too long. In my mind, the Batcave under Wayne Manor in the 60’s TV series remains the high watermark for what the ‘child’ me thought, and still thinks, was ‘cool’ in that regard.

Being the independent and untamed wandering spirit he is, Geralt of Rivia never really puts down roots anywhere and his ‘home’ as such in Witcher 3 is a succession of trunks located within the inns and other public buildings dotted around the Northern Realms. So the titular ‘Wild Hunt’ might just be as much about the brutal cull of earthly souls by a barbaric spectral horde as it is about the search for a nice pied à terre where Geralt can:

1. [Shag Triss]
2. [Shag Yen]
3. [Shag casual acquaintance met in a secondary quest]

There’s no compelling reason why he should spend much time there apart from when the story dictates that he do so but Adam Jensen’s apartment in Deus Ex: Human Revolution is clearly the domicile of a single man. Bijou and diffused with hazy golden light, it’s an ideal bachelor pad he can return home to at the end of the day to rest his weary augmentations. I can’t recall if you can open Jensen’s fridge (you can probably fling it quite a distance) but if you could, I reckon you’d just find two cans of Red Bull, a pint of semi-skimmed milk that’s gone off and a turkey dinner for one in the freezer.

I’ve seen the regeneration of Monteriggioni in Assassin’s Creed II criticised as cheap game filler but I have always found throwing some money at the problems in the town and renovating Uncle Mario’s house quite rewarding. You spend so much of your time earning and pick-pocketing florins, you’ve got to spend it on something. But then thinking back, I can’t recall actually ever going back to Mario’s house solely to inspect my various sets of armour or to gaze upon my many collected art works; I was usually just putting feathers in a box for my miserable old mother. Nevertheless, it was always good to see the old town buzzing again off the back of my hard-won coin. Mind you, Ubisoft haven’t always got it right. AC III was so poor no amount of community-based improvements were going to make the Davenport Homestead or the wider game a more attractive proposition but in a welcome return to form, the concept of base-pimping was very effectively channelled into the need to fashion a more mobile and offensive capability in tricking out the Jackdaw in AC IV: Black Flag.

And speaking of conveyances as mobile bases, the clinical interior of the Normandy in Mass Effect always felt like a secure refuge. Well, it did up until the moment it fell out of the sky. The commander’s cabin had a few interactive amusements where my Shepards would change outfits or feed her fish. And in the bigger picture I always enjoyed going back to the Citadel where that nice Fleet Admiral Anderson would protect me from the grumpy carping of sour-faced Donnel Udina. A prime example of every estate agent’s hoary descriptives ‘light’ and ‘airy’, the Citadel’s shiny pristine loveliness gives the appearance of a celestial Westfield Shopping Centre but without the all-pervasive reek of Nando’s. And the Citadel has more visible exits.

This brings me to my favourite hub in gaming, Dishonored’s Hound Pits pub. The scene-setting transition sequences with judgemental boatman Samuel in Dishonored give Dunwall’s topography a tangible credibility with each of its areas commonly linked by the need to get there by travelling along the Wrenhaven River. All have their own distinctive atmosphere and each has its own inherent dangers but for much of the game the Hound Pits seems solid, welcoming and full of hope, bathed as it is in the light of a seemingly perpetual winter sun. Despite its spartan furnishings, the pub seems all the more homely and secure for its apparent geographical isolation from the rest of the city. The tower and Piero’s multi-storey workshop add architectural interest and while the game’s soundtrack tends towards the melancholy, I find the ambient noises of the waterway and its margins near the pub strangely comforting. Eradicate the plague and I could happily live there for a time.

I’m sure I’m not the only person who’s ever wanted to jump inside the screen and inhabit a game world or at least one comfortable little corner of it and I’m hoping that when it’s released, Dishonored 2 has a hub with the magnetic charm of the Hound Pits. Until then, I’ll have plenty to keep me busy in Sanctuary and the other settlements in Fallout 4’s Commonwealth. Be patient, Shaun, Mommy’s coming.

51 Comments

  1. Στέλιος says:

    I have made a similar observation about myself; I love worlds with flexibility and exploration that also allow me to satisfy my tendencies to collect equipment and make a home in the world. In S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl (with Oblivion Lost mod) I have a savegame that has been running for maybe 8 years now where I use the Duty base’s 100 Rads Bar as my base of operations with several containers just outside having every manner of weaponry, artifact and piece of equipment from years of scavenging. Every few months I load it up, go to “my base”, pick what type of equipment and weaponry would fit what part of the Zone I feel like exploring and go off on an adventure (the mod’s constant regeneration of situations, NPCs and creatures makes it possible). I have done something similar with Call of Pripyat. In Minecraft, in addition to the 1:2 scale Great Pyramid of Khufu I built to my grandeur (those bloody peasants/villagers/creepers need to know who their Pharaoh is) I have a sprawling mansion with my kitchens, gardens, workshops, dogs and equipment. In Skyrim I did the same with one of my mansions that has sprawling yet organised weapon, book (mostly by subject), clothing and item stores for future expeditions.
    More games needs home bases.

  2. shagen454 says:

    I appreciate having homesteads in games where story & missions unfurl from it. Though, I don’t think I have had an actual virtual home that I “lived” in since UO. Ultima Online provided the player with a massive map and one could pick many locations as the plot to place the home. There were many useful items to craft, man different home types with multiple floors – player towns surrounding them, resources close by. I seem to remember there being a threat of the house being broken into if you forgot to lock the door, I might be wrong about that. Hopefully, some of this will be remedied/modernized by EverQuest Next but I’m not going to hold my breath.

  3. Zekiel says:

    I’m not a big player of Bethesda own-your-own-home games, but I do love a good home base. The Hound Pits in Dishonored was marvellous, and one of my only quibbles about the excellent story DLC was that it lacked a similar home base instead opting for a more streamlined but also more artificial mission structure.

  4. Crusoe says:

    I spent hours wander the Normandy in Mass Effect. It had a wonderful calming feeling, and always gave the strong impression of being in deep space.

  5. vorador says:

    While the flexibility of base building on Fallout 4 is amazing, i don’t particularly like how all the buildings look like they’re going to fall apart any second now. Mods will probably fix that.

    Sadly, a good amount of games with good base building haven’t touched the PC. The Suikoden series for example.

    • Zenicetus says:

      Wouldn’t the Kaer Morhen keep be considered a home base of sorts for Geralt in Witcher 3?

      Aside from the story events, that’s where he ends up if you continue in the game after finishing the main campaign. It’s about the only place a Witcher could call home, although it feels pretty empty with all the main characters gone.

      • Zenicetus says:

        Meant as a standalone post, not a reply, sorry. Damn lack of edit buttons.

    • Rufust Firefly says:

      Suikoden and Suikoden 2 had great base-building components. Finding odd people around the world to join your cause was always interesting.

      The hideout upgrades in the Saint’s Row series pale in comparison to the amount of customization available to your Boss, the main choices are how many dancers you want hanging around. Always seemed like a missed opportunity, though I’m sure the number of assets required to do that would have been cost-prohibitive.

    • amaranthe says:

      I agree! I thought it was so weird how the “new” stuff you build was still run down and ramshackle.

      I get it – it fits with the aesthetic of the world, and keeps the devs from having to create new graphics — and in a more in-universe reasoning, you’re building stuff from scraps – but really? Why does my bed have to have blood stains on it?

      In fact the one most irritating head-scratcher for me in the Fallout games is why, if it’s been 200 years since the apocalypse, why is everything still so crappy and rundown? I could accept the piles of garbage and skeletons in a sparse and uninhabited portion of the wasteland, but in main populated hubs like Diamond City or the capitol? Come on people! Get some freaking shovels and bury those bodies already. And stop pooping on your front porches.

  6. Viral Frog says:

    Many games have had hubs or player homes that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. But when I compare them to Star Wars Galaxies, they all fail horribly. Being able to place a home on nearly any accessible planet was amazing. You could literally drop any and every item in your inventory and position it exactly how you wanted it. I had a home base on Naboo, in a town called Anarchy, on the Kauri server. I was on the outskirts of town, maybe 50m away from being outside of the town limits. I had a fish tank that I had made with various different items crafted by an architect. You never would have known it wasn’t just a fish tank item, unless you had played the game yourself. My other character, a dark Jedi, had a home that I would carry around with me to drop at a moment’s notice the second I felt I was about to have a bounty on my head collected. Ah… those were the days.

  7. Wulfram says:

    I wish games would stop trying to make the home base a thing. Its never interesting to me.

    • mrbright01 says:

      I wish games would stop requiring me to kill things to advance. It never interested me.

      Did you want to smack me in the mouth, metaphorically, for saying such a thing? Good. That’s how I felt when I read your comment. Because what you said was, “Anyone who plays in a manner I dislike should be ignored for my own preference.”

      You have a choice of not building player housing. I can think of no game, save for entirely building based games like Minecraft or location defense games, where you MUST dedicate any real time to your home. And yet you feel that games should not have the building aspect, something I (and many others) enjoy, only because you do not value it.

      Don’t like it, don’t play it, but leave it alone for us to enjoy.

      • Wulfram says:

        No, I don’t want to smack you in the mouth, thats a perfectly reasonable position to take. Certainly we could do with more games where you don’t need to kill people to advance.

        Player housing is simply showing up too much for me, at least in the type of game I play (RPGs). And it tends to worse as it gets more elaborate – at least the simple stuff has a chance of being used as an interesting location, but as customisation comes in, that prospect becomes ever less.

        • Jargonloster says:

          Play Pokémon, you won’t return home until after the credits roll and you are put there.

      • Faxmachinen says:

        I too would like for games not to require me to kill things to advance.

  8. neofit says:

    Looking at that screenshot on the main page and reading the title… “What Makes A Videogame House A Videogame Home?”

    A window.

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      YES. Why do Fallout 4’s walls not have any proper windows?

  9. TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

    My biggest pride yet, with no console tricks or mods: link to steamcommunity.com

    And yes, for all wondering i hereby declare this to be the official screenshot thread!

    • mrbright01 says:

      Nice. Did you build from the bottom up, or the top down? I am having trouble figuring out how you got the top level on an uneven surface, because the ground/object clipping can be wonky at times.

      • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

        The game allowed the clipping of the first platform when building from the right to the left ( which gets shorter and clippier ), then the rest of the platform towards the left snapped, but at some point i still had to stop because the game refused to take that even further.

        At least that’s what i think you asked when it comes to the red rocket’s own roof that requires some clipping.

        I hear you mentioning the top platform but what i actually did there was building around the rocket by leaving a hole in the middle, which is incredibly cool after i figured that i could use some lamps to lighten the rocket itself.

      • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

        Oh, and it’s also because the “useful” structure is only on the right with all the stairs and stuff, the “supports” on the left are actually just stacked platforms that i like to use for looks only and some flexibility and clipping is allowed on those.

  10. Sin Vega says:

    Only homes in games I ever got really attached to were in The Sims. I designed them, from the shape of the walls to the colour of the taps. And even the stock houses soon became modified to fit your needs and preferences, and they all became a home because, well, they were. Someone actually lived there.

    A lot of RPGs now give you housey stuff, and that’s generally a good thing, but mostly it just feels pointless trekking around and fiddling, in a genre already overflowing with both. Somewhere is your home because you spend (or spent – nothing wrong with home being far away as long as it still feels like home) lots of time there, time you don’t resent.

    Wurm, Unreal World, and lately a few Just Cause 2 multi servers have given me a place that feels (or is starting to feel) like home. I slept there, I cooked there, I spent a game day relaxing there. Whenever I was somewhere else, part of me wished I could be back at that cabin, because it was mine and it was safe when I got there.

    Also, more an effect than a requirement, but if a place is just another building, when it’s threatened I’ll feel indifferent or irritated that I’ll have nowhere to put stuff, or wasted all those resources getting it, or some other practical, this-is-just-hassle reason. But when a place is a home, the prospect of someone/thing lurking outside it is frightening and infuriating. Earlier today I picked up a rifle and attacked three soldiers in an armoured car just for coming towards my base in a way I didn’t like. That was a very stupid thing to do and I’ll probably do it again, because this little shelter is my place, damn it.

    • Sin Vega says:

      TL;DR it’s not enough to bribe the player into going there, or penalise them for not going. They have to enjoy spending time there.

  11. Darth Gangrel says:

    I quite like the apartments in Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines, but I’m generally not that keen on that whole feature. I want to move around the world doing stuff, not staying at home decorating it or whatever.

    • Premium User Badge

      Gnarl says:

      Oh, Bloodlines, that was the one wonderful example missing in the article that was bothering me, thank you.

      One of the great things of Bloodlines (of which there were many) was the personalization addable to your home. From moving it, to adding a ghoul, to chatting with the appliances, it was a great expression of the choices you made and the way the different clans worked.

      Although the Gangrel didn’t get anything interesting from what I remember.

  12. Dave Tosser says:

    One of the best ways a good game can get its claws into you is giving you downtime. Even if I can’t do anything more than flick a light switch, open a fridge and stare out the window for a bit, if the atmosphere’s right it’ll work.

    Didn’t really like DXHR but loved Jensen’s apartment. Really liked Garrett’s cupboard of a home in Deadly Shadows, if only for the only guard in the game who doesn’t murder you on sight, and what eventually happens to him. Bloodlines’ first safehouse. Alpha Protocol’s Moscow apartment. And I can’t forget Jenny’s apartment in The Darkness. That one was perfect.

    …Maybe I just like apartments?

  13. LegendaryTeeth says:

    Minecraft is the best for this because you can literally build any home you want, anywhere you want. And you pretty much always do. You need a proper base to store all your loot and do your enchanting and what not.

    My favourite was a glass ceilinged stone castle built on the bottom of the ocean, though on one modded server we build a floating Kame’s lookout style hub with Myst link books to act as portals to all of our various bases and landmarks and such, including one I built in a hollowed out GIANT redwood.

    Man, I should play Minecraft again.

  14. jenkins says:

    Excellent topic!

    Wurm Online just recently put its hooks back into me for this exact reason – more than any other game I’ve enjoyed, it creates a sense of home like nothing else. That lousy little wood shack it took me a week to build? Listening to the sound of the wind across the steppe? The sound of the frogs at night by the coast? To me, it feels like a vacation home (at a fraction of the price!).

    And coming back to it after a three-year break and presented with the opportunity of starting over just about anywhere, I wound up settling the same inefficient patch of land for the sunsets that I remembered so fondly.

  15. Premium User Badge

    Gnarl says:

    Lovely piece. But I’m not sure I can trust someone that doesn’t relate to the dwarven grandeur of Markarth. I mean, if you want safe, a few of tonnes of rock should do you and if you’re looking for warm in Skyrim, you’re probably a bit lost.

    Although I admit I mostly made my home at the Mage’s Guild. Partially because it’s the first one I really found, partially for the inviting number of jittering dragon skeletons in the courtyard from the surprisingly frequent dragon visits.

  16. Premium User Badge

    Syt says:

    Great article. Personally, I’ve found that building your own place doesn’t necessarily mean it feels like home. On the other hand, provided houses or home bases can feel very much like home. Mass Effect, as mentioned, is a good example. Especially in ME2, where at one point in the story your ship is deserted, and suddenly feels almost alien – it felt like home because of the people who dwelled there. Though to me the Ebon Hawk of KotOR 1 & 2 felt even more like home than the Normandy 1 or 2 did, probably because it felt more like it had been lived in and hadn’t just rolled off the assembly line.

  17. Grovester says:

    Building your own home is one of the things I really love about The Long Dark. There’s nothing better than coming across the Camp Office when in the middle of a snowstorm, setting up home there and then using it as a base.

    I’ve even just stood on the porch on a sunny morning, watching deer frolic. And then get attacked by a wolf. Which I’ve then killed. And then spent a happy day cooking the resulting meat, and covered the floor with curing guts and hides.

    There’s also the Homestead in the Pleasant Valley.
    Seriously, The Long Dark home

    • Grovester says:

      Oops…

      I meant to say “Seriously, The Long Dark homes rock.”

    • Premium User Badge

      teije says:

      Totally agree – I love the Camp office. Except the wolf always kills me – because I suck.

  18. Rizlar says:

    Another aspect to this – I think scenes in games that mirror your real life environment are really powerful. Like in Mass Effect 2 I think the loading screens or main menu or something was the view of a computer screen on a desk, complete with cup of coffee and other gubbins, basically mirroring the exact environment in which the player might be sitting. I dunno, there is something nice about that. Spending those minutes while the game loads smoking a cigarette and drinking coffee while your character sits at their imaginary computer terminal smoking a cigarette and drinking coffee.

  19. piesmagicos says:

    Oh good! I thought I was the only one who really enjoyed this aspect of games. I truly have solid enjoyment when I enter my “home”. I remember once a gf was watching me play Deus Ex HR and I wandered the apartment and gushed about it to the point where she asked me confusingly “When are we going to go shoot something?”…I was flabbergasted that she wasn’t more interested in this slice of digital real estate…Now back to hour 30 of Fallout 4….wherein I will continue to build up my palatial estate within Sanctuary for no other reason but to potentially have room for every citizen left alive that seems cool I run across.

  20. a very affectionate parrot says:

    “…a squat Frank Lloyd-Wright-inspired dream house or some aesthetically-bereft monstrosity that’s the architectural equivalent of a pimple on the arse of someone extremely attractive”
    Those are the same thing, no?

  21. Premium User Badge

    DelrueOfDetroit says:

    Not a PC game but did anyone ever play The Warriors? Not only did it give you a home base but it gave you an area outside to steal car radios and get into fights with the police and other sorts of mischief.

  22. JKFletcher says:

    Just registered to say [something mean and needless, because I am a small, suppurating anus of a human being, for whom love is an unknown.

    What an excellent article! -Ed]

  23. Faxmachinen says:

    The pirate base you get in Independence War 2 felt quite homely. You spent quite some time in it outfitting your ships, buying upgrades and bringing home stolen cargo. Too bad you couldn’t walk around in it.

  24. LennyLeonardo says:

    Although homes in the AssCreed series are generally just an excuse for more busywork, I do like Syndicate’s train. The fact that it physically moves around the city really appeals. And it gives you a good reason to stay for a while.

  25. DORKSMAN says:

    echoing what a lot of people are saying about the Normandy from Mass Effect. the ambient space/engine sounds had a lot to do with it i think

  26. Ofanite says:

    Great piece; I couldn’t agree more. In fact, I think this is the big draw for me in Dwarf Fortalikes as well. It doesn’t even have to be my house, apparently; it’s enough that I’ve built a rad virtual house and can just kind of…watch it continue to be rad.

  27. Amlau says:

    The one with all the candles looks cosy, can somebody tell me where it’s from ? Thanks in advance

    • Jon Morcom says:

      Amlau

      That screenshot is the safehouse in Wolfenstein: The New Order. Cosy yes, but without wanting to give too much away, let’s just say it’s not always good to come home to a roaring fire.

  28. sillythings says:

    I realize I’m super late in commenting on this, so maybe no one will even read this, but ah, what the heck.

    For me what makes a videogame house a videogame home is a place you can return to that shows signs of progression. One of the first examples that comes to mind would be Naija’s home in Aquaria – the treasures you find throughout the game are collected here and just add to the life of the place. It becomes a joy to return because seeing a visual change like that is a far more pleasant way to reflect on how far you’ve come than simply looking at a few greyed out icons on a map or a progress bar.

    In The Sims 1, building your home also was an example of that for me. Whereas in The Sims 2 I straight up built houses (and created Sims) as a creative outlet and didn’t bother all that much with the gameplay itself, in The Sims 1 I remember starting out and seeing this really cool object or lot that my Sim just had no way of affording. But progressing through their career path, getting to buy those things eventually and put them in their house, that’s what made it feel like my Sim’s home. The houses I built in The Sims 2 and then moved Sims into via cheats? They were my creation, and I loved them, but they weren’t a home in quite the same way.

    An example of a home as measure of progression but in a narrative sense is how over the course of the Blackwell games Rosangela’s apartment fills up with references to people she has helped in past games. And of course, all the other objects you find in the apartment and that you can interact with tell you more about her and Joey, flesh out their characters in a very personal and intimate way.

    The same is true of Max’s dorm in Life is Strange, and this is where another element of what makes a videogame home to me comes in – disruption of the familiar. A place you have had a chance to return to multiple times or simply hang out for a while in – seeing that suddenly change (whether by someone intruding in your absence or by seeing an alternate version of it), that’s powerful and builds a connection – you will want to protect your safe space. Hitman 2’s Gontranno Church is another example of that – what starts as the tutorial level ends up being the location to the final showdown. Because the player has become familiar with it, so much more feels at stake than if it were just any other place.

  29. Niko says:

    Alien: Isolation has a mode where you go on “missions” (like collecting materials) from the hub, and unlike in the main campaign, this hub is a safe place.

    In Mojang’s Cobalt has a Survival House mode, and because the game can be tough to master (I presume, since I haven’t played it long enough), this room with few basic things works quite well at creating this feeling of safety.

  30. pmarreck says:

    Great article topic and writing! AC2’s home was a great mechanic IMHO, and in Skyrim I preferred the Archmage Quarters for my home… I’m about to do my 2nd playthrough of Dishonored (on PC) as I ragequit my first one (on PS3) due to not realizing that not hiding the bodies meant you didn’t get your bloody Ghost achievement (but you’d find out loooong after the fact, meaning savegames wouldn’t save you)… Looking forward to the Houndstooth Pub home this time around!