Gaming Writer Charley Gordon-Boyle provides foundation to the idea of Homescapes being a form of Gen Z escapism

I’m not much of a gamer, or at least not in the stereotypical sense. I have only ever owned one console and that was only because I convinced my mother that Wii Fit would force me to exercise. That said, it was recently pointed out to me that I devote a lot of my time to mobile games. Mobile games, despite being a multibillion-dollar industry attracting a primarily female audience, are often dismissed by others in the gaming community. These games are escapist and “cosy”, often requiring less skill and triggering less adrenalin than their violent, combat-based competitors.

The protagonist, is a butler who seemingly never actually works

However, I wanted to drill into what exactly makes the world of my favourite mobile game, Playrix’s Homescapes, so appealing. The premise of the game is simple. Match various household items in short puzzle-based levels to earn stars. These stars can then be put toward renovating a home. There is also a recurring cast of characters—Austen, the protagonist, is a butler who seemingly never actually works, instead devoting all his time to renovating his parents’ various dilapidated mansions and repeatedly informing the player that his secret to staying in shape is callisthenics even though they never asked. Katherine, a florist, and his supposed crush, as well as Austen’s eccentric parents and their various friends.

The idealised world presented here is decidedly conservative

The idealised world presented here is decidedly conservative—most characters are paired off into some form of a heterosexual relationship, and the few non-white roles, such as Shanti the hypnotherapist, indulge in problematic stereotypes. Yet, there is an unmistakable joy to be found in the game’s bright graphics and inventive storytelling. Alongside his various non-duties in the house, Austen often finds himself on various limited-time event ‘quests’ where he has to save himself and/or his friends from a range of locations including magical caves and evil chocolate factories. It’s a wonder that the man is never arrested for child endangerment or environmental destruction, considering so many of these quests involve chopping down as much greenery as possible to save one of his friends’ kids.

Research suggests that mobile games can improve a player’s mental health as they require little concentration and allow players to lose themselves in the simpler realities of these fictional worlds. Although Homescapes and other puzzle-match games like it have long been associated with middle-aged consumers, for the Gen Z consumer it provides the ultimate fantasy: a peek at life with ultimate financial freedom. Most Gen Z believe they will never own a home and thus never design their own space. But with Homescapes, the only limit is how many tiles you can match. Plus, whenever I ever get bored of home design, I can just dip into the extended scapes universe, and try my hand at gardening instead.

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