Imagine if the most annoying thing about tiling your bathroom was waiting for a three-second loading bar to fill up. That’s all it takes in House Flipper, a satisfying game about being a one-man house-flipping business and one of Steam’s top-selling new releases.
After taking on a few gigs cleaning up and repairing houses, the player can earn enough money to purchase houses. Then, they can do everything from washing windows and painting rooms to tiling bathrooms and tearing down walls. As the game goes on, you can upgrade your skills and make increasingly difficult cost/benefit calculations for your business investments. After a few hours playing, I got the sweet dopamine rush of productivity while actually just vaping and clicking a mouse.
Part of what makes House Flipper so satisfying is that the houses are often extremely gross or ugly. The game doesn’t shy away from shit-stained tile floors. A client might inherit her aunt’s house, which is painted with truly offensive clashing colors. Manifesting your vision of a decent, sellable house onto these garbage heaps feels amazing—especially because it happens on such a granular scale. To paint a wall, the player must purchase paint off their tablet’s store app, dip a roller into the paint and paint a strip of the wall. When the roller dries out, it needs to be refreshed. At first, it’s frustratingly slow. Then it starts feeling meditative. When I’d finished painting a whole room—window frames and all—I felt like I needed to brag to someone.
That level of realism translates into some of the gig inquiries you’ll get. Your first email is from a woman whose ex-boyfriend broke into her house and stole her radiator after they split up. You have to install a new one, screwing in one part at a time. In another email, a slightly dour potential client complains that he’s moving into an artist’s home, which is far too bright and quirky for him. Tone it down. These storylines give your work a sense of purpose, like you’re helping somebody live the sort of life they want.
House Flipper is the exact opposite of the games I normally enjoy, which are hyper-competitive and fast-paced. What makes it work is the balance it strikes between including lots of detail and streamlining tedious tasks. Players have to work to feel that sense of accomplishment, but not too hard.