Forget Animal Crossing. My coronavirus escape is a game about throw rugs


Despite limits on international travel, I’ve spent the past few weeks hanging out in Greek villas and Monte Carlo penthouses. I’ve also spent an excessive amount of time thinking about the decor that should fill these spaces. Would a simple, woven ottoman look gauche against those marble floors? What sort of luxe side table would best complement the wall’s gold inlay?
Strange things to ponder during these weighty, uncertain times, I know. Curse you, Design Home, and your insidious ways.
Design Home is a mobile game for iOS and Android that tasks you with designing rooms in much the same way you’d decorate a house you built in The Sims. I am obsessed.

I’m not the only one. Design Home has been downloaded more than 75 million times since launching in November 2016 and has more than a million daily active users, according to developer Glu Mobile. And like many games, it’s seen an uptick since the start of the coronavirus outbreak as people hunkering at home seek a respite from the Groundhog Day-like time loop.

“The game has always been relaxing, but it’s now become a much-needed distraction,” says Toni Hawkins, a player from Hermiston, Oregon.

That’s no surprise. “Jet-set back to Asia’s most stunning locales as you relive the life of an heiress to a luxury hotel chain,” reads one recent set of challenges. Let’s just say Design Home will never ask you to furnish a living room that now triples as a home office and an elementary school classroom. Face masks and hand sanitizer are not among the items you can place on a nightstand. This is escapism at its fanciest.

Like many free games, the game’s not really free, of course, since if you’re anything like me, you won’t be satisfied until you’ve found just the right casual, striped accent chair to match the breezy blue curtains in your coastal Maine living room. So you’ll drop a couple of bucks on diamonds, one of the in-game currencies, telling yourself this is the only time this week you’ll spend $1.99 for a digital rug and a plant made from pixels.

You’ll be lying.
Design Home invaded my life a year after its debut. I decorated a few mismatched rooms out of curiosity but quickly discovered that tracking table lamps is way more relaxing than tracking the day’s political mudslinging or the spread of COVID-19. To date I’ve designed almost 500 rooms, from living rooms in French mansions to kids’ bedrooms in suburban Kansas. Almost 500 rooms. Do you know how many carefully chosen Cynthia Rowley couches and West Elm floor lamps that is?

Neither do I, but I don’t care. It’s fun.
The more you play, the more goods you acquire. More paintings, wall clocks, vases, ferns and other accents for your inventory. More choice means better-designed rooms, and a greater chance your fellow players will give your eclectic Florence patio a score of 4 stars or higher. That nets you a piece of furniture as a prize — and deludes you into thinking you should compete on the Netflix show Interior Design Masters. Five stars and you get the prize plus a bunch of diamonds (16 of my rooms have been bestowed five stars, not that I’m counting).

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