The world of real estate can be an enigmatic one for anyone not making a career in the business, but the New York City Housing and Planning Council is hoping to fill in a few blanks, and they’re using a video game to do it.
For the uninitiated, it’s a great tool for taking a peek behind the curtain. But for brokers, agents and industry insiders, it can be a fun, approachable and easily digestible method for educating clients.
Inside the Rent is a free-to-play Web browser game that puts the players in the role of a real estate developer and tasks them with designing a new residential apartment building in New York City.
Rather than focusing on aesthetics or the construction itself, players must focus on challenges such as property value and weighing out development costs versus target rent prices.
If the player successfully manages their obligations across each stage of the process, their new building will go up, and the game will inform them of whether their project was profitable.
With pick up and play appeal, Inside the Rent is point-and-click affair that’s easy to navigate and approachable for anyone who’s even taken an online quiz let alone bested a traditional video game. The casual experience makes it perfect as an educational tool.
Clicking boxes makes up the majority of the gameplay here. The tasks themselves are simplified as is the information presented, which allows the player to focus on the big picture rather than get bogged down in the intricate complexities involved in real life real estate development.
Simply ensure the construction and operating costs of the building for the first year don’t exceed the combined sum of the monthly target rents set for each individual unit.
These costs are represented by two easy-to-read meters marked My Target Rent and Rent to Cover Costs. Keep the former higher than that latter, and the game is won.
Overall, Inside the Rent is an engaging experience, and it works well on a basic level. It could serve as a fun, light tool for a client — particularly a future landlord — but industry insiders will likely find it too simplistic.
The streamlined approach requires leaps in logic and leaves certain holes. The fact that a target rent must be selected toward the beginning of the game before a range of decisions that impact and raise development costs is a head-scratcher.
One would imagine any developer worth their salt would have a target rent in mind only after nailing down items such as construction costs and what amenities to include.
As a result, the player will probably find themselves continuously working backward to revise their initial rent targets to keep their building profitable.
But the creators might have done this intentionally for the purpose of surprising the player with ballooning costs to help explain why rents prices are high, especially in a location such as New York City.
Considering the intricacies of real world development, including tax breaks, housing programs, vouchers, low income mandates and subsidies — which the game touches on briefly without much explanation — as a practical look into housing development and policy, the game definitely comes up short.
But with an overall experience that’s pretty enjoyable, Inside the Rent is a fun tool, and it succeeds at its job. At the very least, it’s a good conversation for a client.