Check out ‘The Tenants,’ the video game that could change what people think they know about owners

Anyone who has owned or managed a rental property knows that it takes a lot more than cashing rent checks.

So even if a newly released video game The tenants isn’t the virtual equivalent of walking a mile in an owner’s shoes, it has the potential to add a little nuance to the public perception of business – and begs the question, this oft-maligned profession perhaps- does she get some love?

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Courtesy of Old Forge Studio

A tenant sleeps in a rental unit in the game “The Tenants”, while messages from the tenant are displayed on the phone widget.

Despite its title, The tenants places players in the role of landlord, giving them several different areas of multifamily real estate to play with, from renovating units to managing properties to selecting and managing tenants.

At its heart, it’s a video game about time and resource management on a level so granular that a player can choose the color of a toilet paper holder. But the subject matter brings out the game in a refreshingly disorienting and thought-provoking way.

In order to make it fun, the creators had to drastically reduce or simplify some of the most boring parts of being an owner – which of course makes the job much easier than it is.

“It’s a tough business that’s not all about money,” DMH Investments President Daniel Harvey says of what he wants a video game to teach gamers about ownership. . “I don’t know how you would necessarily get that across. But if [players] had to make difficult decisions that they seemed to find so easy… This realism, considering how difficult it is, considering that we are human? That would be the most important part, to humanize us.

The tenants was officially released on the Steam platform for computer games on October 20 by Polish developer Ancient Forge Studios and publisher Frozen District. Ancient Forge co-founders Dushan Chaciej and Maksymilian Strzelecki developed The tenants from an idea Chaciej had while watching the TV show Shameless in 2017, and built it on Strzelecki’s love of deep 1990s management games like Airline tycoon.

“Everyone has opinions about the owners, at least, so the game feels relatable,” Strzelecki said. “When we give someone the elevator pitch, they’re like, ‘Oh, that’s cool, I always wanted to be a landlord, but I can’t afford it in real life.'”

In The tenants, the player starts as an aspiring homeowner given a prefab house by Uncle Steve to renovate and rent out, who acts as the player’s guide, mentor, and handyman. Eventually, they become a real estate mogul: they own apartments, flip investment properties, and manage a portfolio of tenants.

Along the way, a player is faced with choice after choice and consequence after consequence. The player can hire a professional to fix a unit’s broken pipe, see if Uncle Steve can handle it, or reject the tenant’s request.

If a tenant is often behind on rent or makes life unpleasant for their neighbors, a carrot-or-stick approach can be used: encourage them to behave better with a gift basket, or nag them to that he break his lease by hiring a trumpeter to disturb him. on the other side of the wall.

Aesthetically, it strongly resembles The Simsbut it’s more like an incredibly in-depth game SimCity. Playing the game unlocks more types of jobs and more functions, ranging from different pieces of furniture to place in an apartment to a greater variety of rental conditions. The element that has been significantly simplified, even from what Chaciej and Strzelecki originally intended, is accounting.

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Courtesy of Old Forge Studio

A bird’s eye view of the city of Wondersville, one of the first images a player sees when launching the video game “The Tenants”.

“In the beginning, our vision focused more on transactions, and we even had crazy mechanics for paying bills, but it’s definitely not a gamer’s fantasy to keep paying bills and focus on that” , said Chaciej.

“We ended up just making one button to click to pay all the bills [at once]“said Strzelecki. “It’s something people have been asking for, but we didn’t want to have it initially because it’s not part of the experience of being an owner.”

While owning a rental property is all about money in general, and optimizing costs and revenue in particular, landlords know that keeping a metaphorical checkbook is the most tedious part of the job.

“Bookkeeping is the bloodline of your business, but it’s the most boring part,” said Babb Properties founder Kim Avant-Babb, who owns rental properties in Philadelphia and runs a staff training business. owners to become owners.

Another area where The tenants eschews realism in favor of fun, that’s what happens to a player’s business as it evolves: basically, nothing. Finances notwithstanding, the player remains responsible for granular decisions throughout – much like a small owner.

“Nobody wants to deal with accounting, updating [multiple listing services] and all that,” said Michael Holloway, founder of Holloway Realty. “Big companies probably have wizards or software to help them.”

One of the defining distinctions between large and small landlords relates to tenant relations, as large landlords either have entire teams dedicated to property management or hire third parties to do so. For small landlords, dealing with tenants can be the hardest part of the job; for The tenants‘ creators, it was subject to frequent adjustments to find the right proportions of realism and fun.

“We had to find a balance between positive and negative actions,” Strzelecki said. “Obviously in real life you’re just expected not to be shit, but in a game you want to have a little more positive things to do.”

Negative experiences a landlord can have with a tenant in-game range from late or non-paying rent to being a nuisance to neighbors, and can even go as far as opening a meth lab. in crystals in one unit.

Negative consequences of a poor relationship with a tenant can include refusing to pay more rent when the lease expires or breaking a lease early and leaving a unit vacant (and possibly dirty). More creative ways for tenants to show their displeasure were considered but not included, again in the service of keeping the gaming experience enjoyable.

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The game’s renovation feature includes a wide variety of options for every part of an apartment, from floors to fans to food bowls.

In some cases, this worst-case scenario of a tenant breaking a lease may be worth it – hence the sabotage option.

But while Chaciej and Strzelecki envisioned gamers leaning inconsequentially on the misanthropic fun of a digital world, most instead opted to be a better version of a landlord than what they see in real life.

“If you ignore a repair for a while, tenants call you an asshole,” Chaciej said. “And we changed that word to [the] English [version], because people were saying, “These tenants are so mean!” What can I do now? I don’t want to be an asshole. So they wanted more chances to make amends and apologize. If anything, more people want to be nice and a good owner.

“At the end of the day, you find out that you’re not bad after all,” Strzelecki said.

For many players, the fact that landlords can do positive things for their tenants rings hollow, Chaciej said, pointing to the negative perception that landlords have in the popular consciousness.

But Avant-Babb gives gifts to tenants she’s on good terms with and encourages her students to do the same, she said.

“We have an annual tenant appreciation gift, which I’m preparing for right now,” Avant-Babb said. “At the end of the year, I send a card and give them a gift card thanking them for being a great tenant… If you’re talking about a tenant relationship, it’s so much about psychology, how you set the tone and how you move through this relationship.

The easiest way to have a good relationship with tenants is to select the right ones, and there are a few methods of selecting tenants in the game, which came from discussions the game creators had with real landlords during of their research. The tenants.

“This American owner named Joe was watching visitors come to open houses, looking at their cars, etc.,” Chaciej said. “If there’s a lot of trash in their car, then [he would assume] they’re not going to keep a clean apartment. So you have to be a sort of judge of character.

Besides accounting, the most common element of owning The tenants skips deals with the government, whether it’s building codes and zoning or legal cases with tenants. More of this will be incorporated into Ancient Forge’s follow-on game The builderswhich is currently scheduled for release in 2024.

“We plan to involve more serious things like municipal regulations, where you have to meet special requirements like number of windows, distance between walls and things like that,” Chaciej said.

Even in a simplified and caricatural version, The tenants can demystify the job of ownership and maybe teach players to be a little more understanding, Chaciej and Strzelecki said.

If this happens, it will be hailed as an achievement by owners. But a fun way to learn what a landlord is might even have more direct benefits for the real estate industry for those who want to get creative.

“It could probably be a great property management training tool that sounds like fun, or at least funnier than how I train my management staff,” Harvey said.

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