Commentary: Forget ASMR, this is the ultimate zen activity.
When I'm having a stressful day, I don't typically turn to the hot bath and glass of wine route. Nor will a yoga session calm me.
No, if my day has reached peak stress level, there's only one thing I turn to. On those days, I am lighting a candle, setting up my Chromecast and streaming Sims 4 building videos on YouTube on the biggest TV in my house.
As a reasonably regular player of The Sims (read: I play for a manic week-long period then don't touch it for six months, then rinse and repeat) I like to think of myself as being a decent builder. I can make functioning houses with funky decor. I once made a gym where you don't have to look at anyone else while you exercise (the dream). I even built a functioning graveyard where departed sims were honored with shrines inside a mausoleum, and it is my biggest achievement.
But I will not, by any stretch, profess to be a Sims Builder.
There are people out there – architectural geniuses – who can take the very same tools available to everyone and create something unbelievable. From sprawling castles to multi-level villages and intricate tiny homes, these players are dynamic, have innate style and immeasurably good design sense. Not only that, but they're landscape artists as well, with perfectly placed shrubbery and terrain paints to make a place look real.
I am self-aware enough to know that it is, without question, beyond my own capabilities to make these masterpieces. But it's fun to watch.
I'm not alone in this. The Sims community loves a good build video, with some of the most popular YouTubers and Twitch streamers working in the build space. With hundreds of thousands of subscribers, these videos routinely hit view counts in the millions.
Take YouTuber SimLicy for example. With almost 400k subscribers on YouTube, her channel is home to calming build videos that have her narration over the top, explaining not only what she did, but how you can achieve it in-game too. Her builds are typically more traditional homes, with titles like "Single Mom and 7 Kids!" or "Fun Family Home!"
Want something more fantasy-inspired? Check out SIMproved. From realistic adaptations of sprawling pop culture settings (the Kaer Morhen lot is incredible) through to water parks, gigantic castles, spaceships, fairy mushroom villages and even the Spirited Away bathhouse, every single thing that comes up on her YouTube makes me wonder if we're even playing the same game.
Then you have builders like DoctorAshley, who routinely mimics some of the biggest, most stylish homes on platforms like Zillow in her series Curb Appeal. From floorplans and photos, she creates nearly exact replicas of multimillion dollar mansions in The Sims 4 on YouTube and Twitch – and every single time, they're not only magnificent, but they're totally playable.
Her ability to recreate these homes is astounding, and there's little wonder that her creations are so popular – it's not an exaggeration to say these builds could take days and days of painstaking work, fine-tuning the details and experimenting with different arrangements. The best part? She started out by being a build video watcher, too.
"I started watching Sims build videos in university as a way to unwind from the stress of exams and studying," Ashley told CNET. "Shortly after graduating, I was in desperate need of a creative outlet and decided to upload Sims build videos on YouTube to document my build progress."
It's a similar story for a lot of Sims creators who are always on the lookout for ideas. Other than constantly checking real estate websites and commenting to yourself, "I could totally make that," when you see a cool house (just me?), build videos are some of the easiest places to derive inspiration.
"Build videos are also a more calm genre of content that people can easily put on in the background to keep them company while they do chores around the house," said Ashley. "I grew up watching a lot of HGTV interior design shows with my mom, so I've always had a general interest in architecture and interior design."
Putting the actual work in to make these builds yourself would be wildly stressful if this isn't your jam, but there's something so incredibly calming about seeing it play out in front of you.
It's like my version of watching elite athletes dominate at their chosen sport – I'll never do a Produnova (it's called the "vault of death" for a reason), but I could watch the heck out of Dipa Karmakar landing one in the 2016 Rio Olympics.
You could even consider it a type of ASMR. Hearing the narration play as you watch a house slowly come together just tickles the right part of my brain. It's an audio-visual treat for the senses.
And look, it works for me. That's all that matters really, when it comes down to it. When I put them on, my whole body relaxes. It's procedural, it's soothing, there's a definitive end result and there's bucketloads of creativity and problem-solving involved. Who could ask for more?
Sims 4 build videos may not be your cup of tea, but it's the type of tea I'd like a swimming pool full of – ideally without someone deleting the ladder on me.