It snowed this morning—the first snow of the season—and I was so profoundly thrilled. I ran outside to dance around in the falling ice, stepping in a pile of dog droppings in the process. Outside my window in the great city of Houston, the current temperature is 88 degrees, and it’s the unofficial first week of summer. That means muggy thunderstorms, and not quite the winter wonderland I’ve described.

With the novel coronavirus is putting a damper on traditional summer plans, Houstonians, myself included, are turning to the digital world to fulfill their sun-drenched (or in my case, snowy) dreams. Digital escapism comes in many forms during far less unnerving times, but over-scrolling social media feeds and endlessly browsing Netflix’s “Feel Good Reality-TV” category can only do so much good. This is where simulation games, which replicate real-world activities and situations, really shine.

 Here are four Houston-related simulation games to help you live your best life, even while you’re stuck indoors.

Houston-transplant Steven Tomlin recreates classic Astroworld rides like the Texas Cyclone in Planet Coaster.

Planet Coaster

Whether a trip to your dream park destination is something you’re keeping on your calendar or not, there’s a less expensive and more socially distanced possibility right at your fingertips. Planet Coaster is a computer game that allows players to build and manage their own theme parks—down to the landscape, construction, and guest experience.

Keep your guests happy with exciting rides, appealing scenery, and add-ons to their meals, like ketchup (no kidding, provide ketchup for your guests, and they’ll be happier), or watch your rating drop and your funds dwindle. It’s a great escape for those missing the hustle and bustle of Disney Springs, or the smell of popcorn and chlorine in the air throughout Schlitterbahn.

Houston’s very own Comicpalooza, whose 2020 convention was cancelled in March, asked fans to dress their Animal Crossings characters in convention swag over the weekend.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

The ideal stress-relieving video game, Animal Crossing: New Horizons went live across the world on March 20, and its timing could not have been better. The game begins on a deserted island where you’re tasked with building facilities and collecting neighbors. The soft music and sweet graphics have helped make this peaceful world builder into the perfect pandemic distraction, inspiring countless gamers to look to the internet for new friends and islands to visit. You’ll need a Nintendo Switch and some gamer friends, but all that’s required for the latter is access to the internet and online groups like Facebook’s Animal Crossing Houston page.

Kerbal Space Program

Looking for something a little more out-of-this-world? Kerbal Space Program, for PlayStation4, Xbox One, and PC, gives players the opportunity to create an entire space program and explore the final frontier in spacecrafts of their own design. It’s so legit the game has teamed up for colabs with NASA. So, go forth and make Space City proud, ya’ll.

Beat the Houston heat with a trip to the Sim's Willow Creek in the winter.

The Sims Franchise

Enter the previously mentioned snow. The fourth iteration of The Sims franchise was released in 2014, and, in terms of mechanics, it’s the smoothest version of the game to date. The life simulator allows you to create a digital version of yourself, your loved ones, your enemies, or a new character from your own head, and follow them through their daily lives. Take your sims to work, to the gym, and even to brunch for a bit of gab with their closest friends. Download the “Seasons” expansion pack along with the base game from Origin or on your console of choice, and you can witness the magic of that first snowfall for yourself.

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