I’m not like old old, but TikTok scares me and my back hurts a lot of the time. Born in 1989, I’m a solidly middle of the pack millennial, which, to a young person, makes me basically ancient. I’ve come to terms with this. I’ve made peace with it. But I still like to know what’s happening— following trends gets more and more interesting as I get older and can watch the ebb and flow of style and tastes.
My ability to ‘get’ those styles and tastes also ebbs and flows. I understand some of the tastes of today’s youth (kpop, turn of the millennium aesthetics), but not others (dressing like Princess Diana, 100 Gecs).
One thing that has continued to elude me is the idea of ‘cottagecore.’ Why do today’s teens all want to be farmers? I don’t get it. Yes, I’ve read the thinkpieces about the apocalyptic scenario we all face, and how a life in harmony with nature is very appealing. But nature is icky. You can get lyme disease.
So, when Fanbyte covered The Sims 4‘s latest expansion pack, Cottage Living, I saw a perfect opportunity to get back into one of my all-time favorite game franchises and finally figure out what this hot pastoral trend is all about.
Starting my new cottagecore life
After purchasing the expansion pack, I was ready to let myself fall in love with the cottagecore fantasy. With a shiny, smooth new Sim modeled after myself, I started a brand new game.
Instead of setting Sim Hunktears up with a house in Cottage Living‘s charming Henford-on-Bagley, I opted for a more gradual transition into cottagecore, with a spot in the vampire-filled Forgotten Hollow and a career in social media. This way, I reasoned, I could let myself embrace cottagecore more naturally, redoing my house in a cottagecore style that suited me little by little as the mood struck.
…things went bad for Sim Hunktears pretty quickly.
Balancing my social media job with tending for my small barn turned out to be pretty much impossible, leaving my animals angry with me, my crops withering, and my Sim exhausted. My job performance suffered, my llama and chickens were ready to walk out on me, and none of my needs were met. To make matters worse, I forgot to lock my house doors, leaving my Sim vulnerable to vampire attacks, which happened immediately.
The vile Vladislaus Straud, founder of Forgotten Hollow, broke into my home and drained my Sim, even having the gall to compliment the flavor of my Sim’s digital plasma. This began a domino effect of exhaustion and failure that completely derailed my initial plans for the game.
Two game days in, I looked at my Sim and took stock:
- always exhausted
- can’t keep my chickens happy
- attacked by a vampire
- struck by lightning
I don’t think this is the fantasy that people are thinking of when they think about cottagecore.
I realized I needed to change my Sim’s life.
Fuck cottagecore. I want revenge.
My mistake was immediately apparent to me. I should have done this game in Cottage Living‘s adorable farm village with its pub and fairs and cute local wildlife where I wouldn’t have gotten attacked by VAMPIRES.
Unfortunately, that ship had already sailed. I was invested, and I was pissed.
I forgot to pause my game as I took notes and considered my next move, and found my Sim deep in conversation with Beverly, a hen. The solution suddenly came to me as if Beverly had told me herself, a way to have plenty of money and space for my farming, while also getting revenge on my nemesis Vlad: I had to seduce him, marry him, and then kill him.
Marrying and killing a rich townie is a classic Sims strategy, predating the popular, and fabulous Black Widow Challenge by many years. I remember doing it in The Sims 2 as a much younger Simmer. So it couldn’t be that hard, right?
Wrong. Vlad must have seen through my advances, because he wasn’t interested at all. Fortunately, I was ready, having befriended local vampire Lilith at karaoke to the point where she was happy to become my roommate.
As is the case with many romances in Sims, Lilith and Vlad worked quickly, going from an initial flirtation to a post-woohoo elopement in less than two in-game days.
Finally, it was time for my revenge. Lilith the Vampire, Beverly the Hen, and I (Hunktears the Sim) moved into Vlad’s stupid vampire mansion. I considered killing Vlad immediately, but after another heart to heart with Beverly, I realized that forcing him watch helplessly as I transformed his gothic mansion into an adorable cottagecore paradise was a perfect way to align my revenge with my desire to understand this aesthetic.
Dead trees, jewel tones, and spooky statues were OUT. Farm animals, pastels, and gnomes were IN. I installed two chicken coops and two animal sheds in the backyard, with an additional penthouse coop just for Beverly.
The more I swapped out Vlad’s Victorian, gothic decor (how predictable! We get it! You’re a vampire! Grow up!) for everything floral and cute, I began to understand cottagecore’s appeal. Eventually I bulldozed the lot and started over, and ended up very pleased with what I did.
I take long breaks from The Sims not because I necessarily want to, but because I have to. I will decorate a house, adjust a Sim in CAS, or even browse for custom content for hours. Decorating is usually what gets me, though, and certain styles are a larger timesuck than others. When the aesthetic requires a certain amount of clutter, I turn on the moveobjects cheat, a Sims classic that lets you break the rules of how much shit you can put in one place. I quickly discovered that moveobjects is essential to get a satisfying cottagecore feel— a garden overflowing with flowers, exterior walls covered in ivy, interior walls covered in odds and ends.
I went ham on the ivy, as you can see in the photos. With each eager click, with each mental thrill of “more more more,” I began to understand my own cottagecore fantasy.
Chaos. Revenge. Spite.
A cottage is a maximalist tiny home— tiny not out of a conscious desire to take up less space, but rather tiny out of sheer necessity. There is a minimalist cottagecore— I’ve seen it in aesthetic posts on Twitter so I know it’s a thing— but it often feels a little too suburban for me to find appealing. I don’t want neat lines and trimmed grass. I don’t want planning. I want something explosive and colorful and lush.
Most importantly, I want it to make Vlad fucking miserable.
I made him a little basement and covered it in clown portraits to emphasize what a fucking clown he is. He doesn’t seem unhappy, but that’s because his programming doesn’t let him understand just how thoroughly I have destroyed and humiliated him. I have taken everything that was once his and turned it into something of my own. I’m going to kill him soon. Maybe tonight. Maybe on twitch.
This is what cottagecore is about. Every floral print, every doily, every adorable little chicken tchotchke is a slap in his stupid vampire face. I totally get it now. It’s fabulous.