How ’90s interior design software laid the foundation for today’s life sims

How ’90s interior design software laid the foundation for today’s life sims

In 1994, my mother, a working interior designer, decided to jump on the home computing bandwagon and get 3D Home Architect (opens in new tab). The Broderbund program was part of an uneasy, curious wave of computer-aided design (CAD) software tailored to the burgeoning home market (opens in new tab)—the average joe looking to refresh and refresh in an exciting new digital world. I was already familiar with floor plans and architectural drawings from watching my mother at her drawing table. My mother made a valiant effort to get used to the program, but as a staunch traditionalist she eventually returned to working with her trusty pencil and paper. Suddenly, 3D Home Architect, which my parents didn’t consider a video game (and therefore not something to worry about), was all mine.

It was a cultural appeal that asked users to imagine one’s life as available for extension by computer.

Dr. Laine Nooney

Decades later, I’ve sunk oceans of time arranging furniture in Animal Crossing and laying out my free company room in Final Fantasy 14. In games, especially life sims, interior design can be a dangerous path to a place where time stands still. But in the beginning, the world of digital home design was a very different animal: easy-to-use consumer CAD programs that shaped a generation of home computer users.

(Image credit: Broderbund)

“When these products first came out in the 1990s, people wanted to play with them because they literally allowed you to do things on a computer that were previously impossible…it felt like being part of the ‘future ‘ to be,” says Dr. Laine Nooney (opens in new tab), which specializes in the historical, cultural and economic analysis of the video game and home computer industries. Like me, Nooney has strong memories of their mother playing with 3D home design and landscaping programs in the mid-to-late ’90s as their family went through a period of upward mobility.


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