As long as I had a GameCube, I don’t think I ever won a game.
When my plane first landed on Isle Delfino in Super Mario: Sun in 2002, my main priority was to finish the tutorial. It was the only task he needed to complete before he could roam the plaza freely, pretending to buy fruit from the vendors on the island. Similarly, my brother and I spent countless hours in Kirby Air Ride but they never competed with each other. As with dozens of other games, we’d argue over which virtual sky belonged to our colored Kirby before treating the game like a life sim, riding our racers around town, running imaginary errands, and acting absurdly complex. social dramas between our fluffy and round characters.
These games were never intended to be played as self-guided open-world experiences. They provided just enough freedom to encourage a few hours of total immersion before hitting the limits of gaming.
While open-world games with low stakes and minimal violence have been around for decades, it wasn’t until recently that they became a genre of their own, known as “cosy” or “wholesome” games. The mechanics and objectives in games like Stardew Valley, OobletsY cozy grove they may vary, but they share a common vibe completely separate from the cis-masculine RGB transmitter setup that has become analogous to gaming culture. They encourage you to take your time in an open world with no competition.
“These players have always existed in the industry”
“These players have always existed in the industry. It doesn’t normally suit those people,” said Matthew Taylor, founder of the Wholesome Games brand and online community. the edge in an interview on Tuesday. “Perhaps that is why there are people who are unconditional animal crossing fans or unconditional stardew fans. But now all of a sudden they realize there are more games in this space that they can enjoy and get more out of.”
It was shortly after the pandemic release of Animal Crossing: New Horizons that my social media feeds were suddenly filling up with influencers whose accounts were dedicated to these cozy games. Nintendo sold more than 40 million copies of the gamealmost four times more than the previous edition. During this time, creators like Cozy K, aka Kennedy, racked up millions of views on videos of Switch consoles huddled next to blankets and candles, veiled with Lightroom presets most commonly seen on Instagram-branded grids. Lifestyle.
Even as countries reopened, the cozy or “healthy” gaming industry has continued to grow. Google search queries for “cozy games” peaked in November, more than two years after the genre took off online. On PC, Steam identifies games that fall under its own “cozy” rubric, and Netflix recently bought Spry Fox, an indie developer of cozy games, this fall.
“Before, cozy games were not considered a viable source of income for these companies. In recent years, they’ve said, ‘Hell, we’ve got to put money into this,’ Kennedy said. the edge in a December interview. “This space has really been taking off in terms of game development.”
Google search queries for “cozy games” peaked this November
Some cozy games, like the recently released indie title a little to the left, they’re based on pleasantly mundane mechanics, like arranging a bookcase or junk drawer. They require just enough focus to hold your attention, but can be picked up and dropped whenever the player wants. As more widely adopted titles like animal crossing, players are tasked with chores that they are not pressured to complete in a specific amount of time. Due to the low stakes, it is rarely possible for a player to lose.
Outside of the indie scene, major developers have also started to include more welcoming elements into their games. Nintendo published two open world games Pokemon games this year Pokemon Legends: Arceus Y Scarlet Pokemon Y Violet. The games encourage players to explore the carefully designed environments and organize cozy picnics with their Pokémon friends. The games are not as open as other Nintendo titles like Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild but they have been welcome additions to a series that has relied on linear storytelling for decades.
The latest from Blizzard world of warcraft expansion, dragon flight, implemented a completely new crafting system, and includes a handful of more welcoming quest lines compared to previous versions. towards the beginning of by dragonflight campaign story, players are forced to sit next to a dwarf and listen to him tell his enchanting life story before they are allowed to continue on their quest to save Azeroth.
A confluence of factors, from pandemic lockdowns to wildly accurate social media algorithms on platforms like TikTok, likely led to the sudden virality of the cozy gaming trend. But instead of creating the trend, social media made it more accessible, giving it a name and showcasing its popularity to mainstream studios.
“Platforms like Twitch and being able to find creators who felt like I could actually hang out in the space and watch them was also very important in making me feel like I could be a part of the gaming space,” Jenny Windom, an indie game. producer and member of the Wholesome Games team, said the edge.
The World Economic Forum estimates that the gaming industry expected to be worth over $320 billion by 2026, with the majority of revenue coming from consumer spending on social and casual gaming. Even Facebook’s parent company, Meta, rebranded itself this year in anticipation of consumers’ growing reliance on games for social interactions and entertainment. But instead of the cozy and fantastic atmospheres of stardew valley either cozy groveMark Zuckerberg’s metaverse features a soulless world of VR office meetings and avatar designs that should have died along with Xbox 360.
Like the creator economy above, I can’t help but feel that many mega-corporations championing the metaverse have arrived too late into a scene that grows predominantly out of love and care from the community that built it. Cozy gamers have always been around, but the tech giants only started paying attention since they became a marketplace.