What do you think when you think of gaming? High-octane adventure? Fast-paced first-person shooters? Well, think again.
The new gaming craze? It’s all cosy. Relaxing, meditative, wholesome. Hop onto TikTok and there are 3.2 billion views on posts about cosy gaming. Rather than just a vibe or atmosphere that a game possesses, cosy gaming is becoming a new genre all on its own. The latest ‘cosy’ hits have included ‘Lakeburg Legacies’, a period-style matchmaking game, ‘Stardew Valley’, a smash hit farming simulator inspired by Nintendo’s ‘Harvest Moon’ franchise, and ‘Unpacking’, a story-led puzzle game centred around unpacking and sorting items after moving house.
Get away from it all: In 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown, Animal Crossing: New Horizons debuted on the Nintendo Switch, a soothing, nature-focused social simulation game that allows players to retreat to a deserted island and fill it with a community of anthropomorphic animals. This sense of escapism contributed to the game’s huge success, along with its multiplayer function that allows players to visit the islands of their friends, allowing a novel new way of connection in a time that was defined by isolation. This led to sales of the Nintendo Switch going up by over 73% in the months after the release of the game.
Play with Life: This relaxed goal-less, gaming concept has always appealed to gamers. Life simulation gaming franchise ‘The Sims’ was released in 2000 and went on to become one of the most successful video game franchises in history, with three main-game sequels, and countless spinoffs. The Sims, like a lot of life simulation games, is an open-ended, goal-less experience with space for creativity.
What makes a games ‘cosy’? Here are some key elements…
Low-stress gameplay: Cosy games tend to avoid any time pressure or high-action segments. Game mechanics included in cosy games ensure minimum pressure, such as fishing, farming, sorting objects, and exploring.
Space for creativity: Crafting is a large aspect of many cosy games, allowing players to use their imagination in fulfilling ways.
Social aspects: Whether it be through multiplayer functions or a large cast of in-game characters, many cosy games emphasise building relationships, with themes that highlight helping others, and being a good neighbour.
Soothing atmosphere: Cosy games often utilise gentle soundscapes and picturesque settings that offer a sense of rest and relaxation.
‘Cosy’ isn’t necessarily tied to difficulty. Some ‘cosy’ games, such as Concerned Ape’s ‘Stardew Valley’ require real strategy to play the game to full completion. However, these goals are generally not affected by any time constraints, allowing players to explore the game at their own pace. In cases like Stardew Valley, the game is designed to take in-game years to complete.
The majority of ‘cosy’ games are coming out of indie game studios such as Concerned Ape, and Spry Fox, rather than major video game developers. These studios tend to have more female representation, in an industry that has historically struggled with gender balance. Over 60% of video game developers are men, which means smaller women-led studios allow for fresh perspectives and new trends.
The End of the First-Person Shooter? Not likely. FPS franchises such as Call of Duty, Valorant, and Apex Legends remain some of the biggest names in gaming. However, shifts are happening here too. Epic Game’s smash-hit battle royale game ‘Fortnite’ distinguished itself among competitors through its cartoonish graphics and building functionality that was at that time unknown to the action survival genre, both elements common to the ‘cosy’ gaming trend.
So, what’s the deal with cosy gaming?
Cosy gaming provides a novel escape from the pressures of daily life through the genre’s goal-less, creativity-focused ethos. It’s no mystery to why the genre really took off in 2020. And with fresh new ‘cosy’ titles being announced regularly, it looks like cosy gaming is here to stay.
Cosy gaming has transcended trend, or even genre, and become a community, with online creators both sharing cosy games, and playing them together. This community is bucking the accepted idea of what a ‘gamer’ looks like, and showing the power of subverting established perceptions of the the industry itself. Gone are the days where ‘real’ gaming is limited to gritty action-adventure titles, much like in real life, the gaming industry is starting to see the benefits of slowing down and noticing the little things…
TL/DR: Games about getting away from it all for a simple farming life? Matchmaking in a medieval village? Unpacking boxes? Where’s our download link?
Authored by: Estella Brown, Creative Intern & cosy gaming connoisseur