It seems that internet culture consistently recognizes the need for coziness, especially during stressful eras. After several years of the Covid-19 pandemic, the need for an oasis of cute and calm has returned in full force through the cozy gaming movement!
Some attribute the popularity of cozy gaming to the release of the Nintendo Switch console and the subsequent frenzy about Animal Crossing: New Horizons, which reportedly increased the number of adult cozy gamers by 6% between 2019 and 20201! The rise of cozy gaming is an interesting and perhaps not so unexpected phenomena. But what is cozy gaming?
According to the game designer think tank Project Horseshoe, cozy games focus on emphasizing feelings of safety, abundance, and softness2. In a nutshell, cozy games are a bit of a reflection of its community’s desire for a post-materialist world. These games assume that all basic needs (food, shelter, safety) are already met. Instead of fighting for your life in a first person shooter, you’re exploring what life could be without that struggle for survival.
Cozy games often feature low-stress main quests and emotionally fulfilling side quests, such as befriending all the villagers, exploring an atmospheric forest, or growing vegetables for your neighbor. They are usually pretty aesthetically pleasing and have a soothing, atmospheric soundtrack, which gives the player a sense of order and comfort.
Cozy games can play on familiarity to evoke feelings of comfort. They can do this by making seasonal holidays part of their gameplay, implementing common rituals around everyday life, or using universal locations such as a train station or garden2.
It might be easy to think that any game with these qualities could count as a cozy game. But really, a game’s coziness level is up to your perception. Almost every game has some cozy elements, even a Souls game like Elden Ring2. It would be too stressful for a game to have no respite from a high-stakes questline or constant monsters. After all, games are supposed to be fun!
I think finding unexpected cozy elements in games that are not intended for the cozy audience can be exciting! It feels like there are some universal comforts that tie the gaming community together, whether that be sitting at a campfire to rest after a long day of fighting undead creatures, hanging out with your friends in a FPS lobby, or just cooking some gorgeously animated food.
What’s your favorite part of cozy gaming? Do you recognize any cozy elements in your non-cozy games? Let me know in the comments!!
To learn more about cozy gaming, feel free to read THIS comprehensive guide to cozy games by Daniel Cook, a member of Project Horseshoe!