There is no right way to relax. For me, walking around a Spanish island taking photos of the local wildlife, climbing to the top of a mountain, and returning to my hometown after dropping out of university are just a few of my favorite ways to relax. I haven’t done any of these activities in real life, but I was able to experience them all through games like Alba: A Wildlife Adventure, A Short Hike, and Night in the Woods.
These types of games encourage players to take it easy and enjoy the cozier things in life, which is why they have earned a reputation as “cozy games.” While there is no official definition of exactly what a cozy game is, those that fall into this categorization have a particular vibe that is easy to spot. Generally, a cozy game will be laid-back, have minimal if any combat, an endearing art style, and wrap its action around a wholesome story. These kinds of games have become so popular in recent years that they’ve sparked a welcoming online gaming movement: inspiring developers, shaping lifestyles, and building communities.
keeping it cozy
“People need to have stress-free moments during the day and just relax and smile. In the last year, more and more games with cozy vibes have come out, and I firmly believe that they help when you’re having a rough day.” says Bee, one of the developers behind the upcoming Kitori Academy cozy living sim. It doesn’t take much searching to see that Bee is right, several games on Steam’s best-seller list could be classified as a “cozy game”, and the same goes for other digital stores like Nintendo eShop and PlayStation Store. But what constitutes a cozy game? According to Bee, it’s about the feelings a cozy game gives you, and less about sticking to a strict set of genre rules or game mechanics.
“Cozy games make me think of autumn days, with a blanket, a hot drink and your favorite book, or a place where I would like to have a picnic in the afternoon.” When asked if the popularity of the cozy game trend affected Kitori Academy’s direction, Bee says, “The intention to make a cozy game was there from the beginning. We chose a theme and elements that have overtones of my personality.” and how I like to live my life. After a long day at work, I enjoy relaxing with warm and gentle games, so every piece of art, music, and story we include in Kitori Academy reflects all of this.”
While cozy games may have started out as an online trend, they are now well on their way to becoming a recognized genre, one that developers around the world are designing specifically for. Australia-based Studio Drydock is hard at work on their own contribution to the movement with Wylde Flowers. Studio founder and creative director Amanda tells me that “the plan was to be welcoming from the start” and that spirit is at the heart of this upcoming Switch and PC release. In the magical life simulator, players are encouraged to rest and relax, and this idea goes beyond the development of Wylde Flowers. “We’ve almost integrated that into the ethos of the studio with our commitment to making games that aren’t violent,” explains Amanda, “so when we were determining what the art would look like and what kind of story we wanted to tell for Wylde Flowers, it was really pivotal.” “.
Cozy gaming has even progressed beyond gaming itself, with its influence showing up in other areas of popular culture. Thanks to the likes of Instagram and TikTok, we now have a host of welcoming gaming influencers who are known for producing heartwarming content that is based on or directly influenced by the games they are playing. The influencers in question are also known to promote the same uplifting messages that many cozy games present by using self-care tips and insights about idyllic lives that they present to their audience. Ultimately though, it all comes down to a shared love of cozy games and how they can inspire us to do better.
Kennedy aka @cozy.games is one of the biggest cozy gaming influencers boasting an impressive 40,600 followers on Instagram (opens in a new tab) and 209.7k in tik tok (opens in a new tab). “To me, ‘cozy game’ is a catch-all term for any feel-good game that gives you the space to escape and relax,” explains Kennedy. “Whatever the actual content, cozy games make you want to snuggle up with a blanket and fully immerse yourself in a world where you feel right at home.”
Kennedy not only shares gaming content, but also small snippets of his cozy lifestyle, which promotes things like appreciating the little things in life and creating comforting environments in the home. “As a community, we can celebrate exactly who we are and how that translates into other areas of our lives, like personal style, decor, other hobbies, etc,” says Kennedy. “I also know that myself and many welcoming gamers see gaming as something that can be integrated into your life in a healthy and beneficial way, especially when it comes to improving mental health.”
The nurturing environment that Kennedy has helped create online has affected not only his fellow fans, but also those who are just getting started with gaming. “[I’ve] I realized through feedback from my own community that the trend was allowing those who didn’t see a place for themselves in gaming to feel seen and welcomed and as a result were getting into gaming for the first time. time”.
Cozy couple of gamers Josh and Sophie from @cozygamescorner on Instagram (opens in a new tab) Y tik tok (opens in a new tab) He also believes that the appeal of cozy games is “the ability to genuinely relax with unhurried, unpressured gameplay and seek some form of escapism.” The couple’s Instagram account is filled with warm photos, meaning even The Witcher 3, Hollow Knight, or even Fall Guys can be posted alongside the usual suspects and still maintain that cozy aesthetic. The pair believe that the lines have blurred recently and that “just about any game has the potential to be considered cosy.”
But when did the idea of cozy games start? Jenny (also known as Kimchica), who you may recognize from her work with healthy games (opens in a new tab)as well as its own content in Twitch (opens in a new tab) Y tik tok (opens in a new tab) – says that: “This is a type of game that has always had an audience, it just used to be a little harder to find other like-minded people.” Comparing games associated with the cozy gaming movement to games like Nintendogs, Cooking Mama, and Neo Pets from the early 2000s, Jenny explains, “The communities that formed around these different titles were very much niche. and they didn’t really move into the mainstream. I remember it was even hard to find the games!”
Every content creator I’ve talked to on this topic referenced Animal Crossing: New Horizons and how the timing of its release, which coincided with a global pandemic that forced our lives and social calendars online, really boosted awareness of cozy gaming. Amanda, developer at Wylde Flowers, calls it “the best example I’ve ever seen of people escaping hard times into a truly welcoming world that makes them feel safe and like they can relax.”
Jenny also mentions the island getaway title, explaining that part of its success was “largely because it was a comforting title in a difficult time.” She continues, “We’re in such a turbulent time, and cozy games absolutely provide a little bit of shelter and relief.” As Kenndy suggests, we also can’t rule out the impact of social media platforms like TikTok on this movement: “TikTok played a very important role in the identification and naming of ‘welcoming gamers’ and the identification of games as ‘welcoming games’ to big scale. ”
Another reason for the popularity of cozy games could be due to the accessibility of these titles. Many friendly games, like Stardew Valley mobile, Assemble with Care, and Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, were designed to be enjoyed on the go, so they are always available for players to use when needed. The hybrid functionality of the Nintendo Switch also benefits for the same reason by allowing fans to bring their favorite games into the world with them. “A player should be able to immerse himself in a cozy game and breathe a sigh of relief, knowing he’s in a safe place where he can just be,” says Amanda. Jenny also supports this theory by saying, “There’s a level of access that cozy games have that’s quite appealing. […] Many of these titles can be found on mobile devices, which I would say almost everyone has access to, making it easy for people who aren’t traditionally considered ‘gamers’ to pick them up and play them.”
It’s clear that the welcoming gaming community is thriving right now with countless games on the horizon and new fans joining the healthy online space every day. In fact, what continues to drive the cozy gaming movement forward is its fans; people who are just looking to take some time for themselves once in a while and who want to encourage others to do the same. As Kennedy tells me, “I’m passionate about nurturing this safe and welcoming space in gaming. I hope that with more and more welcoming gamers joining the community, we continue to grow this welcoming space and more people can recognize the value “. that a cozy game can have in your life.
Wondering which cozy game you should try next? Take a look at our new indie games 2022 ready.