Getting Cozy With Games

The first thing people generally think of when they hear "video games" is Mario or shooters such as Halo or Call of Duty. While these are wildly-popular types of games, there is a new genre gaining momentum out there: Cozy Games.

These are games where the gameplay is simple. No time limits, no complicated set of rules. It's simply you and a general task to achieve at whatever pace you want. Kelli Dunlap, a PsyD with a doctorate in clinical psychology, and a masters in game design talks about what these games are and why they're becoming popular.

The premise was more or less "what are these games, why are they popular, and why would anyone else want to watchanother person play them?" 

Q1: What even are these games? 

A1: Power-wash Simulator, Unpacking, and A Little to the Left are all examples of what the show referred as "cozy," "mundane," or "boring" games. While most games people think of are 'fight or flight' type games - those with lots of adrenaline, chaos, and explosions, these games are 'tend and befriend' games where the goal is to care for things, people, or places. 

Q2: Why are these games so popular right now?

A2: This really is a two part answer. First, as I mentioned in the video, is that when the pandemic hit a lot of people were desperate for normal, for a sense of control as we came face to face with the reality of living on a chaos rock hurtling through space. These kinds of games are soothing because you have a task, you do it, and you can very clearly see the connection between your action and its consequence. This helps us to feel a sense of control over our environment and that our actions matter, two fundamental ingredients to psychological well-being. 

Kelli Dunlap's Blog

Probably the most well-known Cozy Game would be Animal Crossing. The world collectively played this game during the pandemic and the game was about... decorating your island, talking to animals, fishing, catching bugs, and buying counterfeit art from a fox. But it was relaxing and a world of calm in a time when nothing made sense.

Other games Dunlap and David Pogue mention on CBS' Sunday Morning is Unpacking, Power Washing Simulator, and Farming Simulator. All these games have mundane tasks but all hold the central premise that you control what you do.

It's a fascinating take on what is generally an area of entertainment where you're under pressure to achieve some tasks. I've included the video below so you can see more about this and maybe get in on the power-washing action too.

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