Games that ditch high-octane action for more casual gameplay have collectively become healthy or comfortable games in recent years. Spurred on by well-known titles including Animal crossing, Valley of stars, and Harvest moon, comfortable games have particularly become a point of attention during a hectic year 2020.
Comfortable games have been on my radar for literal years of playing Animal crossing on GameCube in the early 2000s to build an endless number of small towns in Landscaper in 2020 intrigues.
It’s safe to say that comfy games, whatever larger genre they may fall into, gives gamers a chance to get away from it all in a relaxing way and a touch of lightness that one might not find. elsewhere. This ringed especially true for me as I started playing it more and more over the past couple of years in the midst of a very chaotic time that was going on around us. Elements such as aesthetics, player freedom, and an emphasis on calm all come together to help turn these games into a true escape from a hectic world.
Why cozy games?
Comfortable games have a lot to offer, and this is very evident in the responses of gamers and game developers to the outpouring of comfortable games. Entire communities have formed around cozy games, including the online community Wholesome Games, which started on Twitter and has over 200,000 members on various platforms who aim to run different games “based on their feelings of comfort, compassion and convenience.”
On the developer side, independent game studios have played a big role in the comfortable gaming space. From the farming and life simulation game from developer Glumberland Oblets gathering a large following on Twitter for the latest release from developer Gamious Lake, independent developers are one of the major providers of comfy games. These games happen to be some of my recent favorites.
One of the most important things about comfortable games is how cool they are. There is often not a general feeling of having to accomplish a particular mission or participate in a fight. Comfortable games provide a lot of freedom and time, which promotes this relaxed environment.
When it comes to creating a relaxing game, it’s not just about what you do. The right setting can help create that feeling of calm. To take Lake, for example. It’s a storytelling adventure game that follows the story of Meredith Weiss in the late ’80s as she returns to her hometown to take over her father’s mail delivery for a period of two weeks. Originally inspired by an image that game director Dylan Nagel encountered, the game is set in Oregon and has a very serene vibe, which is a huge factor in many comfy games. The setting was initially what caught my eye when I saw the trailer.
I spoke to Jos Bouman, Creative Director at developer Gamious, about what goes into creating a comfortable game like Lake. Bouman explains that the game’s panoramic views guided development as much as the actual mail delivery mechanics.
“Once we realized that mail delivery would be a perfect excuse to drive in a beautiful area, and also a perfect and natural excuse to meet all kinds of people, we didn’t really (consciously) think of that idea anymore. initial, ”Bouman said. Digital trends. “It all fell into place, with the postman role as the anchor and perspective for the rest of the game.”
The setting can play a big part in what makes a game comfortable, and Oregon certainly serves as a very warm and inviting backdrop for Lake. “It’s probably no surprise, but we really like the Pacific Northwest environment that we’ve recreated in the game,” Bouman said. “It’s probably hard to find someone who doesn’t like these views! “
Since comfortable games focus much less on your average combat-oriented gameplay, the tuning and other aesthetic choices help set the mood and set the pace.
Another major attraction of comfortable games is the sense of tranquility that they often bring by focusing on the player’s choice in certain aspects. The choices can range from how they relate to the characters in the game or spend time on things like exploring, crafting, and soaking in the environment.
Bouman explains why Lake was aimed at giving players the freedom to choose whether or not they wanted to interact with the characters in the game. “Freedom of choice has always been a very important guideline during development,” Bouman explains. “It was about finding the right balance between offering options to a player, without making them feel like they might be missing out on something big. Lake should be relaxing, carefree and light, and that leaves little room for “fomo”.
The freedom to choose which aspects of a game players interact with is related to the overall cooling factor that comfortable games offer players. But that doesn’t mean that decisions can’t be found in comfortable games at all, according to Bouman.
“This is why we have taken particular care to slowly familiarize the player with the ‘play space’ (the margins of interactivity)”, explains Bouman. “If we were successful, the players won’t be afraid to make increasingly difficult decisions, not to worry about the results and just follow their feelings, because we have tried to facilitate a story that fits different play styles / preferences. “
The incorporation of freedom of choice into cozy games like Lake gives players additional control over experience and whether or not they want to engage with certain elements in a given game. For Lake, I personally chose to interact with the various characters living mostly in the city. But there were times when I wanted to see what would happen if I didn’t talk to someone or if the dialogue I had chosen affected the way they would react to Meredith.
All of these elements put together, from the emphasis on relaxing settings to the emphasis on the freedom available, create games that pull me and many other players into experiences that provide a calming respite.
The team behind Lake hope gamers take away a few things from the game that I think sums up perfectly what comfortable games offer gamers. “The most important thing is that people love the game, relax and have fun,” says Bouman. “There are no goals too pretentious with Lake. Some players said after playing that they really needed the experience, that it got them thinking about their own lives, some even cried. Tears of joy, I must add! We couldn’t be happier with such feedback.
That feeling of fun and just having a good experience while playing is what many gamers have come to find in comfortable games. I know I found myself genuinely drawn to comfortable games such as Lake and Animal crossing because of these elements and it has become much more enjoyable to play these games over the past couple of years. When we take a look at why we love comfy games so much, it’s really that fantastic blend of relaxation, freedom, and overall comfort that you can find in the emerging genre that keeps gamers coming back to it.