In 1980, video killed the radio star. And, as the video continued to morph into new forms like games, the onslaught only continued. Now, in 2021, there’s a new niche of indie games that are staging a peaceful intervention and inviting their fellow video game brethren to lay down their weapons in favor of good ol’ fashioned garden trowels.
I first walked in on this intervention while scrolling through TikTok. Although I am not in any way, shape, or form a gamer—I haven’t played a video game since I lost my Nintendo DS to some black hole in my childhood bedroom—the algorithm still presented me with a video posted by @cozy.games. Kennedy, the user behind this account, opened my eyes to a whole new world of fun and wholesome gaming, and I’m into it.
Violence is such a normal part of everyday life—and that’s horrifying. I’m not trying to shame anyone for their preferences, but it’s baffling to me that so many people find games like Call of Duty, Mortal Kombat, DOOM Eternal, and even Grand Theft Auto entertaining. If video games are supposed to be an escape from reality, I’m not sure what players are escaping from in games that seem to take the worst aspects of our world and glorify them.
Of course, this is a longstanding debate, and violent RPGs do not account for the entirety of the video game industry. Minecraft and Roblox have gained popularity in recent years—but you can still kill other users in these games. So again, what are we escaping from?
Enter screen, cozy games. Animal Crossing is arguable the most well-known “cozy” game, with Stardew Valley and Harvest Moon following closely behind. For fans of any of these styles of gaming, Kennedy of @cozy.games regularly recommends new games that fit this aesthetic. She’s reviewed Roots of Pacha, Spiritfarer, Coral Island, Cozy Grove, Pikuniku, Little Mouse Encyclopedia, and Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion (which won’t be an escape if you’re currently not paying your taxes).
"a cottagecore mail-delivery adventure game" 👀 https://t.co/tICCmGzQ05
— Wholesome Games (@_wholesomegames) May 10, 2021
These games make me want to purchase a Nintendo Switch Lite, light a few of my favorite candles, and bundle up in my comfiest sweats for an afternoon spent physically on my couch (but mentally in other worlds). Gamers like Kennedy are largely to thank for building an aesthetic around something different than the mainstream video game realm.
In an interview with Embedded, Kennedy said, “The marketing towards gaming is not that great. It focuses mainly on one kind of identity. There are so many different kinds of games, and I 100% believe there is a game for everybody.”
My favorite part about the games is that many of them fit into the cottagecore aesthetic. While the frenzy around cottagecore has calmed since last summer, it’s still going strong if you know where to look. Namely, under lily pads.
The cottagecore aesthetic celebrates a simplicity in existence that I think is building a greater movement around reconnecting with nature and each other. It’s a way for people to push back against the fast-paced digitalization of our world by celebrating the spaces in our surrounding environment that provide a breath of fresh air.
While it might seem contradictory that a form of technology is helping to reconnect people with nature, we need any solution we can get at this point. If playing hours of Little Mouse Encyclopedia gives people a better understanding of plant and animal species, so much so that they become interested in helping raise awareness around habitat conservation and sustainable practices, I’m all for it.
Simply put, our world is dying. Our misuse of land and resources has backed us so far into a corner that the National Park Service and ecologists are having to pick and choose which species and landscapes to save and conserve. This tragedy, coupled with the fact that the effects of climate change disproportionately harm communities of color and poor communities, paints a bleak picture for the future, especially as large corporations and governments continue to move at a snail’s pace when it comes to sustainability and environmentalism. But by using nature, animals, and simple, sustainable living as inspiration, games like Cozy Grove, Stardew Valley, and Roots of Pacha are romanticizing ways of life that could inspire people to change their lifestyle to be more environmentally focused.
Gamers and non-gamers alike, if you’re looking for new, beautiful worlds to discover and ways to connect with nature while wearing your softest slippers, check out @cozy.games for recommendations. May a click of a Switch Lite button be the saving grace to our world’s future.
Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter!