The Cosy Gaming Takeover: How social media’s cosy gamers ‘gentled’ their way to the top

Person's hands holding a nintendo switch with a game open

By Natalie Mulligan

Over the past few years, a friendly group of gamers has emerged on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube. In warmly filtered videos, these gamers (most of whom are women) light expensive autumn—scented candles and don soft knits, before they settle into their overstuffed armchairs and play hours upon hours of low stakes, ~vibey~ farming simulators. These people are cosy gamers.

I discovered cosy gaming in one of many self-pitying, COVID-induced TikTok doomscrolls, and I was immediately drawn to the gentle, soft, welcoming environment that these players have created online. I snuggled deeper under my doona, watching video after video, fantasising about a time where I too, could exist in such a warm world.

So, I bought a Nintendo Switch.

It was the first gaming console that I had bought in thirteen years, and I wasn’t sure that I would use it. However, they were on sale, I had COVID, and cosy gaming just seemed so overwhelmingly pleasant, that into the online shopping basket it went. As I hunted through the internet for more vibey, relaxing games to add to my burgeoning collection, I found something even greater; I found a community.

Cosy gaming is rapidly rising in popularity. A quick google search for ‘cosy games’ returns hundreds of thousands of varied results. From more intense gaming blogs like Kotaku listing ‘The 11 Best Cosy Games That Helped Us Survive 2021’, through to dedicated cosy gaming websites like Her Cosy Gaming, it seems that cosy gaming is on the gaming-community’s collective conscious at the moment. IGN’s Jordan Sirani, notes that although the bestselling games across all consoles include decidedly non-comforting titles such as Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption, cosy games are making an ironically aggressive play for supremacy. Minecraft, a relatively low-stakes building game where players gather resources, explore new environments, and build their own homes, is the second bestselling game of the decade, having sold over 200 million copies since its release in 2009. Similarly gentle games, such as the community-based Animal Crossing: New Horizons(2021) and the farming simulator Stardew Valley (2016) have sold over 39 million and 20 million units respectively in their short on sale times.

Why have these games become so popular? TikTok creator (Kennedy) highlights that these games allow players to escape from the ever-growing societal pressure that is placed on young adults. Similarly, @gamergirlgale suggests that ‘gaming IS self-care’; that these types of games can help players relax and unwind after long or difficult days. Cosy games are the hot chocolate of the gaming world; they’re sweet, they’re mellow, and they help people de-stress.

I have found this to be true to my own newfound gaming experience. I would also posit that cosy gaming is rising in popularity because, despite our society’s ever-increasing focus on individualism, it is nice to join a place where community is prioritised. In my favourite game, Stardew Valley, players inherit a farm, which is in the heart of a tight-knit community. The player must make connections with the local townspeople by finding ingredients they need for cooking or helping them reinvigorate the local fishing community. In return they are welcomed into the community with huge festivals for every holiday and are given help with any social or financial problems they might encounter. Games like these present an idealised version of society, where people are encouraged to participate in group activities and can rely on other members of their community in times of need.

Cosy gamers seem to have taken this ideal societal structure on board and created a community of their own on social media. Players have made specialised cosy gaming servers on Discord, where they play their most relaxing finds with other gamers from across the globe. There are thousands of YouTube users creating videos where they recommend upcoming games and reminisce about old favourites. Similarly, the TikTok tag ‘cosy gaming’ has over 923.8 million views, where users interact with each other by posting, commenting and saving videos which promote a variety of cosy games and recommend places to buy ‘cosy-aesthetic’ console accessories. The cosy community isn’t just for the dedicated gamers. There’s something about the warm and open environment that these creators have fostered, which encourages newbies to come along for the ride. The videos and posts are approachable in the best way, often recommending games with one or two-word reviews. Additionally, they just look so gosh darn aesthetically pleasing,  relaxing, and inviting, that you can’t help but want to join in – even if, like me, you haven’t owned a console in thirteen years.

Natalie Mulligan is undertaking her Master’s at the University of Melbourne. She hopes to one day own a flock of ducks.

Cover image by Erik Mclean, via Pexels. License by Pexels.

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