by Catherynne Mattar

You may have never heard the term 'cosy gaming' before

but it's a thing. Yes, really. Cosy gaming refers to games where there's nary a gun, bloody fight, epic battle, or scary monster to be seen. It's relaxed, no-stress gameplay. Well, mostly. It depends on how you define no-stress...

Generally speaking, cosy games fall into categories like open world/immersion, management (think: farming), and (arguably) puzzle games. Beautiful artwork, engaging story, gorgeous graphics, soothing music - all these factors contribute to the cosy gaming vibe. That feeling when you're curled up with a good book or movie, a glass of whatever and all the time in the world? That.

So why is it a thing?

To answer that, let's look briefly at gaming trends over the last 18 months.

The global gaming industry is currently worth around US$155bn. Which is a lot. When COVID-19 and lockdowns deprived us of socialising and pastimes outside our homes, we turned in droves to gaming - and socialising - indoors. If you still think that gamers are young, male, and a wee bit odd - think again. Between 2018 and 2020, people aged 55-64 (32%) and grandparents (28%) were two of the biggest demographics to experience growth, including a good increase in women. Industry pundits comment that the gaming audience is not only bigger than is often realized, but more inclusive as well.

So, millions of us were stuck at home

looking to entertain ourselves, the kids, and connect with friends via something other than HouseParty. We opened Steam accounts and went console shopping. Many new gamers (and those returning) weren’t terribly interested in shooting and battling baddies, so we started looking at what else was available.

And promptly lost our minds over Animal Crossing: New Horizons (ACNH). Sales skyrocketed. Nintendo execs v happy. YouTube and Twitch channels spawned and multiplied. Socials were full of 5-star islands so gorgeous, that the rest of us went into a decline over our own sad efforts. There was even a 'crappyanimalcrossing' subreddit for consolation and commiseration.

Then what did all those new gamers start doing?

They went looking for similar content. And the cream of the indie developer crop began to rise.

We embraced Pokemon everything, Spiritfarer, Cozy Grove, Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town (PoOT), Stardew Valley, Minecraft, SIMS 4, Sky: Children of Light, and more. We eagerly searched the interwebs for mention of similar upcoming titles and added them to our wishlists. Yes, Call of Duty took out the 2 top spots for 2020, but ACNH came in third! So there.

Animal Crossing, Spiritfarer and Cozy Grove are no stress immersion games, played at your own pace. However, not all titles are created equal. The timing mechanics in PoOT and Stardew Valley have me running back to ACNH for a rest. Pokemon titles are laid-back fun - unless you're battling. Same for Sky: Children of Light - if you side quest or need to level up to progress, it can go from fun to frustrating.

So it’s a thing

The players who love this sub-genre aren’t going away, and we’re keen for more. Aside from Nintendo, cosy gaming titles will most likely remain the domain of indie developers. If it sounds like your kind of thing, keep an eye on your platforms and socials for what's coming. There's a lot in development over the next 1-2 years. I'm going to be so broke, but my library will be full of cosy gaming goodness.

About the writer

Gaming since Eve was a mere slip of a girl, you can find me streaming, opining and having a Jolly Good Laugh on Twitch ( When not glued to my console, I'm playing Dungeons & Dragons in real life, with real people, where I play an Aasimar Cleric who fights like a Barbarian... and suffers the consequences.