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Cozy games are getting darker

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Casual sports are hard to define. There is no one beauty line that permeates the entire genre. There are qualities we’ve come to associate with casual sportswear, of course — like soft colors. little witch in the woodsas farming or life simulation animal Crossing: new Horizonsand very little violence, like how medicine craft Mostly making medicine. But those qualities aren’t really requirements; Sweet games are more about how they make you feel. You know it when you see it.

And now, the sub-genre of cozy games is venturing into new territory: dark cozy games. Casual game expert Kennedy Rose, who goes by Casual’s Online, sees the subgenre emerging as a response to the growing interest in cohabitation in gaming. ,[It] allows subgenres to blossom even more within casual games,” she pointed out. “Yes, we want to relax with some comfortable task management mechanism, but perhaps we also want to uncover a sinister secret while doing so. “

It might seem like a mellow dark game complicates the idea of ​​a casual game: how can a game to sprinkle, which delves into psychological horror, is considered a casual game? But to sprinkle There is much more to the fisherman hero than the broken, grotesque fish drawn from the depths and red-rimmed eyes from his nights without sleep. it’s in a slow, methodical pattern of to sprinkleThe gameplay of and the nature of the fishing itself. These qualities fit within the game’s other themes – mysteries and horrors of the sea – to varying degrees throughout the game. There are demons to be found – or to find you – and the consequences of spending too many sleepless nights. Hallucinations can do real harm; Unknown sea monsters can destroy your ship. almost in spite of myself, to sprinkle It has a warmth that pulls it off in casual style. It’s loop of its simple fishing minigame takes on a cargo hull shaped game tetris, It’s the fishermen and fellow sailors who buy your fish and fix up your ship. These are the elements of community and stability that keep to sprinkle Being too dark

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“casual gamers” […] Want something that is entertaining and engaging but not something that gets us into that high-stress, competitive situation that some games can be in,” said Rose. “It may look like an island full of terrifying animals or a dark boat expedition with mutant fish.”

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A group of characters from Don't Starve Together, rendered in pencil and charcoal, are running and leaping in celebration.

Image: Klei Entertainment

New Zealand based to sprinkle Developer Black Salt Games didn’t necessarily plan for the game to feel comfortable; Developer Alex Ritchie told Play Gamez that restlessness and curiosity were two feelings he wanted to carry throughout the game. “If you had asked during development whether I had thought to sprinkle will appeal [fans of] Casual game, I probably wouldn’t have said,” he said. “Now, though, I think you can get that feel out of it.”

The repetitive structure of fishing in both sports and real life always pulls to sprinkle Back from shore when it comes too close. It’s also a pastime that developer Joel Mason enjoys. Similarly, to sprinkle Developer Michael Bastians said it’s easy to get carried away with the game’s quieter moments, but it’s the “tension and dread”, perhaps, that makes the more casual and more mundane bits feel more impactful.

The dark cozy game genre can be traced back years or decades; do not starve Depending on who you ask, there may just be a basic example. The 2013 survival video game from Canadian studio Clay Entertainment is notoriously difficult. Its aesthetic exactly says Casual with its muted colors and cute cartoon world, but the gameplay is disjointed; comfortable in do not starve It’s more of a mindset. When you get used to failure – or you use one of these do not starveCreative Ways of — You can get into the spirit of coziness. It’s a game that’s certainly deeper and fundamentally more difficult than comfortable, but that doesn’t diminish the warm aspects of playing it.

Rose stresses that comfortable is what you make of it. “Some consider farming simulations to be the pinnacle of coziness, while others become stressed by fast-paced days and endless to-do lists,” she said. “Really, any sport that makes you feel comfortable is a comfortable sport.”

Developer Infinite Fall 2017 Game night in the woods Maybe the dark cozy game is defined more conventionally than I’d like do not starve, however. Possum Springs and its lovely Maple Street setting are fictional yet brimming with nostalgia, offering the kind of comfort that makes the game easy to fall back on years after you last closed it. but as to sprinkle, night in the woods Mental Health has an edge in its themes of struggle, death, and the decay of late-stage capitalism; creates a contrast of coziness and darkness night in the woods In something else altogether.

A note on the table in Strange Horticulture outlines another possible clue

Image: Bad Viking/Iceberg Interactive

in the years since night in the woods was released, and even before that, the Dark Cozy genre was beginning to emerge in full swing. easily viewed with likes cozy grovemix between 2020 do not starve And Animal Crossing: New Horizons, ory and the blind forest, a creepy-cute 2015 platformer from Moon Studios; and, perhaps the most fully realized example of the genre, weird gardening,

last years weird gardening Places the player in a small plant shop with a purring cat. Playing as a new shopkeeper, you must label and learn about plants, then sell them to the people of Undermere, a dark and rainy town at the edge of the forest. the twist is weird gardeningPlants, as you might have guessed from the title, are quite strange: some will lure people to their deaths, and others can be used as incense that screams when burned. It is a slow game that progresses with each new customer and counter bell ringing. there is an element of mystery weird gardeninga curious vibe that’s similar to to sprinkle, Way weird gardeningThe cozy and dark elements of the book weave themselves into a nest that’s both cozy and unnerving – it’s a feeling that feels so good to sit in, no need to open it.

“It makes perfect sense to me that this combination works,” Richie, the to sprinkle told Play Gamez, the developer. “But I’ve never really investigated why. I think it boils down to this: You need proper contrast to make any experience meaningful. If something is never cool, you Can’t make him edgy, and like art, ‘complementary’ colors are the ones that contrast the most. A casual game where you know it’s not always comfortable makes the casual parts even more meaningful.

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