Cozy Contempt

All other video games not related to the main farming series - Pokemon, Stardew Valley, My Time at Portia, and other indie-developed games.
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Kikki
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Fogu is a forum of life-sim lovers.

Now, we're not all current Bokumono-lovers. But we all were at one point. And that means all (or at least the large majority) of us have loved a life-sim or two. The genre formerly known as 'life-sim' is now lumped under the painfully-overused umbrella term of 'cozy'. Rather than the opinion of people who are mad that every game announced isn't, I don't know, Smash Bros or Mario or Call of Duty, I want to know what we fans think. As a current or one-time cozy-lover, what do you think of all this?

...

Cozy is spreading like a virus. They are now applying it to games that don't at all fit into the genre that 'cozy' was initially applied to. Games like Bokumono, Stardew, Animal Crossing, and so on. Now there are 'cozy roguelites'. It seems to me that cozy is being used as a term so broad that it's lost all meaning. It's being applied to any game with a graphic style that might be considered cute. Almost anything with pixel graphics, anything chibi, anything pastel, anything vibrantly colourful. Anything introspective. Anything with crafting.

Is 'cozy' just TOO broad a term, at this point? It's infecting almost every genre, now. Cozy puzzle games. Cozy life-sims. Cozy roguelites, cozy dungeon crawlers, cozy murder-mystery visual novels. I'm not sure if I've seen a JRPG that called itself cozy, yet, and I've yet to see gore or horror games call themselves cozy, but I'm just waiting. Waiting for a headline like Cozy Murder-at-the-Orgy Whodunnit Dating-Sim Game Enters Early Access in March 2025!

So? Is there too much 'cozy'? Is it just that the term is being applied to too many types of game, perhaps for marketing purposes? Or is the problem that it has no actual definition? Is 'cozy' really its own genre, or is it more of a style? Do the puzzles and the roguelites and dungeon crawlers all fit in along with the life sims? Are you sick of it, or do you think it's great? Are there too many games just jumping on a trend without really understanding what makes a game genuinely cozy? Or is the problem just that almost every self-proclaimed cozy game sites the same inspirations? (Stardew. Animal Crossing. Studio Ghibli.)

Too much? Not enough? Is it going to stop soon, or is cozy-everything going to keep going strong from now on? I know what gamers in general think (they were sick of it before it even began), but what do we life-sim lovers think of all this?

What is behind this onslaught? Do we all just need to be cozied that much?
Milo
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Post  Posted:

The only classification that really matters is "good games" versus "bad games".

Cozy games can be fun. Non-cozy games can be fun, in different ways. Ultimately, whether a game is fun is more important than whether it's cozy. Problem is, on both subjects, personal tastes can differ...

If there's anything I care about besides fun, it's innovation. When the majority of video games on the market are about combat in some form or another, it's interesting to occasionally play something else for a change. Not because (video game) combat isn't fun, but because it gets tiring to do the same thing all the time.

There are combat-oriented games that still have relatively lighthearted tones, but honestly, there's nothing special about that. That's pretty much what a standard video game looks like.

For something closer to an answer that isn't just philosophically avoiding the question... ultimately, games can't be boiled down into one word. For a combat-oriented video game, I'm going to want to know who I'm fighting, why, and how. For a life sim video game, I'm going to want to know what kind of life my character would be leading, professionally and socially. I use those things to decide whether a game sounds interesting to me. If you want to call your game "cozy" or "wholesome", you had better be prepared to explain what's cozy or wholesome about it, otherwise I'm just going to ignore the meaningless marketing buzzword. Just skim right over it and act like it isn't there.

Another issue is that many games have multiple aspects. Case in point: would you consider the Rune Factory series "cozy"? On one hand, the stories of those games frequently involve despotic empires and world-ending abominations that you inevitably have to go personally thwart, which doesn't sound very cozy. But on the other hand, there's no rush, and you can also take a break from fighting to save the world for a few months to just relax, chat with your friends, maybe find love, same as in "normal" farm life sims. The NPCs have lives outside of the main story and aren't just there for you to protect. So is it cozy or not? Or is it both, because it has both cozy and non-cozy elements?
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FarmingForDaysMan
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I think that “cozy” has become too broad of a term. I’m not sure what a true “cozy” game is meant to be, but in my mind, it would be a game full of nothing but good feels and relaxation—a stress-free, pleasingly aesthetic game with pleasing graphics, music, characters, storylines, etc.

(…Aaaaand I just searched up what a cozy game is, and apparently my definition matches pretty well with the internet results.)

So, with that being said, I think that it’s pretty hard to pick out the truly cozy games and that cozy is a subjective term, really. I say it’s a subjective term because, for example, would your gameplay not define whether or not Animal Crossing is cozy (I believe AC is an intentionally cozy series, but we all know that you can really stress yourself; plus, you can choose to be a horrendous member of society)?

Edit: The first game I thought of when trying to think of a cozy game is London Life; it’s a mini (but not really) life-sim game that is offered as a bonus in Professor Layton and the Last Specter.

You live in a little town with a variation of characters in the Professor Layton series. At the start of the game, you move to town and into a small apartment; however, you can earn money through a number of part time jobs available (such as juggling, selling bus tickets, and picking up trash) and move into a larger apartment complex and eventually into the luxury apartments! There’s also a daily newspaper through which you can complete requests, trigger events, and acquire a roommate. Basically, the goal of the game is to iirl achieve the max level of yours and others’ happiness.

It’s a charming little game, and I rebought Last Specter partially because I wanted to replay London Life.
Last edited by FarmingForDaysMan on Jun 14, 2024 6:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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People like to categorize things so it’s easier to refer to it when they talk about it but I think the term “cozy” is not the right one to describe the gameplay of these games, atleast for the life sims. It reinforces the idea that all life sims have to be laid back but many popular life sims have had a very dynamic and rather difficult combat aspect that’s definitely not… cozy or laid back so what exactly makes these games completely cozy then?

I think cozy has become more of a style that can be used easily for marketing purposes. You hear the word cozy and you automatically know you’re gonna get these bright visuals with colors on the extreme side of being either saturated or pastel. Even PoOT felt like a victim of this trend, where it felt more about the branding itself as being a cozy style game rather than being a Bokumono game first and foremost. Pretty much every cozy game has the same color palette and it just feels so artificial and predictable now. I hope this trend goes away and we find a better way to group these games. I know life sims do benefit a lot by being termed as cozy and are able to reach a bigger audience (such as the Wholesome Direct) but I would prefer life sims not being coined as cozy games. I worry that this trend will potentially kill all the variety life sims have right now.
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Kikki
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I think there's a problem with ANY definition of 'cozy game', because all of them use descriptors that are subjective. I know one cozy-game streamer who insists that Breath of the Wild is a cozy game, because SHE feels cozy playing it. To her, it has all the qualities listed as essential for a cozy game. But BotW has never been marketed as a cozy game, and it contains significant combat, and you tend to fail a LOT. It can be tense and stressy and frustrating. It has very few of the typical traits of a cozy game.

So is it a cozy game because one person thinks so? But it's a cozy game for her, right? She's the only one who gets to decide what games make her feel cozy.

But...you don't get to decide a game is a shooter even if there's no shooting of any kind in it. You don't get to decide if something is a platformer, or an RPG, or a puzzle game. Because you DO apparently get to decide if a game is cozy or not, I can't agree that 'cozy' is a genre at all. Cozy is a mood, and possibly even a sensation.

I guess that's part of why I don't like that so many games are labeled as 'cozy' now, as though that was a suitable descriptor. Try swapping out the word 'cozy' for the word 'fun'. Or 'engaging'. It's just an adjective, and not a factual one, like 'red'. I can say 'this flower is red', and that's probably going to be a fact. But if I say 'this flower is beautiful', that's NOT a fact. It's an opinion.

If a game is a shooter, that's a fact. If a game is a 'cozy', that is NOT a fact. It's an opinion. I find it frustrating that it's being treated otherwise.
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I think it's a combination of a terrible genre name and the general growing pains that come about when a style of game is 'defined'.

There was hullabaloo as far back as when "Doom clones" became FPS. Nobody liked that name either, and even with something so basic there's still the possibility of having arguments like "is Slime Rancher an FPS?" It's all semantics. And well before the rabbit hole of Souls-like, or Roguelike vs Roguelite, or Immersive Sims.

(Side note...Roguelike is in my browser's dictionary. :| What the hell.)

The problem I have with "Cozy" is it implies an emotional state. What is cozy to one person will not necessarily be cozy to another. There's no implied perspective or list of mechanics to narrow down what "cozy" is. In this case I think the problem is somewhere between the fault of games journalists and marketing departments. Everybody in both industries wants an easy label to slap on something. What is it? Well, it's cozy! Even if they're wrong, cozy implies something that doesn't have to be explained, so I think it's gonna be hard to come up with a better (or uh, stickier) genre name.

For the time being my plan is just to ignore "cozy" all together. MOST of the games in the genre have better genres attached to them to begin with. As it stands, genre conventions are pretty terrible, but that's not necessarily unique to video games... Maybe it's a little worse here, though.
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Kikki wrote: Jun 14, 2024 6:56 pmBecause you DO apparently get to decide if a game is cozy or not, I can't agree that 'cozy' is a genre at all. Cozy is a mood, and possibly even a sensation.
Fully agreed.
Kikki wrote: Jun 14, 2024 6:56 pmIf a game is a shooter, that's a fact. If a game is a 'cozy', that is NOT a fact. It's an opinion. I find it frustrating that it's being treated otherwise.
"The creators of this game intended for it to be cozy" can be considered a fact, regardless of whether or not you agree that they succeeded. And game creators always like advertising how amazing their game is, even though that's an opinion rather than a fact.

The other context where you're likely to see "cozy" used as a category is on sites indexing cozy games... but since these sites are maintained by people who like cozy games, what it really comes down to is a reviewer saying "these are the games I like".
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Kikki
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Mikodesu wrote: Jun 14, 2024 7:17 pm There was hullabaloo as far back as when "Doom clones" became FPS. Nobody liked that name either, and even with something so basic there's still the possibility of having arguments like "is Slime Rancher an FPS?" It's all semantics. And well before the rabbit hole of Souls-like, or Roguelike vs Roguelite, or Immersive Sims.
My understanding of roguelike versus roguelite has always been (relatively) clear cut. A roguelike is a game that is hardcore like Rogue, including punishing features like permadeath. A roguelite is a game that's also like Rogue, but not so hardcore. Easier, or blending in features of other games, like the name suggests. Something of the Rogue experience, but...lite.

Which somewhat ties in to what I was saying about 'red' versus 'beautiful'. (That red as a descriptor is a fact, while beautiful is an opinion.) You CAN argue red, sadly. TRUE red is very rare, and humans can argue anything. Sometimes they do it just for sport, when they don't even believe or care about what they're saying.

Once you add in enough yellow, red becomes orange. Add enough blue, and it becomes purple. But for the most part, it's fairly apparent and even provable when something is red. Anyone arguing that the red thing is blue is going to be squashed very easily.

That's kind of like arguing about what's a shooter. Sure, there's a lot of variety and some strays further afield of the original shooter(s). But still, every game has a genre it best fits into, even ones described as genre-defying. Slime Rancher is most certainly a shooter more than it is a platformer. You can prove that there's X% of the essential features of a shooter in it, but 0% of the essential features of a platformer.

But 'cozy' can no more be proven than 'fun'. 'Fun' as a genre would be idiotic. You can ARGUE fun, but you can't prove it. If someone says a game was fun for them, you can't sensibly argue that it wasn't. But if you HATED that game, no one can tell you that you DID find it fun. That's why I think that cozy is a really stupid category, because it's no different than trying to use 'fun' as a category, to me.

As little as, what, 2-5 years ago, the only name we had for the games they're now calling cozy was 'niche', or possibly 'casual'. Of course, neither of those were very good descriptors, since they don't actually describe the game content. Casual was even intended to be belittling, to pooh-pooh games that weren't hardcore, that didn't challenge your gamer reflexes such as button-pushing wizardry or deeply understanding a complex battle system. It was dismissive. It was gatekeeping the entry to 'gamer'.

I suppose all this 'cozy' stuff is a rising-up. An attempt to take 'niche' and 'casual' to a new realm of identity. I guess it's succeeding at that, but I hope it settles into a better realm than cozy. And the weenies who have always argued that these are 'games for girls' and thus not REAL games that are worthy of attention are still arguing that about cozy games, so it hasn't really changed anything. But who cares what a weenie says anyway?
Milo
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Kikki wrote: Jun 15, 2024 3:19 amMy understanding of roguelike versus roguelite has always been (relatively) clear cut. A roguelike is a game that is hardcore like Rogue, including punishing features like permadeath. A roguelite is a game that's also like Rogue, but not so hardcore. Easier, or blending in features of other games, like the name suggests. Something of the Rogue experience, but...lite.
There doesn't seem to be a clear consensus on where to draw the line, though, and some people just use "roguelike" for everything.

Also, there are sliding scales of punishment. The really ancient roguelikes, such as Rogue itself (a game so ridiculously antiquated that even game nerds only barely remember it), had strict permadeath: once your character dies, that's it, you can only start over with a new character, and gain no benefits from your previous playthrough except for the experience that you, the player behind the screen rather than the character, have acquired about how to play well. Modern roguelikes very often retain the spirit of "serious consequences for death" (moreso than in average games where there's a save point parked every few screens) but tone down just how bad it is, such as having you lose all items you were carrying with you at the time of your death, but retaining some other things such as progress in the plot. It's actually rare to find roguelikes these days that truly stick to "one death and you're out".
Kikki wrote: Jun 15, 2024 3:19 amYou CAN argue red, sadly. TRUE red is very rare, and humans can argue anything.
I've definitely had arguments about whether a certain color qualifies as yellow or orange. "Orange" is only a relatively recently adopted color term in many languages, anyway...
Kikki wrote: Jun 15, 2024 3:19 amSometimes they do it just for sport, when they don't even believe or care about what they're saying.
Actual conversation I have had, probably more than once:
"I'm bored. Let's argue."
"No, I don't want to argue."
"Oh fine, be that way."
"Yay! I won the argument!"
Kikki wrote: Jun 15, 2024 3:19 amBut 'cozy' can no more be proven than 'fun'.
But pretty much all games aim to be fun (even if some developers' idea of "fun" seems to run quite contrary to my own), while not all games aim to be cozy. Reviewers may disagree on whether a game was actually fun, but they'll agree that fun is a quality worth measuring by. Reviewers won't all agree that coziness is a quality worth having at all.

Being cozy isn't just about whether a game is fun, but about how it's fun. Still subjective, but it's different.
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Milo wrote: Jun 15, 2024 8:43 am
Kikki wrote: Jun 15, 2024 3:19 amBut 'cozy' can no more be proven than 'fun'.
But pretty much all games aim to be fun (even if some developers' idea of "fun" seems to run quite contrary to my own), while not all games aim to be cozy. Reviewers may disagree on whether a game was actually fun, but they'll agree that fun is a quality worth measuring by. Reviewers won't all agree that coziness is a quality worth having at all.

Being cozy isn't just about whether a game is fun, but about how it's fun. Still subjective, but it's different.
Did I give the impression that I was saying that all games aim to be cozy? Because that would be ridiculous. I don't think anyone would claim that.

I was simply making the point that 'cozy' is no more an acceptable genre than 'fun' would be an acceptable genre. I could have chosen almost any adjective; it doesn't matter than 'fun' was what I used. If I knew you'd be hung up on 'fun', I could have said 'violent' instead. Not all games aim to include violence, whereas some games most definitely do aim for it, but 'violent' is still not a genre. It's just one quality that several genres tend to contain. Like shooters are usually violent. Fighting games and brawlers are almost always violent. Any game with combat by default almost always has at least a little violence.

It could possibly be a category, depending on how someone is grouping things. Like if someone was making a list of non-violent games for, I dunno, a parents' group or something. They might categorize a list into violent and non-violent. I still don't think that makes 'violent' a genre.

Nor 'cute'. Cute isn't a genre, either. Or pretty, or sad, or uplifting. Or quirky. Or touching. None of those adjectives are genres. They're qualities. They can at best be categories for list-making, if you're trying to organize a list by quality for people trying to find a game by mood, or something. I just don't think 'cozy' can possibly be a genre, but I've heard the term 'cozy genre' thrown about a lot in the last year or so.

And even though cozy is a quality that they can claim if they want...I wish the market would move on and start using a few other adjectives to describe their games. Cozy has never been a word I used much. Winter pajamas are cozy. A freshly-changed bed with a heavy comforter is cozy. And that's about where I stop, with cozy.

Though this thread really isn't aiming to be specifically about the word cozy anyway, that's just one aspect, though I do think the way everyone that makes a non-combat game is calling it 'cozy' is contributing to the impression that all of these games are a dime a dozen, when really, there is a lot of variety. The word is making games of different genres all seem lumped together. I think using that word is starting to do more harm than good. People who might have been interested in a well-written VN might shrug it off at hearing 'cozy', cuz they're so sick of hearing about cozy games. Or someone who likes platformers. Or fishing. Etc.

But I don't know if Ushians feel that way. I know many gamers outside of this realm do, but they weren't interested in non-combat/chill games to begin with, so I want to ignore them for now, and find out if people who actually LIKE this sort of thing are getting sick of it or not. And if they are, is it the games they're actually sick of, or are they just tired of hearing about cozy-this and cozy-that? Or is it how these games almost all draw on the same sources of inspiration, and that makes them lack uniqueness?

Just curious how THIS community feels about it, compared to the gamer community at large.
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Okay, well here’s my thought on cozy games: if you type “cozy games” in your search engine, you’re either going to 1) not get what you were looking for or 2) get what you were looking for plus more results that you probably wouldn’t consider as “cozy.”

As we’ve discussed, cozy seems to be a subjective term when it comes to gaming; that being said, it’s really difficult to define which games are truly cozy.

Personally, I don’t get the results I’m expecting when I search up “cozy games.”

Let farming sims be farming sims, I say xD
Milo
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Kikki wrote: Jun 15, 2024 10:30 amBut I don't know if Ushians feel that way. I know many gamers outside of this realm do, but they weren't interested in non-combat/chill games to begin with, so I want to ignore them for now, and find out if people who actually LIKE this sort of thing are getting sick of it or not. And if they are, is it the games they're actually sick of, or are they just tired of hearing about cozy-this and cozy-that? Or is it how these games almost all draw on the same sources of inspiration, and that makes them lack uniqueness?
As someone who lives under a rock, I don't actually watch enough game advertisements to get sick of them.

I have a very negative opinion of all marketing and advertisement in general and just take it for granted that anything marketers say about their own product needs to be taken with a grain of salt. You think your game is cozy? Fine. That might mean it's good. Or it might not.
FarmingForDaysMan wrote: Jun 15, 2024 1:00 pmLet farming sims be farming sims, I say xD
There are games with a similar feel to Harvest Moon but where the character's profession is something other than a farmer, though. Not as many as I'd like (yet?), but they exist.

Conversely, there are farming sims that take a more "business tycoon" aspect to running your farm, focussing solely on farm management and not showing what your character's social life is like outside of work hours. Such a game would feel very little like Harvest Moon, even though you're still a farmer.

At the same time, many dating sims don't show what the characters are like outside of their dating life at all, either being set during something like summer vacation where you have a long period of time to do nothing but chat up cuties, or just skimming over work/school hours with a fade-to-black because they're not interesting. But there's something satisfying about dating a character who actually has a life outside of being a love interest and is also relevant to the game in other ways. It feels more real.

I'd say that those two aspects - career sim and social life sim - are both essential to the "feel" of a Harvest Moon/Story of Seasons-like game, and omitting either one would mean you have something else entirely. (Social life doesn't have to mean dating - that tends to be the most popular, but a game that only lets you form platonic friendships still counts.)

Being cozy is not a requirement of the genre, even though it's a common feature. A game where your farm is constantly being attacked by wolves and locusts and the love interests are yanderes would still count.
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Kikki wrote: Jun 15, 2024 3:19 am As little as, what, 2-5 years ago, the only name we had for the games they're now calling cozy was 'niche', or possibly 'casual'. Of course, neither of those were very good descriptors, since they don't actually describe the game content. Casual was even intended to be belittling, to pooh-pooh games that weren't hardcore, that didn't challenge your gamer reflexes such as button-pushing wizardry or deeply understanding a complex battle system. It was dismissive. It was gatekeeping the entry to 'gamer'.
I'm pretty sure the modern cozy "genre" is actually the casual "genre" that got rebranded specifically because casual can be used as an insult. At the very least, it seems every casual game that comes out lately somehow gets the cozy tag and the two "genres" seem to have a lot in common in practice. Personally, I dislike cozy as genre, due to how vague it is. I also really dislike the idea of games getting the cozy label because of their genre, such as a farming sim getting the cozy label because farming sims are considered cozy by default.
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Well...I'm happy that cozy gamers have taken back their positive identity for a while. But like whatever term comes to replace the current term for mental disability, it'll always eventually become a disliked term. Like 'handicapped' replaced 'retarded', and 'handicapped' itself is no longer acceptable, either. In this day and age, a lot of people might think 'retarded' was always an insult. But it wasn't. It was the actual medical term for someone who is...what is the current acceptable umbrella term? Developmentally delayed? Or developmentally disabled? It keeps changing, because you'll always have someone who turns it into an insult. Who says 'what are you, delayed?' in a snide tone, and gives the word an ugly aura. The same thing will almost definitely happen to cozy, as well.

I don't like the term because it's so generic, but it's already being used bitterly by those who fancy themselves 'hardcore gamers', who resent this big wave of games that do not target them, and bitterness will turn to anger and contempt, and sooner or later, 'cozy gamer' will become a dismissive insult in the same way that 'casual gamer' was.

I like when each game is referred to by its proper genre, rather than absorbed into the amalgamation of Cozy. But this is certainly easier to say when you're trying to refer to the entire realm of casual gaming, without having to use the word casual and its now negative connotation. I guess this is inevitable. Some day, we'll be calling it something else.

I've noticed that various 'cozy games' are starting to take on somewhat more unique identities recently. That seems like a step in the right direction. Indie games by very small teams are starting to become more polished, I think.
Milo
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If you want to avoid a term turning into an insult, use it positively. Some people will still use it as an insult, but so long as that isn't the only way it's being used, people will come to associate the insult with the tone of voice rather than with the word itself. There are various words that were originally used as insults, but whose targets have reappropriated and turned into a badge of pride. (Sticking to gaming terms, have you noticed games whose developers openly advertise them as "walking simulators"?)

This doesn't work with "retarded" because nobody is proud of being retarded. Even if you use the "this isn't my fault, I was born this way" defense and people around you are kind enough to accomodate your difficulties rather than belittling them, being retarded is still clearly an inconvenience.

But "cozy"? That has positive enough associations, both inside and outside of gaming, that it's unlikely to turn into a pure insult anytime soon. Some people will use it as if it is, but that just tells you which people are trolls not worth listening to.
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