The term “gamer” is generally associated with teenage boys, energy drinks, and fiercely competitive, action-packed video games. The rise of cozy gaming is challenging the hypermasculine gamer stereotype, redefining gaming as an activity that can reduce anxiety and promote relaxation.
A search of the hashtag “#cozygamer” on Instagram will call up carefully crafted images of thick blankets, warm cups of tea, lit candles, and, at the center of it all, video games. Posting these photos are self-proclaimed cozy gamers: people who create beautiful visual diaries documenting their video game play. Popular titles among cozy gamers include life-simulation games such as Animal Crossing: New Horizons and farming role-playing game Stardew Valley. These games allow players to escape from the stress of day-to-day life to peaceful worlds filled with charming graphics and dreamy soundtracks. However, cozy games aren’t limited to a specific genre: any game that is bite-sized, approachable, and stress-free fits the bill, says independent game developer Matt White.
#Cozygamer is more than an aggregation of aesthetically pleasing photos- it serves as a home for those who have long felt like they are not “enough”—skilled enough, competitive enough, or dedicated enough—to participate in mainstream, or “core” (short for hardcore) gaming communities. Casual game players are often not considered “real” gamers to those in core gaming communities, even if they invest significant amounts of time into casual games.
Beyond experiencing exclusion, women and minority gamers often face harassment when participating in mainstream gaming spaces. Research suggests that women adopt coping strategies, such as masking their gender by using male avatars or screen names, to avoid harassment in online games. For some players, the toxic environment may lead women to withdraw from games altogether. In light of this, the cozy gaming community provides a safe space for individuals of all races, genders, and sexual orientations to gather and connect over their love of games without the fear of judgment or harassment.