Food and Games: The Unlikely Combination Players Can't Get Enough of

Aug 04, 2017 10:50 AM EDT

Food and Games: The Unlikely Combination Players Can't Get Enough of

Did you know that food is a major theme in the gaming world? As surprising as that may sound, it's actually true. Why is that the case, you may ask? Well, like all good recipes, it seems as though the answer lies somewhere in the variety of ingredients. If you scour the gaming world at large, from classic console games through to modern mobile apps, you'll find that food is never far from the spotlight.

Pac-Man Made Food a Theme

Many would argue that Namco's iconic Pac-Man (1980) was the first video game to take the concept of food and make it interesting. Sure, the graphics weren't anything special by today's standard and the food on display wasn't really food (more just yellow dots), but it did bring eating into entertainment. Since Pac-Man ate his way into the gaming community's heart, the number of foodie-focused games has bloomed. One example is Big Fish Game's Top Chef. A time management-style game, Top Chef puts you in the midst of a cooking competition where aligning the right ingredients is the way to win. In this instance, although the underlying skill is being able to complete a task in the shortest amount of time, it's been given some life and character by way of the culinary theme. There is also the Big Chef and the Bellissimo slot at online casino Betway. Continuing the trend of taking a concept popular in the video gaming world and applying a financial edge to it, software developers have made food a theme for slot machines. In fact, if you look at Big Chef, the culinary theme isn't just there for show. The concept of creating a meal is actually used to give the bonus round a context. Continuing this concept of meal building, Restaurant Empire I and II (which are Sims-style games) and the Cooking Academy series of games make the process of concocting dishes a form of entertainment.

Players Want to Learn More About Food

Although the concept of creating a virtual meal is purely for entertainment in the above examples, game developers have also used this concept to make their creations educational. Indeed, according to the Nielsen Global Health and Wellness Survey (2015), those aged 20 and younger and now more conscious about what they eat. Surveying 30,000 people from 60 different countries, the researchers found that 41% of "Generation Z" (20 or younger) would pay more for health products. This figure compares to 32% of millennials and just 21% of baby boomers. In practice, we see this trend all the time. Young people are now obsessed with the latest "super food" and why something like cinnamon can help with weight loss. This growing appreciation of healthy eating is something that's been reflected in the gaming industry. One of the most popular examples of a game that fused cooking and education was Nintendo's Personal Trainer: Cooking. Unlike Big Chef that used the concept of creating a meal for entertainment, this game/educational tool showed players how to make healthy meals from scratch. At the time Personal Trainer: Cooking was released for the Nintendo DS back in 2008, smartphone apps weren't like they are now. Because of this, the dividing line between education and gaming wasn't as blurred as it is today. However, as we can now see, mobile apps have taken this example and made portable foodie games instantly accessible.

We Can't Deny Our Sweet Tooth

A quick search through Apple's iOS store reveals a ton of food-based games. From the educational Change4Life Be Food Smart app to Fair Food Donut Maker by VZO Entertainment, mobile players are now consuming food games at a healthy rate. Now, if we go back to our original question of why food is a popular genre in the gaming world, it seems as though there are two factors at play. On the one hand, we want to be healthy and the concept of creating meals from scratch is something that plays into society's current trends. However, we can't ignore the equally popular treat-based games. Indeed, as well as something like Fair Food Donut Maker, you can still find casual candy-themed titles such as Candy Parade and Julien Thiennot's genre-defying (and eventually genre-creating) Cookie Clicker online. Basically, as much as we want to know what the latest health benefits are of tea, we also still have a craving for sweet treats.

We Like to Sample Different Flavours

This is something we can't escape, according to a Nielsen Report, US candy sales were up by between 2% and 4% in 2016. With $21.5 billion(£16.2 billion) spent on candy in the 52 weeks to April 30, 2016, and $17.9 billion/£13.3 billion on "non-essential" treats every day, it's clear we still have a penchant for processed sweets. Based on this, it's possible to say that even though we're becoming more health conscious and like to learn more about food from the games we play, there is also a side of us that loves to think about food as an indulgent treat. Since computer games are a way for us to lose ourselves in new worlds, it follows that food will be a popular theme.

On the surface, it may seem odd that food is such a popular genre in the gaming world. However, once you slice into the industry and start examining the ingredients that go into the mix, it's easy to see why we love these games. On the one hand, they play to our desire to know more about food, but on the other, they present a way for us to tickle our taste buds in a different way.


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