Though a lot of the appeal of cooking video games has to do with the dazzling sights of food, similarly to Studio Ghibli’s whimsical animations, another big draw has to do with being in an alternate reality where one can actually be successful at cooking -- without the dangers, like cuts and flames, of being in a kitchen. At least that was the case for Allisyn Ruttle, a recruiter at Los Angeles-based video game developer Riot Games.
“I'm much more prompted to play games like Overcooked when I feel like cooking rather than cooking in real life. Less actual effort, no trips to the grocery store, no doing dishes,” Ruttle expressed. Overcooked is a multiplayer cooking simulation, where players cooperate and coordinate fixing up dishes -- like pancakes, smoothies, and sushi rolls -- in the fictitious Onion Kingdom.
That being said, Ruttle realizes that video games can’t fill all the voids that cooking actually provides -- and not just the lack of actual sustenance. “The great thing about cooking in real life that is lost in video games is the community aspect of it. Sure, you can play multiplayer Overcooked, but there's something to be said about developing a meal with friends or family, buying ingredients together, and making something with your hands.”
Even so, over time, cooking in video games has drawn more and more popularity. Perhaps it also has something to do with the rise of food fandom and the larger interest people have in celebrating, looking at, and diving into food -- even if that means doing it virtually.
In Nintendo’s highly acclaimed 2017 hit, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, it’s up to players to gather their own ingredients and cook masterpieces over an open flame in order to obtain healing meals. Half the fun of the game is combining different ingredients in hopes of developing a new recipe, like simmered fruits, rice balls, and spicy meat and seafood skewers. Websites like Polygon have even dedicated articles with the best recipes to provide Link, the protagonist, with proper meals. Nintendo has just announced the unnamed sequel to Breath of the Wild at E3, and no doubt it will include more intricate recipes for the hero.
Though not as in-depth as Breath of the Wild, Red Dead Redemption 2 also allows players to cook sustaining foods, like flame-grilled venison, flaky fish seasoned with oregano, and healing tonics, offering a respite to the gunplay.