Relaxing video games

There’s a new trend among indie game developers to create games that are meant to relax player rather than stress them with difficult levels and lots of violence. This is in no way new, though, as relaxing games have been part and parcel of the industry from the beginning, although action-oriented titles have always been more prevalent.

Some new examples of relaxing titles include Fugl, Ooblet, Twirl and Stardew Valley.

Ben Wasser, designer of the indie game Ooblets, argues that it was their deliberate decision to make their game a relaxing experience: “One of our core gameplay guidelines is that we try to never punish the player. We avoid everything that could be considered annoying, punishing, or needlessly difficult. I’ve had a lot of issues with stress and anxiety so I’m pretty sensitive to how games can contribute or abate those feelings…there’s a natural inclination to design games that are really challenging. But there’s also room for games that are inherently easy. It’s not a bad thing that games like Pokémon and Animal Crossing are really easy. People get less frustrated and stressed out, and it widens the audience.”

Heather Flowers, developer of Twirl, holds that their game is more abstract compared to its competitors: “There is a place for chill-out games, but there’s also a place for the opposite, stress-out games. Sometimes you need a game to provide a source of stress just as much as you need a source of relaxation!’ Johan Gejstland, who designed Fugl, argues that ‘movement is so important, but often overlooked. I think the sensation of moving through a 3D space is something magical and shouldn’t only be a means to end.”


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