Cozy Games Cured My Video Game Burnout, Here’s Why You Should Try It Too

Cozy Games Cured My Video Game Burnout, Here’s Why You Should Try It Too

When gaming is the hobby you turn to for escapism, relaxation, or simple fun, what do you do when you experience video game burnout? For me, the solution to a months-long issue was returning to my roots in cozy games. I thought I’d talk about how this helped me because if you’re also struggling with burnout, it might be something you can try, too.

Video game burnout is a pretty common occurrence, particularly for those who play games on the regular. Sometimes, it’s the inability to choose a game from your collection/overwhelmingly untouched Steam library. Sometimes, it’s booting up a title only to idle in it for twenty minutes, then jumping off, feeling unable to fully immerse yourself. And sometimes, it’s an inability to find enjoyment or relaxation in your usual hobby the way you normally can. It can be a frustrating problem to have, but it’s not all that rare – burnout can happen with any hobby at any time, regardless of your habits or how long you’ve been engaging in them.

As you can imagine, feeling burnt out on video games when your job is to play and write about them isn’t ideal. It’s equally as frustrating even for those who don’t immerse themselves in gaming day in, day out. Perhaps you’re keen to play an upcoming title before it gets spoiled. Maybe you’re hustling to join in on a multiplayer title before your fickle group of mates bunny-hop to the next new release. Booting up my PC or one of my consoles and just staring at the screen, controller at my fingertips and evening cleared. I have everything I need to dive in, but I am physically unable to start playing. This paralysis-like state is simply maddening.

When a break from regular gaming didn’t fix things, I decided to try a different tactic – jumping back into cozy games. Wholesome, often low-lift titles with eye-catching and unique visuals, stories, and gameplay. I’ve always been a lifelong fan of cozy games, even prior to knowing the catch-all term, having put more hours into Animal Crossing: Wild World as a kid than I’ve perhaps ever been able to clock since. Playing something that didn’t demand my time, allowed me to go at my own pace, and was in many ways totally different from the major RPGs or high-octane shooters I generally find myself playing felt like a balm on my weary soul.

Specifically, I picked up Palia, the cozy multiplayer community sim (MMO) from Singularity 6. I’d been meaning to play it since it launched in Early Access, and I finally decided to set aside the time to play alone and just get my bearings. It’s similar enough to other titles I’ve played to feel familiar but new and exciting, with a major tonal shift from other MMOs and with all the goodness of crafting and cooking I’ve previously loved in games.

I’d initially only set aside 30 minutes to give it a whirl, get through the character creator and starting beats. Then, I would hop off, feeling accomplished that I’d managed to play a game for fun without feeling drained or bored. I ended up playing it for four hours straight, only jumping off because I checked the time. This is the first time that’s happened in over six months. I don’t know if it was the relaxing music, vibrant colour scheme, or just the joy of trying something new because I wanted to and could jump off at any time that did it for me, but whatever it was, it worked.

I played a touch of Stardew Valley next. This is a game I’ve put many hours into, but had felt unable to pick up again because it had come to feel too stale in recent months. I found myself enjoying the day-to-day and seasonal cycles once more, too, in ways I hadn’t in a long time. I then dipped into my Tears of the Kingdom save, and rather than forwarding the main quest, parked myself in Hateno Village and engaged with the pastoral life and relaxing cooking by the countryside there. Again, I enjoyed what I was doing and found myself thinking about when I could play next.

If you’ve been struggling with burnout and you’re unsure what to do – the first thing to try is stepping away from the hobby temporarily. Give yourself a break, and return to it in due time. If you’ve tried that with no luck, or like me, you’re just impatient, try cozy games. Sometimes a title that slaps you in the face isn’t what you need to ease back in to a much-loved past time, and a warm hug will do the job much better. 

My cozy game quest to alleviate video game burnout isn’t done yet, and likely won’t be for a while. However, the feeling of actually wanting to play games and wishlisting new titles to grab as I get back into it is coming back slowly. Being able to dip my toes in only for the amount of time I wanted and not feel like it was a waste because I did something in-game, even if small, is an achievement. 

I’ll be trying out more cozy titles as the weeks go on and I slowly emerge from the haze of gaming paralysis. I know this method is working already, though, because while not cozy by any means, I found myself booting up Overwatch 2 after my experiment and actually having fun with an FPS in ways I maybe haven’t since mid-last year. And that, my friends, is a sign that nature (me) is healing.

Image: Singularity 6 / Kotaku Australia

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