I’ll be honest with y’all and get straight to the point, because there’s no cutting corners in my request. Give me more food options in video games! I see food, everywhere. If you’re going to introduce food as a method to help increase your stats, levels, or relationships give me in game cooking options! I speak for many when I say, gamers love delicious food art. From the delectable beef bowls to the sweet small custard buns, we love it all and we request more! Over the course of the holidays, I realize that we have plenty of games that show off characters digging into some grub, but we don’t have enough breaking down the food facts for you. Developers are really fumbling the bag by not incorporating cooking into their games more.
Give me that seared on a high flame and simmered with white wine goodness. Show me the juices flowing out the wagyu beef. We know you were thinking about it when you put it in the script.
Stop frontin’ give me that glistening scored meat and the roasted vegetables with the incredible sheen!
One of my favorite moments where I was introduced to cooking in video games was in Persona 4 Golden. Sometimes Nanako would fill the fridge with ingredients. If you went into the fridge and decided to make lunch, it would prompt a quick cooking scene. Granted, they didn’t give you visual representation of what was happening, but they would offer options depending on what’s in the fridge. They’ll introduce the ingredient and then you had three options of what you can do to it; right after they would reward you with a small description of how the protagonist is cooking the food, and then they tell you whether the dish came out magnificent, average, or poor. If you decided to share your meal, it helped with developing the relationships with your confidants.
I loved this experience because not only did this method present options that could positively or negatively affect your game depending on your cooking decisions, but it also allowed you to observe how relationships develop through food. What would have improved this experience was actually being able to see the result of your labor. Reading the descriptors was a great interactive experience to what should be continued in different games.
I want to see my character’s face reflected in the ripples of that 24-hour thick bone broth!
Remember when Final Fantasy XV introduced that tantalizing plate of oysters? The ones with the sheen on the meat, showing off like a scrumptious gulp of “oh, you ought to be saved by the blood of the lamb?” Intricate details such as these bring out the exploratory aspect of our favorite games.
What makes food even more special in our own lives is the way we receive it. When people hunt, forage, or it is served to us in restaurants, there are different layers of mystery to it. When we get it in restaurants, there are chefs taking special care to cater our meals to us. Hunting or foraging creates direct access from ingredient to the plate. My favorite part is hunting for my elk, sitting by a campfire, and roasting it over an open flame like in Red Dead Redemption 2. In order to improve on this already great feature, maybe games should introduce “quick cooking” and “regular cooking” modes.
Quick cooking allows players to randomize ingredients or throw ingredients together quickly to get basic stats. But, in a regular cooking mode where players could delve into seasoning their food, and different ways to utilize ingredients depending on where you are. Seasoning the food in different ways could add on to different statistical changes or give it more health properties. Maybe something simple to start it out like foraging thyme and rosemary and rubbing it into some chicken. They could the textures of herbs can play as a visual aspect. Or maybe you raided an abandoned house and they have a pot on the stove? What a perfect time to make a stew!
Give me seasoning modes, give me stew it down vibes! Give me cooking, but make it fashion!
We see great depictions of foraging to plate in games like Pokémon Sword and Shield, and Breath of the Wild. In Breath of the Wild, we see how different ingredients breed different statistical changes like an increase in health, stamina, or resistance to heat and cold depending on where the ingredients come from and what it was cooked with. In Pokémon Sword and Shield, we got different berries and added it to a curry pot. The different berries often added complexities to a dish and depending on how great it was, it allowed your Pokémon to gain a closer relationship.
It’s not like food hasn’t been a staple across various genres. Remember that plate of juicy chicken in Tekken 3 casually laying on the floor that replenished your health? Players were so grateful for it after getting knocked by an unforeseen boss at the end of the round. We all have a different relationship to food, so I highly believe we should use this psychological aspect in more of our games. It has the ability to break open our imagination. Being able to create food from mythical creatures or even just creating something simple, it’s bound to be an amazing learning experience. All of this to say, give me tantalizing food options you cowards!