Social Coziness in Games

As I mentioned in previous posts, lately I have been interested in the topic of Cozy Games and coziness in general. At the same time, I have been actively playing two games: Death Stranding and Animal Crossing. While these activities could appear almost ironic and hugely different from one another, I have been surprised to discover how they do not differ that much.

Coziness Using Social Mechanics

It’s a given fact that Death Stranding doesn’t emphasizes or centers around coziness. If we consider the main ideas behind Tanya Short’s bible on Cozy Games, most of the points that prevent a game from giving that vibe are present in Kojima-san’s latest creation. There are very few safe spots or places the player could feel like home, most of the environment is always dangerous, and things only tend to get worse the more we continue advancing on the story.

However, there is another aspect on this that has caught my attention: the subtle social interactions that the game promotes. It’s not a MMO game, nor a multiplayer game, in fact you (almost) never see another soul while travelling through the vast and barren locations, however the game has its own techniques to always make you feel supported by the rest of players. It uses a system based on “likes” and the world has turned into some kind of huge social network where even the dopamine generated by the social approval of the rest has its own name. And for those of us who are not such fans of social networks this may sound a little ridiculous, however the effects this has in the gameplay are very interesting and set the mood for the creation of very wholesome communities many cozy games could envy.

Polygon

Just like in Animal Crossing, an important part of the daily routine is socializing with your neighbors and building the best island for them (and for you), Death Stranding encourages you to establish connections with other mostly anonymous players and build in-game structures that will eventually make the road less painful for the others (and for you as well). One of these days I spent most of my playtime building the ultimate zip line network to connect all the last location preppers (trying hard no to spoiler here). This meant a lot of time and effort, many very annoying fallings on Sam’s part and BB’s crying but when it was finished it was totally worth it. And, ironically, the feeling I got when I traversed the difficult terrains mostly flying through endless zip lines was remarkably similar to the one I get when I finally finish fulfilling my Animal Crossing’s island vision.

Reddit

These social interactions are obviously highly encouraged by the game, which gifts you “likes” (one of the game’s most desirable collectibles) every time other players follow your paths, use your structures or deliver cargo you lost on a dreadful BT encounter. That awesome feeling of being useful and approved by a lot of strangers that during their playtime will be grateful for your contributions as you are of the ones that built some roads before you, is another kind of reward not directly related to the story or your progress in it but arguably equally important.

Anonymous Social Interactions

This kind of social interactions has greatly interested me ever since I played Journey. I tried this game with no prior information or investigation about it, and therefore my first playthrough was a complete exploration and discovery experience, I met some people along the way and up to the last moment I was completely sure those people where NPCs carefully placed there by the developers. When the credits rolled in and the list of other players, I met along the way appeared it was a complete experience changer for me. Now, after having made some research on the topic, this feeling reminds me of the concept of Kishoutenketsu, the narrative technique where one of the steps is about the Surprise or Twist element. There are great resources (such as this and of course this) that explain this thoroughly but one of the definitions states that the surprise element is meant to provoke a different point of view on all the story retroactively. Learning that the other characters I saw along the way were real people, and their support to finishing each level was someone else’s legit effort to help me/us, was really what I remember most fondly about this great game.

Softpedia

I feel Death Stranding implements this is a AAA kind of way, with a lot more content to support the concept but aspiring to reach the same emotional connection.

There is something very human about being alone in a dystopic world working to make it a better place for the rest. Regardless of the real motivations of the main character, many players (me among them) make it their personal mission to finish building ALL of the roads, fixing every useful structure and making the world a better place not only in a figurative way but also for the other human being that is experiencing the same as you.

Are these unusual social interactions something that evoke coziness for you when playing a game? Are there other fundamentally anti-cozy games you feel at home with?

Raincup Games and Coziness

Cozy Games

The first time I heard the term cozy games was very recently, when someone mentioned it associated with Animal Crossing. I entered the world of Animal Crossing very recently as well, being New Horizons my first one in the franchise. And I can totally picture the meaning of cozy games if I think about Animal Crossing and its core mechanics.

According to the literature found about cozy games, a key point about its design is the concept of wellness and abundance; the feeling of being safe and comfortable in a place that belongs to you. This is achieved, for example, via personalization, music or ambiance in general. Although the concept was unknown for me, it turns out to be pretty close to what we expected “Raincup” to represent.

Animal Crossing knows best.

The Raincup Concept

Raincup is a made up word that comes from “teacup” + “rain” and it’s meant to evoke that cozy feeling of staying at home, playing your favorite game and entering a completely different world full of adventures while it’s raining or at least cold outside. Raincup was also founded during our country’s winter (July) and for us – since we don’t get any snow because we live by the sea – winter is more about rain. That has changed over the years, though, and every year we get less and less rain… πŸ™

At Raincup we aim to create games that represent a memorable experience and that make people feel good. We have nothing against war themed games or games where the main goal is to kill or defeat other people, however it’s not our cup of tea (shameful pun intended). What we want to create goes more along the lines of “nice games”, if there is such a thing… And cozy games is a concept that surprisingly includes many things that we would like to present to our players.

Our first game, however, is not so close to the editorial line that we have in mind. Being a mobile free to play, its design strayed away a little from this emotion evoking goal we are talking about. Nevertheless, we have worked hard to keep it as close to those concepts as possible, featuring a cute character, delivering the experience of exploring and also including a safe space where the coziness is the star.

Our Future

In the future, we want our games to have a stronger narrative component and specially, to deliver a memorable emotion. That could be accomplished by having a great story or through gameplay. As I mentioned before, the cozy game concept has a lot of possibilities to deliver this cozy feeling; possibilities we are exploring in order to help us better define and better design our next project.

As a new company, we are in the stage of defining our personality, so to speak, what we want to be recognized and remember for, what style of games we want to specialize in, what platforms are the best to accomplish these goals, etc. It’s a long process and this quarantine months have really favored the reflection of our team about it.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned to find out more about our creative process and the challenges we are facing. πŸ™‚ Follow us on social media!

Our Story

Why Games?

Raincup Games is born from a dream dreamt for a long time. I’ll tell you a little bit about me and how does my experience relate to our game company’s story. My personal story with games starts when I was probably about 5 years old or less. My dad has always been a technology enthusiast and with little effort, a variety of gadgets and machines could be found in our home. That’s how I got to try an Atari 800XL. The first games played were Pacman, River Raid, Jungle Hunt and some others. At first, my father used the computer while my sister and I watched in awe. I don’t remember exactly how or when the transition happened but the next memory I have with the Atari is us enjoying countless hours of gaming and also trying a little of “programming” with Logo Writer (“the little turtle” in our words).

Pic from Wikipedia.org

After that, consoles and computer games became one of the most exciting parts of my life. I have very fond memories related to the arrival of newer, more powerful computers, trying our first Tomb Raider and Star Wars games and very specially receiving a Nintendo 64 as a Christmas gift. The strongest feeling that comes to mind is the indescribable sensation of curiosity and fascination when I first explored the Kokiri Forest in Ocarina of Time.

Fast forward to a more recent time, when the time came for me to choose a career path it wasn’t a easy decision. I thought hard about the things I liked and the things I thought I was good at. Since my first choice – Astronomy – turned out to be a little far from my skills then, the next strong interest was in videogames. That’s how I decided to study Computer Science, since that was the closest to developing games at the time, at least from my point of view.

Taking the Long Path

My University was – and still is – strongly focused on Science and technical skills. I found people there with very similar interests (anime and videogames), something that had been rare for me up until that moment. Among the students the interest for developing games was a shared one. And that’s how some groups and organizations started to take form. Meanwhile me, being shy and having little confidence in my potential skills, kind of missed the opportunity to participate in those groups. When I realized that was something I ‘should’ be doing, it seemed like a done deal and I couldn’t find the guts to participate.

In University I was lucky enough to meet Juan Manuel, who is now my husband and partner in crime πŸ™‚ We started being very close friends and then became a couple that did everything together. He follows my crazy ideas and I follow his, so supporting each other’s dreams is part of our deal.

Hi! That’s us πŸ˜€

After we finished University, and even before graduating, we both found jobs on IT (on the same company). And with that, inadvertently, I was almost definitely leaving my interest in game development behind. Or at least I was putting it to sleep. We worked for that company for about 7 years. I realized the job I did there was not something that made me happy or made me feel accomplished long before leaving, and kind of carried on with that frustration for a long time. This frustration was shared with my husband who somehow felt the same way. We felt a little trapped and saw our dreams from afar, regretting every new year how we hadn’t done anything to change our lives, again. I looked at my former classmates, most of the same people that participated in the game dev group I didn’t join, and admired the work they were doing and the bravery of being working on their dreams.

My IT job, of course, gave me a lot of good things. For starters: money which game stability and allowed me to accomplish many great things (getting married, traveling to amazing places, acquiring goods that now make our life a little easier, etc.) and I also learnt a LOT of things. Most of those skills were completely transferable to the game dev world, although I still have trouble believing or acknowledging that πŸ™‚

The Trigger

When 2018 came I don’t really know how or why exactly but my husband and I were completely sure that this was the moment to – finally – change our lives and start working for our dreams. I contacted some of my former university classmates (those that were working on gamedev), asked for advice and support. Some stars aligned and exactly during that time a Government Funding for creative women opened its application process. I applied and won!

This funding was a crucial part of the transition and a key point in our game company’s story. I said to myself that if I got the funding, I would quit my job and work full time on my dream. And that’s exactly what happened. That little opportunity was the last push I needed to start really working for something that made me proud. This was also combined with other life changes, unbelievable opportunities for my husband and other things.

So that’s how Raincup was born. The project that we applied to the funding was “Patiperro”: the story of a puppy that had been accidentally separated from its owner and needed to travel the world to go back to him. The development started on July 2018 and the project suffered many transformations during the process. Right now it’s called Jumpy Paws and we are working hard to see it become a quality product that represents all the hard work and life changing experiences that we went through to give it birth.

Showing our eaaaarly prototype in Game Dev Planet – December 2018.

And that, as they say, is that…

And this is the moment when the flashback ends and the story reaches present time. From now on, Our game company’s story is being written with the help of people like you who are reading this post. Please continue to follow our story and see what surprises await us. The fastest way to do so is by following our social networks listed below.

Thanks for reading!

Welcome to the blog!

Thanks for visiting Raincup Games’ blog. I’m not really sure yet what kind of things we will be posting here, but hopefully the posts will help you get to know us better and dive into our game development process!

Stay tuned for more πŸ˜€