Games with heart
Please, forgive me for the clichés and touchy-feely stuff that this post is going to be full of. Actually, don’t forgive me, just embrace it, let it, much like the games we saw in this week’s Wholesome Direct, wash over you like a warm tide of fuzzy feelings and positive vibes. That’s the reason for this post, by the way, I want to talk to you about wholesome games, because while they all share some similarities, it’s not really a genre so much as a core that the game is built around.
So, let’s start with the direct. The Wholesome Direct featured 55 games, all of which are designed to give you the same feeling you get when you get home after a day of travelling, or the rush you get when a random dog comes over to say hello, or your cat deigns to sit on your lap for the first time.
There’s no specific visual style to follow, the games don’t have to be non-violent, nor do they need to shy away from the darker aspects of life in general. Instead, the takeaway from each of them is hopeful.
I’m hooked on a feeling
It’d be terribly trite to say heart, but, well, heart. The core of a wholesome game is in its presentation and message. The content of each of the games in the Wholesome Direct may differ, but the feeling they give you is the same. The impact they have on the person playing them is a positive one, whether that be deep and reflective or a little more shallow and short-term.
It can be a game about grapes that can talk, or strange farms, or magical cat cafes, but they all look like they’ll be delightful to play, instead of the dark and gritty edgelord stuff that many other games go for. There’s nothing wrong with edgelord games, I myself have edges, but I’m also getting a little softer in my old age, and this style of game is intensely appealing.
This is especially true as my daughter starts paying attention to more things. I like the idea of playing wholesome games in front of her. After all, playing the vast majority of the games I like is likely to lead to some therapy at some point for her, and I’m trying to avoid that. It’s far better to send a positive message with gaming, and that gives all of these games another throughline: they make for excellent introductions to gaming.
I’m high on believing
Dear reader, obviously I am asking this question rhetorically, despite the fact that I am also going to answer it, but I think it’s pretty obvious anyway. The world isn’t the lovely place it could be, instead filled with vitriol and lies from those who should be doing better. At present, it’s impossible to even go for a nice walk, or to head to the gym, or to grab a burger from a questionable truck on the side of the road.
All of the nice and wonderful things that you might want to do are currently undoable, and rightly so, it is the duty of all of us to try and look after the vulnerable, but it’s still stressful nevertheless. This is especially true when it feels like those who are meant to be leading by example are in fact doing the opposite of that.
When life is stressful, and even when it’s not, games often serve as a nice chance to disconnect from the real world and immerse yourself in something different. Often the games that come out are bleak, full of viruses, zombies, and gigantic ants, but that doesn’t really feel like escapism at the moment. Well, not all of it.
So, it’s kind of the perfect time to embrace the kinder games, the happier games, and the hopeful ones, because we all need something a little bit more heart-warming to indulge in.
Jason is the Editor of The Indie Game Website. He’s a lover of roguelikes, soulslikes, and other kinds of likes. He basically spends a lot of time getting beaten up in games and seems to enjoy it.