Whenever I play Cook, Serve, Delicious, I can’t help but think of the way that Giant Bomb’s Ryan Davis used to say the title of the game; with an arm flailing inflection that indicated that he would have been content to sit on the menu screen, childishly yelling it over and over for hours if he had been allowed to.
I really miss that dude.
I’ve always found it fascinating how often we, as video game consumers, will forgo the standard wish fulfillment or power fantasy the medium is known for do something relatively mundane, be it farming or cooking or even stocking shelves. On some level, I think it’s just the draw of “gamifying”, for lack of a better term, things that would normally be hollow chores. Maybe there’s something to the idea of simply having access to these experiences without any tangible consequence, unlike real life, but I also can’t help but wonder how much harder I would work at my job if I knew I was always just an arbitrary numerical score away from some great reward.
Hard work being rewarded at a retail job. Wish fulfillment indeed.
But it’s really a testament to CSD that I’m as drawn to it as I am, considering how I would typically loathe the sense of anxiety brought from its often frantic pace and constant demands for multitasking. It’s the sort of thing that can actually lead me to avoid certain games, when the sense of dread can be so overwhelming and the act of engaging with a game becomes an unpleasant experience. It may be odd to use such terms to describe a cooking sim, but the game has more urgency in its dish washing mini-game than the world-threatening main quest of most RPGs.
And yet, I keep going back to it. There’s a tactile satisfaction to punching the keyboard frantically, getting down the rhythms and patterns of each menu item until it becomes second nature, trying to get lost in the very small, but endearing world that the game has built, often only with a few emails and item descriptions. There’s something incredibly rewarding about finishing your day, seeing your last customer waddle into your one-star french fry and lasagna restaurant for his 10pm beer.
I like to think that maybe we’re not just drawn to simulations of our mundane life because it’s been broken down into a language of ever growing numbers, as if every game we’ve ever enjoyed is really just a clicker underneath it all, but because they’re often presented with a flair and personality that we find undeniable. The developers of Cook, Serve, Delicious could have made a game about basket-weaving and I think it would have probably shared some of those same endearing qualities.
Of course, now I’ve mistakenly found myself chasing an impossible dream; a look at the rough and tumble underground hustle of the basket-weaver.
I’m sure that will be on Steam Greenlight by the time I’ve finished typing this. Only the basket-weavers will be zombies for some reason.