Food is the ultimate transcender of pop culture boundaries. From celebrity chefs to home cooks, everyone is involved in the activity, and the process doesn’t end at home or on TV shows. What you may not recognize is the hold food has on the gaming industry.
The obsession dates to the 1980s, when BurgerTime hit arcades around the world and continued into the 90s and 2000s with hits such as Overcooked and the Onion Kingdom. The most interesting thing about the relationship between the two is why the connection is so strong and exists to this day.
A Hassle-Free Opportunity to Perfect Recipes
Part of what’s fascinating about food-related games is that they rarely have any consequences. Take Cooking Mama as an example, a release that sold more than half a million copies in 2006, an era when mobile devices and software weren’t as accessible as today. If you screw up the recipe, the matriarch simply scolds you with an admonishing look of disappointment. Similarly, Restaurant City doesn’t hit users with many repercussions.
What they do provide is a chance to perfect recipes and menus that most people aren’t afforded. Restaurant City, for instance, is based on opening an establishment and building it into something special, a process that (mostly) only professional chefs get to experience. Then there are the ingredients themselves. Aside from producing food that you may have only seen on TV, or not heard of whatsoever, there isn’t the same level of stress.
After all, the ingredients are free, the washing up is virtual, and if you get it wrong, your family’s mood won’t suffer as they deal with hunger pains. Even action games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild leverage this basic requirement as players can gather food and cook it, minus foraging in forests in real life. The gaming sector gives people what they want without the hassle and knowledge that’s typically involved with cooking.
Doubling Down on a Booming Market
Perfecting recipes doesn’t entirely explain why the demand for food-based games still exists in the 21st-century. For that, we need to analyze the relationship between the cooking industry and the rise of celebrity chefs like Gordon Ramsay. As Ramsay’s stock has skyrocketed, the British chef has cashed in on his brand, including releasing multiple TV shows. But the bad boy of the cooking world has also expanded into gaming, along with peers such as Anthony Bourdain.
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Opening this avenue to popular chefs hasn’t just given them new revenue streams. It’s made a world that was once closed off very transparent, which in turn has allowed gaming developers to prosper off the success of the sector. This is intensified by the gaming’s industry ability to adapt to technological advancements. Restaurant City, after all, was one of the first social media games to use the platforms to raise awareness. Mobile slots also increased the recognition of their titles by ensuring the likes of Gordon Ramsay: Hell’s Kitchen is accessible to play from anywhere in the world at any time, helping online slot machines to take advantage of the demand. As a result, the Hell’s Kitchen slot is now among a list of the slots that payout the most, competing with classic themes that have been around for longer, such as Las Vegas land-based casinos (Vegas Cash Spins) and Ancient Egypt and Greece (Platinum Goddess/ Codex of Fortune). The link between online and land-based casinos is made stronger by the fact that his physical Hell’s Kitchen restaurants are based in brick-and-mortar establishments in gambling strongholds, such as Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.
By realizing how much people love cooking programs and offering gaming alternatives, and then evolving with the needs of customers by harnessing technology, food games have managed to remain relevant for decades.
The food industry has reached every corner of popular culture, and gaming is no exception because food games give players everything they want from the activity.