Getting hygge with the pioneer of cozy gaming
“There are so many different kinds of games, and I 100 percent believe there is a game for everybody.”
Today, I’m speaking with the creator behind Cozy Games. I wouldn’t say I'm into gaming, but I saw her videos on TikTok and immediately followed. I like how she’s defining a more inclusive, charming, cottagecore-oriented type of “gamer” than the stereotypical cis-male streamer. Enjoy! —Kate
I was too late to the Animal Crossing party of spring 2020. By the time I started searching for Nintendo Switches to buy, they were sold out or inflated to the cost of a house. The mobile version didn’t hold my interest, and in the end I took the sourdough-baking route of quarantine. Gaming had never seemed like it was for me, anyway.
“The marketing towards gaming is not that great,” Cozy K, aka Kennedy, the 25-year-old law student behind the Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube accounts Cozy Games, tells me over the phone. “It focuses mainly on one kind of identity.” (Kennedy prefers to share only her first name.)
High school boys playing Guitar Hero while I sit off to the side watching. College boys playing Call Of Duty while I sit off to the side watching. PewDiePie dropping a racial slur on a stream while I resolutely am not watching. I should be forgiven for thinking that was all there was to gaming—until one of Kennedy’s TikTok videos ended up on my For You page.
Kennedy takes a hygge approach to the pastime, surrounding herself in soft blankets and lit candles and cups of tea as she plays her favorite, Stardew Valley, and recommends similar games to her viewers. Kennedy says she has always felt “cozy” playing games, and the response to her TikTok account (87,000 followers and counting) shows just how much people are clamoring to share in this more inclusive and welcoming version of the gaming community.
“There are so many different kinds of games, and I 100 percent believe there is a game for everybody,” Kennedy says. “What do you like to watch? Do you like mystery? Do you like solving puzzles when you play like board games?”
Nintendo Switches are back on shelves—Kennedy recommends a Nintendo Switch Lite for those just getting started—and the demand for cozy games is only growing. What started as an Instagram account in early 2020 has blossomed into both a TikTok and YouTube channel as more and more people discover that they might just be gamers, after all. The cozy kind, of course.
Cozy Games is actually pretty new. Before this, did you have any kind of internet presence?
I have a personal Instagram account, but I definitely wasn't trying to have any kind of content creation at all. I started the [Cozy Games] Instagram because I was stressed about law school and I was looking for an outlet, and was also getting more into gaming because it [helped with] managing stress, too.
How long had you been gaming before you launched the account?
A long time. My family were really big gamers in the sense [that] they always collected all the consoles [that came out]. Me and my brother grew up playing all of the old consoles and then playing the new ones with our family, friends and stuff. So we've been playing video games since forever. I think my relationship with it changed when I grew a little bit older. And then I took a break in high school and college and then really picked back up during law school because I was like, "Oh, this seems like a healthy coping mechanism."
I definitely find myself doing that in times of stress—turning to something I really loved when I was a child.
I think it's nostalgic. It's comforting. And then you get to figure out how it fits into your life as an adult in a different way than it did with your childhood.
Were you posting about it regularly on your personal account until it got to a point where you were like, “I should have just a dedicated account for this?”
No, I actually didn't post about it at all on my personal account. I knew my friends and the people that I know in real life, none of them are really interested in video games and I don't really share a lot on my personal account anyways. So I strictly used it as an outlet. When I started, it was like the only place that I was posting about [gaming]. And so it was kind of a relief. I was like, Finally, I get to talk about it and find other people that I can talk about it with.
Was it a slow build or did you start gaining followers fairly quickly?
At first I think I would say it was a slow build, and it wasn't until Covid and everything that happened there where I was like, Oh, I think I want to make this a consistent thing. I started having companies reach out to me and I was like, if I'm more consistent, maybe I'll have more companies reach out to me. That's exciting and fun.
Do you think quarantine helped people find your account and helped you find that community?
Oh yeah, absolutely. A lot of the messaging in my comments and specific messages that people send to me are like, "This is the perfect Covid activity." But also I hope that it's something that people can carry with them as soon as things go back to normal because I think it is a really good coping mechanism just for any stress in life.
I had never seen this cozy aesthetic applied to gaming until I saw your TikTok videos. How did that element come along?
It's the feeling that I always have linked with playing video games. I just wanted my entire account and the feeling that people feel when they [see] my pictures to just be cozy. And I wanted to connect with other people that also felt that way about gaming, because I didn't see that anywhere. And luckily there was. We all talked about games in the same way and talked about how they made us feel in the same way.
A reason I was not interested in gaming was because when I picture a gamer, one specific type of "gamer person" comes to mind. Are you actively trying to defy that stereotype?
At first I don't think that was my goal because there were so many people in our little niche on Instagram that I felt like I was joining a group that already existed. It was just a bunch of people, mostly women, a lot of women of color, and women that appreciated gaming in a certain way. And then when I started TikTok, I reached outside of that niche and reached people who don't talk about gaming every single day. I really felt ... a "calling" sounds corny, but I feel like a calling and a goal in my life to really try and connect to those people and say like, "No, look, there is this group of gamers that's really nice and really inclusive and there's a game for everybody and I promise you'll love it." That's been my goal lately, to try and connect both to people who haven't ever gamed and don't know that there are games that would fit them and their life and people who do game, but do so [in a] really isolated and quiet [way] and maybe don't call themselves a gamer because they don't have anybody that plays in the same way that they do.
Did you ever feel isolated from the community?
Absolutely. There was not a community that I was involved with [when I was younger]. I think the closest thing to community was sometimes I would play The Sims and then I would go on Tumblr to look for custom content. The community would be like me [but just] downloading the custom content, that's it. There was no communication whatsoever.
So it wasn’t until you started the Instagram that you felt that sense of community?
As soon as I got an Instagram, I was like, Oh, there's this entire community I'm missing online and online friends are cool, too. 'Cause I was kind of always like, Is that nerdy, to make online friends? Especially about gaming. But as soon as I did, I was like, this is such a part of my identity I hadn't been really connecting with and connecting with others about. I think that's so important—just affirming a part of your identity and having other people affirm it through friendship and shared interest. You don't even realize that that huge part is missing when you don't have it.
YouTube is the platform you joined most recently. What inspired you to do that?
It was people from TikTok, actually. I was always interested in YouTube, but I was like, there's no way [I can make it work]. And then people on TikTok were like, "Can you please make a YouTube? I want to see you play games and I want to see you review things for longer, or [see] your life." I was like, okay, I guess there's some demand. And there's a niche of general coziness that people want to see. [YouTube has] been the most challenging in terms of, I had to learn so many things, it was such a high bar of entry, but also the most rewarding. A lot of people have found me through there and have reached out and commented really, really nice and supportive things.
From the outside, it seems like this has all happened really fast.
It happened very fast and part of me was kind of like, I wish I had started this earlier so that I had more time while I was in law school to be working on this, and maybe make this a viable career path. But I'm kind of at this weird point where I'm going to be starting my job in the fall, you know? I have to study for the bar this summer. I have stuff in my personal life already planned out. And so it's not like I can just drop that and work on this—which I probably would do if I didn't have that. I really hope that I can keep doing it and hopefully eventually make it something that I can spend more of my time on.
You have a Patreon and sell merch, so has this become a source of income?
Yes and no. It is, but I also have to spend so much just getting equipment to be able to record stuff. Everything for YouTube costs so much. There's a lot to spend. Any income that I'm getting from this right now is kind of just going straight back into it, which I don't mind.
What would your ideal outcome be?
I struggle with that because I wish I could spend all day on just this. I know that my job will be demanding, so it's hard to plan for that. In the future, I hope that I would prioritize whatever I ended up enjoying more. And if that's my personal job, I'll do that, and if it's this, then I'll do that. I'm more about doing what I enjoy over money.