Our society has entered into a paradox in recent years, with more and more people piling into cooking games via their mobile phones, computers, and video gaming consoles despite everyone’s dislike of cooking. One of the reasons why many nations are suffering from obesity problems is because the unhealthy, no-prep-required foods are so quick to ‘cook.’

Yet, people will pay real money and put a lot of time into playing a cooking game, which doesn’t satisfy this need to be fed.

So what the heck is going on?

Do cooking games teach cooking skills?

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Cooking games have invaded every platform of gaming, and people can’t help but eat them up. One of the most popular is the frantic game series Overcooked. In this game, you play as a chef, often with a friend, striving to overcome obstacles and time restraints to gather, prepare, cook, and serve food. As this review details, it’s not a carbon copy of the cooking experience, but it does invoke its struggles in the right ways to create a fun game.

Fans of Overcooked are literally paying money to go through all of the steps of cooking, be put under intense pressure, and only be rewarded by going to the next level instead of doing it in real life to get paid or at least to eat tasty, freshly prepared food without such intense time restraints. Even the more hands-off cooking-orientated games draw a crowd.

Just see this page to find that games like an Italian food-inspired online slot titled Belissimo are still going strong, despite being released in 1999. Indeed, the food theme immensely adds to the appeal of any title, for many.

Quite possibly the biggest offenders of games that invoke the cooking or food business experience through lengthy gameplay are the mobile simulation games. With the freemium structure in place, players get into the game and then proceed to cook in quick bursts, often having to wait (or pay) between stages because of the time walls in place. The cooking versions of these dexterity or time-management games are very popular and, as you can see here, ones like Sushi Bar rank highly in the free charts. So, if these games teach us anything about cooking, it’s perhaps patience in waiting for the food to get ready.

Across these popular games, players have to learn time management skills, ingredient combinations, and cooking techniques to win. So why doesn’t anyone want to transfer these skills to the real kitchen to get a real-world pay-off?

Why cook when you can pretend to cook?

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We seem to love cooking in games, even going as far to say that we have a passion for cooking when it takes place within a game, but when it comes to the real deal, it’s just doesn’t measure up to the authentic cooking game experience. Cooking is long-winded, requires some time management, is time-consuming, while it can often all come apart with one misstep. However, it does yield tasty food, and people love those who can cook them a meal.

Cooking games, on the other hand, are quick and easy, require little initial skill, can be enjoyed whenever – not just when hungry – and you can try again at no real cost if you mess up. But cooking games don’t reward a real-world prize for completion other than being able to do it again but in a tougher environment.

It may come down to an innate fear of not being good at cooking in real life despite a deep-rooted love of cooking and food, that makes people almost play it safe by paying to play cooking games. That said, newbie real-life cooks often find that they are much better at the real thing than they expected.

Through playing cooking games, people could handle high-pressure kitchens that Gordon Ramsay puts himself in every day, and may even attain the knowledge and experience to write the next game-changing book as Marco Pierre White with White Heat in 1990. There’s just one thing in the way:

Effort.

And perhaps:

Lack of upbeat jingles and worthless, virtual currency rewards when you’re done.
Cooking games could be helping to train the next generation of super chefs – this current generation certainly didn’t have the benefit of cooking games to train them. Yet, thanks to the convenience-first mindset of modern society and cooking simply not being convenient unless in video game form, these culinary geniuses may never come to the fore.