Wholesome Games is a community that started on Twitter when indie game developer Matthew Taylor began curating games according to their feelings of comfort, compassion, and coziness.
Here at The Fandomentals, we’ve been following Wholesome Games all summer and have even reviewed a few demos from this year’s direct!
I was able to talk to founder Matthew Taylor and he was kind enough to answer all my questions about what we can expect from the Wholesome Games team.
First, here’s this year’s direct with over 70 wholesome games.
FM: Tell me a little bit about the history of going from tweets and conversations among friends to multiple successful Directs?
MT: The first Direct happened really organically. We made a lot of indie dev friends because of the Twitter account, and one of the last things we did before the pandemic took hold was visit PAX East, where we met people like Jenny Windom (who would later go on to host Wholesome Direct) in-person for the first time. After so many events were canceled due to the pandemic, we started planning Wholesome Direct as a way to give indie developers a chance to showcase their games online.
I know people have varying opinions on E3, but certainly as a kid, I grew up looking forward to those events and announcements, so I tried to make it the kind of thing I would want to see as a fan, which basically amounted to keeping the focus on the games and trailers as much as possible and not worrying too much about the production itself.
FM: Who makes up Wholesome Games?
MT: There’s me, Matthew Taylor. I’m an indie game developer and the founder of Wholesome Games and my brother, James Tillman. He’s who I work with every day on our project, Rolling Hills. Esmeé van’t Hoff who joined the team after being a Discord mod. She is working on Tracks of Thought. Jacob Blommestein an original member of the Wholesome Games crew and the go-to guy for all our website stuff, and finally, Jenny Windom who’s the newest member of our team. She’s an indie game producer/community developer/streamer and fans will recognize her as the host of Wholesome Direct!
FM: What does the team look for when picking games to showcase? What defines a game as “wholesome”?
MT: Something we’ve always tried to be mindful of is that what looks wholesome to one person might not look wholesome to someone else, so let me start by saying it’s all very subjective and we don’t pretend to have the answer for what makes a game wholesome.
In my Twitter bio, I say they’re “uplifting, thoughtful, compassionate, and cozy”. Many people use “wholesome” and “cozy” interchangeably, but I’ve always liked wholesome because there’s a lot of variety packed into that word. Hopefully, anyone who watches Wholesome Direct can feel the vibe we’re going for.
Last year’s direct.
FM: This summer has been a busy one for gaming companies and communities. What have you been doing not to get overwhelmed by the awesome variety and options for wholesome gaming?
MT: With Wholesome Games, I think it’s always served us well to take our time, keep doing our thing, and let the opportunities that make sense just come up organically. That attitude also helps keep me from getting overwhelmed when things get busy.
On the personal side, I’ve hiked more in the past year than I probably have in my whole life. I also learned how to swim last summer, so finding more reasons to get out in the sun has really improved my mental health.
FM: I went swimming for the first time in years last month, so I totally understand! What can we look forward to in the future from Wholesome Games?
MT: That’s a really good question! Certainly, we hope to return next year with another Wholesome Direct, but I’m not sure what will happen in the meantime. I really liked curating our vinyl record, Slice of Life: Songs from Wholesome Games, because it was fun essentially making a mixtape, working with cool developers, and raising money for Galaxy Fund. I’d like to do more stuff like that!
FM: Just for fun: What is your current favorite game? What game are you looking forward to?
MT: I just finished Mario Golf: Super Rush’s single-player adventure, and I thought that it was short, sweet, and rough around the edges in a lovable way. In terms of upcoming games, August has a ton to look forward to but I’ll say Button City and Psychonauts 2 both come to mind.
FM: Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?
MT: I think that in life, what we’re looking for most of the time is a sense of belonging. After both Wholesome Direct events, I got messages from viewers saying “this showcase felt like it was made just for me!”, and that’s so heartwarming to hear, but I hope they know that it’s not a one-way street: by being so supportive of Wholesome Games and the devs we highlight, they’ve made me feel like I belong, too, and that’s an incredible thing in a pretty intimidating industry.
FM: I think that’s great! I know I really enjoyed the direct this summer because I found so many games that I felt were exactly what I was looking for, but didn’t know that I was looking for them. Thank you so much for talking with me today!
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