With Halloween behind us, and Thanksgiving rapidly approaching, the holiday famed for its food got me thinking about the foods in video games. Considering food is never too far from my mind, it offered me a great idea when thinking about a new blog post. So many video games these days feature elements of our real, daily lives, and food is no exception. In fact, food often plays an important role in many games, often providing healing or other invigorating effects. Indeed, some games even insist on players eating, as part of a survival mode. However, I was far more interested in an aspect of foods in video games that has less to do with their in-game effects… rather, I’m interested in what foods I’d actually try were they available in real life.
Tell me you haven’t wondered that before, as you played any number of games. When you approach a Burger Shot in GTA, or get taunted about a missing Sweet Roll in Skyrim, aren’t you a bit curious about the food in question? What do you think the #1 special at Burger Shot includes? Have you ever had a Sweet Roll in real life? It doesn’t sound too complicated, but maybe that pastry with its thick covering of icing hasn’t ever passed through your kitchen before. I myself have seen many food items in video games, or beverages, and wondered just what that might taste like.
Since trying to find an exhaustive list of all the foods in all of the video games that I might want to try would be nearly impossible, I think I can settle on fetching a few video games and highlighting the cuisine from their worlds that might be a tasty treat. Consider that some video games take place wholly or in part within worlds made of food, the options could potentially include beings made of food. This is not an endorsement of cannibalizing candy people. My list will be kept to mostly non-sentient food items. That being said, Bugsnax has shown that sometimes a strawberry with eyes and legs could be a delicious afternoon snack.
Starting off my culinary journey, Cyberpunk 2077 is my recent video game jaunt that made me start thinking about what these food items would taste like. Players of Cyberpunk 2077 will know that this is a hyper-capitalist world, where most crops and livestock as we know it have failed. Instead, people in Night City and other areas eat highly processed food that usually consists of SCOP, or “Single Cell Organic Proteins” which at the time the game takes place can be altered to simulate many flavors and textures. Bear in mind that only the ultra-elite, wealthier than the vast majority of the citizens in Night City could hope to try real fruits or vegetables.
That said, the first food items to catch my attention in Cyberpunk 2077 are the Holobites pies! I’ve always had a bit of a sweet tooth, and the Peach and Grape pie variants sound very sweet and tasty to me. However, that seems like a dessert item. If I had to make a meal of various Cyberpunk 2077 foods, I’d start my dinner with a Burrito XXL Rosado with a Chromanticore Carnival to wash it down! If I was really hungry I might also have to try the RaMMMMen, as I also love noodles! If you happened to stop by Night City, what would you have picked up? Would you be able to stomach foods made of SCOP?
Stepping into another world that has seen better days, the Commonwealth of Fallout 4 provides some interesting food options. Fellow Wastelanders will recognize foods that seem to fall into two fairly distinct categories: pre-war preserved foodstuffs, or post-apocalyptic mutant food! I’m sure many would fall on both sides of these options, we aren’t necessarily limited to either option. When it comes to the pre-war options, I have always been somewhat interested in the Salisbury Steaks and Fancy Lads Snack Cakes. The Nuka-World DLC also added several new Nuka-Cola flavors and food items. Chief among them I’d like to try are the Nuka-Grape and Nuka-Wild flavors. I think I’d struggle to consume any of the mutated food items, but if I had to give it the old college try, I’d Squirrel Stew.
Moving away from the radiation, I think of Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. Despite the looming threat of Ganondorf’s return, the Blight, and all the other nasties of Hyrule, Link can still find time to flex his skills as a chef. With a number of new vegetables available in the world, my absolute favorite dish to make for my heroic twink was none other than a pizza! As a fan of the cheesy dish in real life, it’s no big surprise the dish would be a big hit for my Link. Other meals I liked crafting in a pinch were Mushroom dishes, risotto or omelets chief among them. These are all dishes I could easily make in real life (well, easy might be an over-statement for my culinary skills!) What about a dish I couldn’t make in real life? The Monster food all looks devious… and yet, that purple hue is striking. A Monster Curry could prove a delightful dinner, followed by a Monster Cake! I just have to make sure I don’t accidentally whip up some dubious food!
Stepping out of role-playing games for a moment, Magic: The Gathering has been exploring the world of food for a few years now. Food as a card type first showed up in Magic in the Thrones of Eldraine set, often depicting magically animated foodstuffs. Many times food shows up on these tokens as images of sumptuous feasts, or even as foreboding snacks. Some cards are actually Food in addition to their other types, such as Gingerbrute, which is a “food golem” and a direct nod to the “Gingerbread Man” of fable. I regret to inform you that this food golem sounds like an absolutely delicious morsel, and were I able to catch up to it, I’d skip asking it about the Muffin Man. There’s even a card called “Three Bowls of Porridge” which, without the threat of a family of bears showing up, would likely be a great breakfast.
As this season of Thanksgiving approaches and we all find time to feast with friends and family, I hope that all the gamers and other readers can enjoy a bit of mirth. Surely we don’t desire a world where we eat SCOP, or need to scavenge 200 year old snack cakes for survival in our real life. However, I think these items in games offer a glimpse of what we love about engaging with the worlds they invite us into. We love to experience a fleshed-out world that feels lived in. One where passing a vending machine might cause you to pause for a moment and try to see what candy bars the game designers stacked inside, or what drinks one can order at a bar. There is something compelling about video games allowing us to experience things we could never do in real life, but also reminding us that no one really dislikes having the occasional chocolate bar.