Cooking videogames and other reasons not to play with your food

If chefs have stalkers, of course they have videogames!

Next summer will see the launch of the "Hell’s Kitchen" videogame, just in time for the show’s fourth season. The press release talks about engaging fans across multiple platforms (yawn), but I’d like to see the version in which achieving new levels means getting to hear Ramsay’s increasingly florid profanities, including some he’s invented exclusively for the product.

Newsletter subscribers: click here for the "Cooking Mama" trailer.

"Hell’s Kitchen" isn’t the first unholy alliance of whisks and joysticks. There’s Nintendo’s "Cooking Mama Cook Off" and the just-released "Cooking Mama 2: Dinner With Friends." ("Everyone’s favorite Mama returns for a second helping, but this time her finicky friends will taste and judge your kitchen creations!"). These share the same producer as "Cake Mania" ("Help Jill upgrade her kitchen with state-of-the-art baking tools while serving her increasingly difficult customers so she can ultimately earn enough money to re-open her grandparents’ shop!"). Similarly disturbing (although with better graphics) is "Chocolatier 2", which starts you off with 50 sacks of cocoa beans.

My question: Sweet Jesus, who is going to play this stuff?

As EW’s PopWatch blog pointed out, the fun of cooking is watching or doing. And since videogame graphics are nowhere near food-porn levels ("Cooking Mama" has that round-is-the-shape-of-choice aesthetic peculiar to Japan, where pop culture comes prewarped for your enjoyment) and even the the wiliest Wii can’t provide, say, the scent of chopped onions hitting hot olive oil — well, what’s the point?


More successful, although analog and far nerdier, is the Trivial Pursuitish "Foodie Fight." It’s billed as "A Trivia Game For Serious Food Lovers" and I recommend you take the creators at their word. Bring this out for guests who aren’t the sort to nod approval at the box, namechecking the chefs who blurbed the game (Lidia Bastianich, Jacques Pepin, Mario Batali, Chuck Williams) and you will soon find yourself in the market for new friends. 

Sample questions include "What candies, at very low humidity, spark in the dark when broken?" "What is the name of a dish, and a cheese, that would be an alternative to fondue?" and "What kind of doughnut is a popular Chaunukah food in Israel?"

Answers are Pink Necco wafers and Wint-O-Green LifeSavers, raclette and sufganiyot. Should your guesses have fallen more along the lines of I don’t know, Like I care and You’ve got to be kidding, please look elsewhere for after-dinner entertainment; we’ve got enough bloodshed in the world already. 




3 responses to “Cooking videogames and other reasons not to play with your food

  1. Big Bomb

    You did. You played this stuff. Admit it.

  2. The card game? Guilty as charged. The videogames? You first.

  3. Actually, the Cooking Mama series seemed to have quite a cult following, according my Nintendo-phile friends (I haven’t owned a console since Sega Dreamcast). I can kind of see its appeal, like a more culinary version of GuitarHeroes.

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