Gjallardoodles and pixieberries: video game gastronomy takes off IRL

Store manager and Zelda fan Mark Dimos at the Gamesmen, Penshurst.
Store manager and Zelda fan Mark Dimos at the Gamesmen, Penshurst. Photo: Edwina Pickles

In the beginning there was Pac-Man with his appetite for cherries. Then along came Mario with height-enhancing mushrooms, and later a roast turkey vital for impressing guests in The Sims. Now food has become such a key component of video games, it's inspiring gamers to spend more time in the kitchen in real life.

"I've paired steak with baked apples as my character in Zelda: Breath of the Wild and recreated the dish at home for my wife," says Mark Dimos, store manager at the Gamesmen in Penshurst, Sydney.

"If I had told her I was cooking a dish from Zelda – especially one combining steak and apples – she probably would have kicked me out of the kitchen, but it actually tasted great."

Mark Dimos recreates real life recipes in the game Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
Mark Dimos recreates real life recipes in the game Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Photo: Edwina Pickles

According to market research firm Newzoo, the global video game industry is expected to generate $US159 billion in revenue in 2020 with year-on-year growth of 9.3 per cent. In contrast, the film industry made $101 billion globally last year.

Recipe books based on video games are a growing business too. Cookbooks have been published for titles such as The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, Overwatch, and the World of Warcraft. Meanwhile, the internet is rife with fan-made recipes for cooking food in virtual worlds such as Zelda and cowboy adventure Red Dead Redemption 2.

"In Zelda, you could spend all your time gathering ingredients and cooking if you felt like it," says Dimos. 

Mochi from Final Fantasy XIV, made by video game fan "Lemon Drop".
Mochi from Final Fantasy XIV, made by video game fan "Lemon Drop". Photo: Supplied

"You need specific food for health in different game climates – a curry to keep you warm in the cold, for example. With my Greek background, I try to get a bit of a souvlaki vibe happening by cooking spiced beef on skewers. They're good for your strength."

In August, an official cookbook was released for Destiny 2, a multiplayer shooter where players fight aliens for the last safe city on Earth. Melbourne gamer Chris Holmes has been using its recipes to cook spicy ramen and biscuits called "gjallardoodles". 

"Gjallardoodles are like real-life snickerdoodle cookies but named after a powerful rocket launcher in Destiny called the gjallarhorn," he says. 

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"An online event happens annually in the game where you're asked to collect virtual gjallardoodle ingredients by defeating different enemies. Myself and three friends made the cookies in an actual oven live on Twitch a few weeks ago. It was the first time I had ever baked."

Acquired by Amazon in 2014, Twitch is an online video platform primarily used to live-stream video-game play. In the past three years it has also become popular for streaming "real life" events such as live music and cooking.

Holmes is now preparing to cook more recipes from Destiny 2 on Twitch including cocktails, pork schnitzel and herbed potato stacks.

"I've had to go out and buy a cocktail shaker," he says. "None of it is food I've made before. I've also seen a lot of great food in Final Fantasy XIV which makes me want to play that game too and try cooking those dishes at home." 

An online role-playing game set in the realm of "Eorzea", Final Fantasy XIV features virtual food a cut above schnitzels. Popular dishes include black truffle risotto, bouillabaisse and pixieberry (read: strawberry) cheesecake.

Final Fantasy XIV food is recreated in detail by Canadian culinary arts student "Lemon Drop" on her Recipe Reborn YouTube channel. "It fuses my passion for cooking and my love for FFXIV together into one creative outlet," she says.

"Within the community, I've noticed people want to take better care of their health, and I believe learning how to cook is an important step on the path to a healthy lifestyle. Obviously not every recipe I create is healthy, but if I can inspire someone to get in the kitchen and learn the basics, that makes it all worthwhile."

Meanwhile Perth-based husband-and-wife team Lauren and Troy George are behind Miss Molly Makes, Australia's most popular cooking channel on Twitch.

Attracting 42,000 unique viewers a month, Miss Molly Makes features Lauren George cooking recipes inspired by video games and popular culture.

"Our first live stream was in 2017 and even though there were only 10 viewers, people were engaged from the get-go and asking me cooking questions in real time using the chat function," she says. 

A self-taught cook, George says Final Fantasy crab cakes were a challenge to make online, especially when it came to dealing with live crustaceans. 

"That's half the fun though, isn't it? We have a large international audience and the channel has become a way to educate people around the world about Australian seafood and other ingredients they may not be familiar with."

George says people also use Miss Molly Makes' chat function to talk about their memories and personal feelings around food. 

"We always say it doesn't matter what your race, religion and political views are, everyone has to eat, and food is the best way to bring people together. It's a real community on Twitch – you're not just watching a repeat on the Food Network."

George confesses she isn't a huge gamer herself ("it's my husband that's the big fan") but does enjoy a lengthy session of stress-test hit Overcooked 2 on the handheld Nintendo Switch. Released in 2018, the game is a co-operative cooking simulation, commonly known as "Divorce Kitchen" in Japan for the arguments it causes.

"You play as these crazy little characters trying to run a professional restaurant kitchen," George says. "You have to co-ordinate your team to have someone filleting fish, for example, while others cook pasta and try not to burn anything. It's hilarious. but playing with your partner can be as frustrating as it is fun."