Why Good Pizza, Great Pizza Became My Favourite Mobile Game in 2021

And their secret cult is partially to blame.

In-game screenshot with the town’s local influencer: Author.

Pretend for a moment that everything you want to do in life is erased and replaced with one dream: “I want to make and eat pizza”. So you quit your semi-comfortable life to open a tiny pizzeria in the middle of town. It’s janky looking, you own one oven that cooks at the same speed it takes paint to dry, and your competitor across the street likes to come over and laugh at how ugly your pies are.

But customers who dare to come in always leave with a smile and an encouraging tip, believing that you might be great one day. You even have your own cute, little wishlist of all the toppings, upgrades and decor that you hope to buy one day to improve your tiny shop. Oh, and there’s an ancient pizza-worshipping society judging your every move. Are you ready to prove to them all that you’re a worthy ovenist?

This is what I stumbled into. Let me take you by the hand and pull you in.

Like many of you, this year has been no easier on me than the previous one. I lost my passion for many things, hit lower points than I’ve ever experienced and each day is just a blur of activity hoping to find a purpose for the next. It’s like being a monkey with a wrench, smacking on a car engine hoping one day the right smack will get it to start.

I’m still in that scenario. I’m still that monkey. But lately, it’s felt a lot easier since I stumbled upon this new mobile game — and before you ask: no, I’m not sponsored. It’s called Good Pizza, Great Pizza. And I just wanted to tell you about this app because it really helped me. And maybe, it could help you too.

Let’s dive into why this mobile game is my pick for the year, even though the year isn’t even halfway over yet. And if you haven’t played a game on your phone in a while (or ever), then join the club — neither had I until I downloaded this one.

Okay, It’s Just Another Pizza Making Game

Yes, it is. And there’s a ton of them on the app stores, but Good Pizza, Great Pizza is visually very charming.

Quick backstory: The day I found this game, I was trying to download yet another user-friendly banking app. I had decided to switch my assets over to another platform and was too unmotivated and tired to open my laptop. When it finished downloading, I was given the typical list of recommendations and new apps to try. This game was one of the new ones.

If you’re familiar with the look and feel of mobile games these days, you’ll notice that many (if not all) of them have the same brightly coloured, blocky, cookie-cutter design. Think Zynga on Facebook in the 2010s.

But what I found so refreshing about Good Pizza, Great Pizza is that the art design is intentionally different. Right away, it has a very minimalist style to it with soft edges and colours, giving it an almost kawaii, Studio Ghibli vibe to it. Everything from the toppings to the diverse customer characterizations, all make it so appealing.

My pizzeria’s counter has many of the toppings happily unlocked. I was making two shrimp pizzas on pesto sauce for a young man heading to a party.

Another thing I love about this mobile game is the subtle changes in its gameplay environment. Daytime in the game transitions so smoothly into nighttime. Sometimes it’s a rainy day and not only does the weather change, but raindrops can be heard in the background and the music takes a calming turn. Anyone who is a fan of ASMR will appreciate the relaxing tingles this leaves on the player.

Pizza Lore is Much Darker Than You Think

Another feature that I really love about Good Pizza, Great Pizza is the story surrounding the game. It has the ability to maintain player retention through its compelling, deep narrative. It’s very clever and here’s why.

Yes, the story starts simply like any other pizza-making game. You’re a new pizzamaker starting from humble beginnings. You’ll make custom randomized orders for whatever new customer comes through the door. And as you keep getting better reviews and earning more money, you’ll unlock new features to streamline your work and improve the look of the shop.

But Good Pizza, Great Pizza takes it a step farther. Did you remember when I mentioned that an ancient pizza-worshipping society judges your every move while you play the game? Probably — that kind of detail is hard to forget. Well, the short answer is yes. They are in the game.

To be fair though, the whole world in the game itself is obsessed with pizza:

  • They have 24/7 pizza-dedicated news cycles
  • Weekly celebratory toppings festivals
  • People’s conversations and jokes are all pizza-related
  • Even scientific discoveries are explained or debunked with pizza theories

Everyone’s understanding of the universe is understood entirely through the eyes of pizza — it’s pretty cute and mildly terrifying.

But without giving too much away, as a newbie to the pizza-making world, this is how you get tested in the game. Because pizza is sacred to the people in Good Pizza, Great Pizza, the mysterious hoodie-wearing society will come to place an order. And the best part is how cryptic their instructions will be.

It was honestly one of my favourite moments of the game when they’d appear. I’d squeal and drop everything, trying to decode each of their riddled orders, hoping I would make the right pie.

There is even a prophecy foretold in the game…and while you may or may not be at the center of it, I won’t spoil what happens when you’ve passed each of the saucesayers’ tests — but it’s unexpectedly fun!

Ads Are Surprisingly Not the Biggest Pet Peeve

When I told my friends and cousins about Good Pizza, Great Pizza, the first question they asked me was, “Is it free?”. When I said yes, their next comment was, “Ah, so it’s full of ads”. I remember laughing and shaking my head.

Many mobile games today indeed monetize on free gameplay by jamming one hundred unskippable ads into the experience. But it should be said that many users are actually fine with this feature because it doesn’t require much effort and triggers good reciprocity behaviour. You don’t have to pay for the game, and you help their developers earn money and sometimes you get a reward for taking a mini-ad break. So it’s a win-win for everybody — even though it can be annoying if you have to stop in the middle of a grind. It’s like pausing your workflow just so you can be told to buy something you don’t even want.

But in Good Pizza, Great Pizza, I was happily surprised that their ads aren’t essential to moving to the next stage. Nor are they required to obtain something. All their ads are non-enforceable. You only have to watch them if you just want a few extra bucks for your business — and if you’re a hardcore people-pleaser like me, then you only accept to watch them so you can add more profit to your savings. With the extra ad money, I can buy a nice plant to the front for the customers to feel happy. But it doesn’t necessarily mean I need to.

So in case you were wondering when the gotcha moment was coming, the good news is there isn’t one! Unless you count the customers sometimes being upset with you for not adding an extra topping that’s not included in the official recipe book. Well jeez, I’m sorry you’re mad you didn’t get your pineapple, ma’am — but pineapple isn’t included on the Supreme pizza!

(I’m mad but I’m still laughing. Because it’s funny how the game’s customers act like real people. If you’ve ever worked in the foodservice industry, you’ll understand.)

It Found The Slice I Was Missing

I want to be honest. At the start of this year, I hadn’t felt inspired to create anything new. When it came to solving simple problems and doing tasks, I didn’t feel challenged enough to actually start or complete them. But this mobile game has recently helped me get out of my slump and procrastination cycles. For example, the last three stories I wrote all benefitted from me taking a break and playing Good Pizza, Great Pizza and I am grateful for that.

Video games have a way of doing that. Ever since I picked up my first controller when I was six years old, video games have taught me how to identify problems in front of me and find the links to solve them. And for many others who grew up in the current age of gaming, the feelings are mutual. They also stimulate us creatively, encourage us to use what we have at our disposal and teach us to work towards an end goal with a task-oriented mindset.

“Video games teach resource management, collaboration, critical thinking and tolerance for failure.” — Ben Sawyer

But the biggest takeaway for me from this game is how much it has helped me deal with my anxiety. Currently, I don’t know what I want to do with my life and almost every waking hour, I struggle to combat that shame and guilt while trying to find focus and remain productive. And lately, during the moments when my stress peaks (or when I feel the power of LinkedIn try to crush my spirit), I’ve pulled out this game for a quick break and it relaxes me.

There is also something very powerful in the feeling that comes from making people smile (even if they’re not real) when they’ve received your handiwork in a cardboard box. It consistently reminds me that it is the same feeling I want to give to people in my real life and to continue in my search for what I am meant to do. And maybe, if your feelings are similar then you might benefit from a few, new digital smiles too.

Screenshot of a young lady thanking me for making her pizzas correctly. These compliments always make me genuinely smile.

I May Have Fallen in Love With a Video Game?

Currently, I’m on Chapter 3 in the game which means my pizzeria has been open for over 130 business days — but realistically, I’ve logged on for 13 consecutive days and I’ve probably put in almost 24 real-time hours into it. My shop is currently competing in an international “Pizzacon” and I’ve just added shrimp to my menu. But it is less a feeling that I need to play it and more that I want to play it.

Good Pizza, Great Pizza is such an adorable game and during the times of the day when I’m not feeling 100%, it’s given me enough reason to return and make a few pies just to make a positive impact on a customer’s day — and if it means getting a few buttered compliments on my “beautiful goddesses of oven-baked flatbread”, then who am I to deny them?

I don’t know how the story will end, but I can’t wait to find out and finish the game with a big sigh of appreciation.

And if you think this mobile game has had no impact on my real life, then consider this. I’ve never really been a big fan of pizza, but this game has rekindled my love and curiosity for it again. I’m a very boring flavour person. Ice cream? Vanilla. Burger? Fish. Pizza? Cheese. But thanks to the over 1,000 pizzas I’ve made for customers in this game, I’ve felt more inclined to try new toppings.

The other night, I even ordered a quarto special from Little Caesar's to act as my initial taste test and to experiment with onions, green peppers and a meat lover's delight. The result? I want to order it again, and maybe next time throw on some olives or anchovies.

Author's pizza this week with four styles of cheese, pepperoni, meat-lovers and deluxe.

Clearly, my current love for this game is infinite and this is probably the longest Medium story I’ve ever written about anything — and, ironically, it’s for an app where you make pizza for pixelated people. But I hope my messaging along with the length illustrates to you that sometimes new things can surprise you and remind you of what it is you’re missing: a little excitement, colour, new faces…and sauce.

So if you feel like a monkey and need a calming distraction to breathe and find focus again, then I highly recommend that you try out Good Pizza, Great Pizza for yourself. You can download it for free on Android and iOS devices. And tell them Abby sent you, with huge gratitude.

Millennial, noncommittal romantic, walking the tightrope between hope and depression. Sounds like you too? I’ll write something for both of us.

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