Making Studio Ghibli buildings in cozy builder Tiny Glade gives me purpose

Studio Ghibli in Tiny Glade
(Image credit: Pounce Light, Studio Ghibli)

Fellow creatives will understand that sometimes, when the all-consuming creative urge sets in and threatens your peace of mind, you just have to make Studio Ghibli buildings in a sandbox builder. Booting up your favourite freebuild game – be it The Sims, Minecraft, even Roblox if you're still fresh out of the womb – can be a fantastic creative outlet. But if you really want to nail those cosy Studio Ghibli vibes, Tiny Glade by Pouncelight Games is the one to watch. Because what's better than trying to capture Miyazaki vibes on a rainy summer's day? Getting your Ghibli on in a cute, cottagecore castle building game featuring tiny umbrella-wielding sheep, that's what. 

I started making these Ghibli buildings in the Tiny Glade demo on a whim. I'd had some time to get used to the controls and the countless easter eggs the devs have thrown in. There are just so many versatile tools to work with here, and although I've had to take some liberties due to the lack of fences, and no gable overhang, I'm actually quite proud of these.

Anyway, starting my cosy Ghibli Build series has got me wondering why I feel the need to have a goal in sandbox games.

Home sweet Studio Ghibli home

I made Ponyo's house in Tiny Glade - YouTube I made Ponyo's house in Tiny Glade - YouTube
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If you've ever challenged yourself to design a real-life city in Cities: Skylines, or followed along with a fan-made design challenge on The Sims (like those Berry simming challenges I was obsessed with), you'll understand the need for self-imposed goals in a sandbox game. For those of us who flirt with the muses daily, it's important to find somewhere to put all that excess creativity or we'll simply shrivel up – at least it feels that way. Thankfully, freebuild games like Townscaper, or Tiny Glade give us that quick hit for channelling the creative urge without all the clean-up non-digital artforms come with. In one way they're exceptionally freeing, but while games with unlimited creative freedom sound great in theory, all that choice can make you feel a little paralyzed. It's the overwhelming fear of the blank page coming back to haunt me in game form.

If this is all sounding familiar just remember: there's no shame in wanting a specific goal to work toward. There are entire gaming communities out there based around this goal-oriented sandbox habit. I've always loved that players will rally together to give each other direction in playing with what's ostensibly a digital toy.

With clear prompts like "Make some Studio Ghibli buildings", that spooky blank canvas becomes a roadmap – something to be accomplished. It keeps us from feeling adrift in an ocean of possibilities. And when you finally hit those little creative goals you'd set for yourself, it feels like you haven't just wasted two hours when you could have been doing housework (shhh). It's testament to how adept you are at using a limited toolset to design something beautiful, and you'll often surprise yourself using it in unexpected ways.

Studio Ghibli in Tiny Glade

(Image credit: Pounce Light, Studio Ghibli)

Freebuild games like Townscaper, or Tiny Glade give us that quick hit for channelling the creative urge.

If my Game Design Masters course taught me one thing, it's that a solid framework and light limitations really encourage players to think outside the box. It might sound counterintuitive but, with the right mindset and a good set of tools, restrictions actually have the power to improve the creative process. Even in its limited demo state, Tiny Glade has so much potential for improvised wonders. I mean, take for example  this player who's been using lamp-posts as raised walkways. It's amazing what people can do with a little creative licence.

The Tiny Glade devs understand that people like us want goals for their little builder, so they've been driving engagement with prompts like #TinyHouseonaHill and #TinyWizardTower, to give their players little creative goals while they wait for the full release. The fact that the game just slipped past the million wishlist mark goes to show it's working.

All that engagement has also saved my new favourite hobby from disappearing off Steam, because Pouncelight Games has announced they'll be leaving the demo live until June 23 to give players a little more time to make delightful cottagecore goodies. If you wishlist Tiny Glade on Steam now, maybe they'll leave it up a little longer for us.

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Katie Wickens
Freelance writer

Katie is a freelance writer covering everything from video games to tabletop RPGs. She is a designer of board games herself and a former Hardware Writer over at PC Gamer.