Broadening our horizons: the video games that define a pandemic


Photos Courtesy of Breonna Bourque, Jonathan Salazar and Ashley Barrientos

Story by Ashley Barrientos/Contributing Writer

While several businesses are grappling with the economic repercussions of COVID-19, there is one industry that has benefitted from the pandemic: video games. A research report conducted by Simon-Kucher & Partners in early August found that COVID-19 lockdowns gave rise to a 39% increase in monthly video game spending.

In a pre-COVID world, playing video games too often maintained some negative connotations, such as gaming addiction, physical inactivity and social ineptitude, which is why they were regarded as something to save for specifically allotted free time or a weekend indulgence. 

However, as mundane social activities that were once encouraged—venturing outside, physical human interaction, spontaneous trips out with friends—are now discouraged, people have been forced to look for other ways to occupy their increased time indoors.

Amidst all the recent chaos, disorder and misfortune, video games like “Animal Crossing: New Horizons,” released on March 20, 2020, gave even non-gamers a sense of ease.

“I had a lot of extra time on my hands and the world seemed very chaotic at the beginning of quarantine,” said Breanna Bourque, an MTSU sophomore. “The peaceful nature of the game provided me with a lot of comfort. It was really nice to feel like I had control over at least one thing despite everything that was happening in the world.”

“Animal Crossing: New Horizons” creates social interaction by allowing friends to visit each other’s islands.

In this adorable game, characters are given a small island and the ability to perform a wide range of quaint activities that include catching fish, planting flowers and fossil hunting. You can also design and customize several aspects of the game, such as your character’s appearance and the island layout.

Another downside resulting from the pandemic was the increased lack of social interaction. Humans are made to socialize, and with mandated lockdowns and self-quarantine becoming the “new normal,” finding ways to keep in touch with friends proved to be another challenge for humankind. But games like “Animal Crossing” proved to be helpful in this aspect of the pandemic.

“It was a way to connect with my friends when I wasn’t allowed to see them in person, so that we could still spend time together,” Bourque said.

“Animal Crossing: New Horizons”

Others viewed the increased downtime as an opportunity to reignite their love for video games, without feeling the guilt that typically comes with playing video games for too long.

“The Last of Us: Part II,” a respected and masterful work of art, provided addictive gameplay, dynamically developed characters and a harrowing, heart-wrenching story that was worthy of guilt-free indulgence. MTSU sophomore Jonathan Salazar beat the 25-hour game in only three days.

“Since I couldn’t go out as much during lockdown, I gave my full attention to this game,” Salazar commented. “Taking it all in within such a short period really made me appreciate everything the game had to offer.”

The post-apocalyptic world of “The Last of Us Part II.”

The game, released on June 19, 2020, contains intense emotional labor. Set amidst the wreckage of a post-apocalyptic zombie world, the story alone is an especially unconventional narrative that follows the protagonists—Joel and Ellie—from its predecessor.

The game provides the player with a stunning experience, flush with a range of profound emotions, as well as complex, multi-faceted perspectives offered from purposefully convoluted characters. It is a game brimming with grief, passion, love and rage—and it inherently demands one’s full attention.

With two strong female characters dominating the gameplay, LGBTQ+ representation and a noticeable absence of female sexualization/objectification, “The Last of Us: Part II” is a victory for feminism in the video game industry.

The mass amounts of emotion and time devoted to pieces of art like “The Last of Us: Part II” or a communal experience such as “Animal Crossing” exemplify how it’s okay to indulge in video games once in a while, regardless of the slight societal stigma that may be tied to them.

During these difficult times, video games act as an interactive and collaborative experience, providing the social stimulation we all so desperately need right now. They serve as a source of comfort and indulgence.

According to a Nielsen Games Video Game Tracking report released this June, there has been a 46% increase in gamers who say the pandemic has influenced their gaming habits since March 23 of this year, making it clear that in a world where bad news seems to be more common than ever, there’s no shame in unwinding with a good video game.

 

To contact Lifestyles Editor Brandon Black, email lifestyles@mtsusidelines.com.

For more updates, follow us at www.mtsusidelines.com, on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines and on Twitter at @Sidelines_Life.

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