The pandemic is constantly on my mind. It’s like a passenger that clings to almost every thought, meal I make, and interaction I have with my daughter. Outside of getting ready for bed, nearly all of our daily routines have been upended by the threat of the virus. I can’t bring her to school, play with her on the playground, take her out to eat, go see a movie, or do most of the things we used to. We’re stuck in the house, longing to return to the life we once had. Even from this safe place, normal doesn’t necessarily feel like normal. Everything feels off. That even goes for video games. Some that I adore have lost their flavor.
Being a single dad in this uncertain time has been challenging. It makes me realize Naughty Dog didn’t quite nail the dynamic between Joel and Ellie in The Last of Us. Given the tantrum my daughter had over the spaghetti I made for dinner last night instead of the requested lasagna, Last of Us needed more pointless bickering between two people who have spent way too much time together.
I think I speak for most people when I say the pandemic brings uncertainty, stress, anxiety, and sadness. My daughter and I are doing our best to keep our spirits up, and we’re bonding over new things, but we can’t help but reflect on what we’ve lost – that’s to be expected and should happen. There’s nothing wrong mourning the loss of the amazing things in life, which we’ll hopefully get back to soon.
We’re now trying to make a great life from the confines of our home. Considerable amounts of time are spent with board games, movies, Legos, Shopkins (these weird little household items that have faces on them), art, and crafting. We’re also playing video games more, which is a strange thing for me to say because it’s already what I do the most.
My daughter playing Roblox. Since I know you’ll ask: That’s apple juice in the glass.
Funny how in the matter of just one month, my mind has gone from “I want to spend more time at home” to “I want to spend more time at work.” Just one month and I’m seeing things differently – that goes for video games as well.
During yesterday’s livestream of Call of Duty: Warzone, I had to step away for a minute to calm my nerves. One seemingly innocent firefight hit me with a freight train of stress. I spent a minute breathing deeply before returning to the stream. I had a chaotic morning of home schooling my daughter, and I wasn’t mentally prepared for a competitive shooter hours later. I struggled to get into it.
That moment made me realize my gaming habits and tastes have been upended by the pandemic. I’ve always played everything I could get my hands on, and nothing in the world has stopped me from doing so until now. Rather than gobbling everything up, I now find myself thinking things like “The Division 2 is too heavy for me right now.” Call me crazy, but extreme violence, virus-driven plots, and intense competitions are hard sells during the pandemic.
That doesn’t mean I’m looking for violence-free games entirely. I keep going back to Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, a game I refuse to finish. Yes, it’s bloody, but it’s never really intense. Additionally, sailing ancient Greece’s seas is as calming as can be. I’m also currently playing Darksiders Genesis with a friend, and we’re having a good time with it. It’s all about killing demons and hellish landscapes, but it’s a cooperative experience we can enjoy from a relaxed and fun pace. Just talking to my friend as we play has been therapeutic too.
On the other hand, my nightly gaming clan stopped playing Overwatch given just how intense each match ends up being. Yes, Overwatch is another great way to spend quality time with friends, but if my group is indicative of every other one out there, we spend a lot of time yelling at each other and barking orders (all out of love, of course).
I’m sure my feelings towards these types of games will pass as new routines are established and the stress of the world subsides or becomes the new normal. Until that happens, I’m in the market for games that deliver lighthearted escapism or fun in ways that won’t stress me out. Sorry, From Software, I’m not venturing into your games again until I get a handle on this pandemic.
My daughter and I have been playing an obscene amount of Minecraft creative mode. We’re building worlds together brick by brick, and are staying up way too late as we do so. I know Minecraft is one of the most popular games in the world, but holy cow is it well made. Placing blocks and creating working contraptions is an effortless affair once you get the mechanics down.
When we’re not in Minecraft, we’re playing Roblox cooperatively. I’ve also helped her get through Disney Rush a few times. And then there’s Nintendo. Thank the makers for Nintendo. A good number of Nintendo’s games are great for families or a person who is looking for something that’ll immediately produce a smile.
On the Nintendo front, I play Animal Crossing: New Horizons as I eat breakfast, am finally getting around to Yoshi’s Crafted World, and adore Luigi’s Mansion 3 like you wouldn’t believe. Luigi’s Mansion 3 is a must-play, people. My Overwatch clan has been playing a lot of Rocket League lately, and we also have developed a strange fascination for Totally Reliable Delivery Service – a game we all say is terrible, yet keep going back to and talking about.
Life is weird right now. I may wake up tomorrow with an urge to play The Division 2 again, or I may delete it from my Xbox One so I don’t see it until I feel like I’m ready for it. This pandemic has created a whirlwind of chaos for everyone. I know how fortunate I am that my family is healthy and safe – that’s what truly matters right now.
If you take anything away from this opinion piece, I hope it’s that you are balancing your health and games in this difficult time. Take care of yourselves, have fun gaming, and social distance like there’s a leaderboard for it and you’re trying to be at the top of it.