When the COVID-19 pandemic first began, most people did not realize just how much impact it would have on their lives. Some thought it would be like a slightly more dangerous flu season but that things would quickly return to normal. That was not how it played out.
Videogames to the rescue
Once it became obvious that daily routines would have to change drastically, people began to suffer from the effects of social isolation. The idea of simply going over to a neighbor’s house or to visit relatives had to be put on hold, which led to individuals beginning to feel the effects of social isolation.
Research conducted by the National Institute of Health showed that video games provide relief from loneliness and depression, especially in older adults. Besides the benefits of cross-generational conversations taking place online, it allows isolated individuals to experience virtual worlds that take them outside their own little confined spaces.
When the pandemic hit, families found the things they once did for entertainment underwent drastic changes. At one time, restaurants and movie theaters were the main sources of entertainment spent for many households. When the restaurants and theaters were closed, however, new forms of entertainment had to be found.
In the midst of all of these changes, video games provided a welcome relief to many people’s pressures and anxieties. People trapped within their homes were able to lose themselves in the streaming video games and found themselves engaging with people from all over the globe. Part of the appeal of streaming video games is the sense of community that develops. Although a person might have to socially distance and remain in their home, video games allowed someone to lose themselves in a virtual environment – a safe environment where individuals could gather to play games or engage in all-out warfare.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
One of the most pleasant and least offensive games that achieved incredible popularity during the pandemic was Animal Crossing: New Horizons. For many, simply going through the daily routines of tending to an individual island seemed to soothe something within them. Rather than focus on the horrors taking place in various hospitals around the world, people lost themselves in individual little islands that were colorful and friendly and totally non-threatening.
Call of Duty: Warzone
When people wanted something a little more action-packed than planting carrots in a virtual garden on an Animal Crossing island, Call of Duty: Warzone charged in, guns blazing, to help people forget about the Covid-19 virus and focus on an amazing Battle Royale experience. The reason that CoD: Warzone became so popular can be found in the fact that it was free to play and that it could be enjoyed on both the Xbox and Playstation console systems, as well as on a Windows PC.
In an article in VICE, writer Emanuel Maiberg described the total shock he experienced when one of his co-workers — a man he had worked with for over five years and who he imagined to be straight-laced and button-downed — engaged in the game by doing some of the most foolhardy and heroic maneuvers ever. Therein lies yet another appeal of online gaming during the pandemic: people were able to shed their real-life personas and engage in some online roleplaying.
Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout
One of the amazing success stories in video games during the pandemic can be found with Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout. This goofy little mad dash race sold over 11 million copies and took on the title of the Most Downloaded Playstation Game of All Time.
According to lead designer Joe Walsh, part of its immense appeal when speaking to the Irish Examiner is that players can jump right into the game. It doesn’t require a lot of skill, and it doesn’t involve needing to find certain objects in a quest. It just requires players to take control of their character and just race to the finish line.
The future of gaming after the pandemic
There’s an entire group of people out there who will sit and watch people play video games for hours via streaming services such as Twitch. KGW-TV ran a segment on a family in Macon, Georgia, for example, decided to stream their videogames 24 hours a day — and in the process, they raised money to donate to first responders during this pandemic. For many people, watching someone else play online can be extremely entertaining, whether it’s a seasoned player engaged in some unique game skills or someone who is actually a subpar player providing some much-needed comedy relief.
During the pandemic, much of what has been enjoyed in video games can be attributed to stream processing. There are two basic ways that data gets transmitted in the online experience. One is batch processing — where data waits until a certain amount is collected and is then processed. The other is processing data streams in real-time, making for an enjoyable and stable gaming experience.
When the pandemic is over and life gradually returns to some sort of normal, experts don’t foresee a slowdown in video game enjoyment. In fact, with each new element of technological improvement coming into play, the future of video games seems more certain than ever.