Video games, normally an industry used as a scapegoat for the world’s problems, have been the key to helping humans remain social during Coronavirus.
This is a remarkably strange time in our lives. With the Covid-19 pandemic hitting the entire world, we find ourselves seemingly trapped in our homes, unable to do even the standard things we normally enjoy like going to restaurants and shopping. Concerts, sports and other live events where crowds gather have been postponed indefinitely or canceled.
While we’ve all tried our best to find ways to keep ourselves sane, our need for new experiences can make us a little thirsty for adventure. I, personally, stumbled on the trend of “quarantine cuts” and gave myself an extremely inadvisable and incredibly short hair cut with some trimmers, just so I can feel something new. I wish I was kidding.
But during all of this, one medium has stood out against the others to really help people fulfill their need for new, communal events while fully supporting social distancing. Surprisingly it’s the medium that normally gets stereotyped as a tool for the anti-social. That medium is video games. My goodness have video games stepped up their… game… during this trying time.
One of the biggest games on Earth right now, which has been a huge source of interaction during this time, is Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Nintendo could not have possibly released the game at a better time because everyone has it and everyone is playing it.
I mean everyone.
Captain Marvel actress Bree Larson has been constantly sharing screenshots in her Instagram stories. Machete actor and all-around bada– Danny Trejo has recently been online asking if people want to come see his island. Beloved hobbit Elijah Wood has been seen constantly browsing the Animal Crossing forums and visiting people’s islands in a frantic effort to build his perfect shire. Even people who are incredibly busy during this time, like US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have been turning to the game in her free time and visiting other people’s islands.
Hi there! Very new to this.
I would like to visit random people’s islands and leave a doodle or note on their bulletin board.
Can I do that? If so, how?
Should I open my DMs for the first time since the Zuckerberg hearing for the Dodo codes?? https://t.co/pQlm0ES1cM
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) May 7, 2020
In addition to people just visiting their towns, China recently banned the sales of Animal Crossing: New Horizons after finding out people have been using it to stage virtual protests. The Detroit Lions football team recently used the game to reveal their upcoming schedule. They also released code for in-game replicas of their apparel. They even took a brief moment to cast shade on a rival team by showing a villager digging a hole and then burying a stuffed bear into it.
When the Met Gala was postponed, several major fashion designers turned to the game and created replicas of their fashion, having impromptu fashion shows, and even releasing codes so you could wear them yourself.
Other games have gotten in on this as well. Fortnite, for example, has had a couple of incredibly successful events where you could attend concerts in-game. Rapper Travis Scott had an incredible concert in which he stood on the island, gigantic, and triggered a series of impressive visual effects while performing. Your player would suddenly find themselves free of gravity, or swimming underwater or flying through space all while Travis Scott performed.
I’m not big on Fortnite but even at my crankiest, I couldn’t find a way to hate on how impressive this was. And just recently Fortnite had another concert, which was a lot more traditional looking but had three massive EDM DJ’s spinning from an in-game concert stage. Events like these give people the ability to gather in a crowd and experience something new with others which is beyond helpful during these trying times.
Even schools have found so many impressive ways to use video games. Ubisoft, for example, has been giving educators free access to the suites in the last two Assassin Creed games, which allow people to take virtual tours of ancient Greece and ancient Egypt. Free of fighting, insane plots and daggery sleeves, these tours actually show an accurate portrayal of the time period where you can see how people live their lives.
Minecraft has made its educational mode free until June 2020 as well. This has led teachers to bring their classes into a server and host classrooms in the virtual space. The educational mode is spectacular because it allows the teachers to turn off combat, adjust student control, manipulate in-game weather and give them a bevy of options normally inaccessible but incredibly useful when hosting a class. In addition, Minecraft‘s educational mode comes with a plethora of in-game tools such as giant math machines, science centers that showcase evolutionary paths and food chains, as well as places that recreate virtual tours of many famous locations around the world.
Likewise, many educators have been found using other programs such as Roblox in order to hold classes instead of just having everyone run Zoom and be at the mercy of the weakest link’s processing woes.
Again, this has been a very trying time for society as a whole but seeing the video game industry — an industry constantly labeled as a black sheep and used as a political scapegoat and, well, any other farm animal of negative classification you can think of — stepping up and helping society stay sane has been one of the more positive things I’ve seen spawning from this strange and murky time.