For years and years and years, video games have suffered the brunt of blame for all manner of the world’s ills. Real world violence? Video games. Mass shootings? Video games. Soccer team not performing well? Video games! Kids getting into hacking? Bruh, video games! Men not finding women attractive enough to keep the human race going? Video games did that, too!
Which makes it kind of fun to now see media outlets suggesting, nay, pushing those impacted one way or the other by the coronavirus outbreak to go jump into those same dastardly video games.
Think of gaming as a personal stimulus plan for a nation of unexpected shut-ins: It’s not a long-term solution, it won’t work for everyone, and it won’t solve the underlying problems — but it can provide limited, temporary relief for some.
Video games take many forms, but they are all essentially simulations. And when the real world is temporarily unavailable, a simulated version might be what we need.
Those of us who evangelize gaming, of course, have shouted this same line for years. Still, the point is only partially right. Yes, video games are something of a simulation… but typically a fantastical one. Which is the entire point, of course. During times of high stress, and being forced to be shut-ins by some invisible enemy that we may already have inside of us certainly qualifies, a little escapism through entertainment is nearly medicine. And certain games, frankly, are particularly well-suited to this situation.
Stuck inside a small house or apartment because your state is in lockdown? Fire up that big screen TV and Skyrim and just walk the wilds for a while. Miss being able to get out into your big city and enjoy a little freedom? GTA will at least give you a simulation of that, albeit an over the top ridiculous one. Just need to turn your brain off for an hour because you lost your job and need to relax? I’ll be damned if Stardew Valley won’t set you at ease.
That makes games useful in another way. Some of us are shut in alone. But especially in cities, many are now effectively trapped inside modest apartments with family or roommates, and little private space. Games offer a form of personal escape, a way to simulate being elsewhere from the confines of your couch.
And for those who are alone, games can also serve as social spaces, virtual fields of play for cooperative adventures or competitive contests. Many of today’s most popular games are online experiences that allow players to engage with friends as well as strangers, to forge digital versions of the same sort of bonds with teammates that can develop in the real world.
As the post notes, these are not long-term solutions, but they are therapy of a kind. All I’ll say is that we should be damned glad our PCs and consoles aren’t vengeful, or they’d refuse to help us in our time of need with all of the abuse we’ve heaped on them.
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