Video games provide an escape ‘when the real world can be a lot to handle’

OSU students share how gaming has helped them cope with the stress and isolation of COVID-19

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By H Beck, OMN Illustrator

Isabelle, a familiar companion to those who play Animal Crossing: New Horizons, greets everyone to their very own island.

Teresita Guzman Nader, Beaver's Digest Contributor

Playing video games has helped many people cope with COVID-19. From developing a game to playing them, these students at Oregon State University share one thing, the joy that video games bring.

Hannah Armstrong, fourth-year computer science student and president of the Video Game Development club at OSU, said she thinks that video games were a huge help coping with COVID-19.

“I feel that the escapism of a video game, of basically any kind, can be incredibly relaxing and mood boosting, when the real world can be a lot to handle,” Armstrong said. “I especially played a lot of Hades at one point last spring, the story really drew me in and the gameplay was really fun.”

According to Armstrong, the Video Game Development club suffered a decrease in attendance while the meetings were remote.

“During remote learning, it’s much harder to keep the energy for a club, attempt remote collaboration and commit the time necessary to work on projects,” Armstrong said. “Once we started to meet in person again, we had many more members come to the meetings, which us officers are excited about.”

Armstrong said one thing she learned during the pandemic was that, as introverted as she may be, social interaction is important. She said the void was filled a small amount through comforting video games and other media, but human connection, even over message or video call, is important too.

“Finding ways to enjoy things with other people is one of the many great things about video games,” Armstrong said. “I messaged my friends when I made progress in my story games. I talked about my excitement of new releases. I played some online games like the Jackbox games. All of this helped me stay connected when I was living alone, not attending class in person. It was an easy bridge to build with my friends and clubmates.”

Cameron Fletcher, first-year mechanical engineering student, said video games helped him immensely during the COVID-19 lockdown, especially the first few months. 

“When the pandemic started, my friends and I started playing Minecraft which was a great way to relax and calm ourselves with everything going on along with doing something while staying within our homes,” Fletcher said via email. “Fallout 4 and Fallout 76 was a great way to escape and find myself lost in a different world with a great story behind it.”

Fletcher said he recommends Minecraft to anyone who hasn’t already played it, adding that it is an extremely relaxing game with a lot of potential for creativity and imagination. 

“The possibilities with what you’re able to do with it are endless, you could spend hours playing that seems like minutes,” Fletcher said. “If you want something more story driven, any of the games in the Fallout series are great choices.”

According to Armstrong, story-heavy games aren’t usually her go-to, but such a deep and engaging world like that of Hades has really helped her feel like she is getting more interaction. 

“You’re part of something unfolding,” Armstrong said. “I also love puzzle games and roguelikes that you can replay over and over, listening to a podcast or watching a favorite YouTube channel to decompress and feel a sense of accomplishment after every run or puzzle.”

Armstrong said she thinks COVID-19 made the gaming industry have to consider remote work as a larger possibility, adding that usually collaborative efforts such as game development are in person, but when in-person work is not allowed, adjustments have to be made. 

“Sometimes, the fast-paced deadlines have to be reworked,” Armstrong said. “Meetings have to be held over video call. It’s not optimal, but game development is about problem solving, so we just have to problem-solve the new situation.” 

Matthew Wolcott, first-year computer science student, said he thinks that it was extremely beneficial to have a hobby that he could do at home during the lockdowns.

“I play Rocket League and that’s really the only game I play nowadays,” Wolcott said. “I’m a competitive person and the only games that I tend to really get interested in are those in which I’m competing against other people. In the past I’ve been hooked on games like Dota 2, online chess, Rocket League and online games like Clash of Clans. However, I know these games appeal to me because of my personality traits, and are not necessarily [for everyone]. In the end, I think finding the game for you comes down to knowing yourself and what engages you.”