The Value of Interactive Game Play is Not Just Fun & Games
Contributed by Graziela Larroca – Multimedia Artist
For centuries, games have been a great way to casually pass time either alone or with friends. During this period of isolation due to COVID-19, children, as well as adults, are turning to games as not only a way to pass time, but as an escape from our unsettling reality. We live in a world that demands constant entertainment. Whether it takes the form of music, podcasts, videos, or games, the common theme is that people crave distraction. During our darkest times, we often look to creatives to find light. This period of time may be beneficial to indie game studios, as players will probably be looking to purchase a variety of games to keep themselves busy, rather than a single triple-A title.
With the ongoing measures to stay at home during this crisis, consoles like the Nintendo Switch have become as hard to come by in stores as toilet paper. This is partly due to a new wave of casual gamers in the market that are being heavily influenced by social media. For example, Nintendo’s newest release Animal Crossing (March 20, 2020) has flooded the internet as the perfect escape from today’s world, as players lose themselves in a tropical island getaway. The game not only serves an audience looking to play solo, but offers multiplayer capabilities – a way for friends to spend time together when they’re physically unable to do so. Multiplayer games specifically are serving an unprecedented role in today’s world. People are often coerced into getting the game and playing with the rest of their friend group to maintain the social norms we’ve so quickly lost. On the home front, families are finding ways to maintain peace while spending all hours of the day together. The video game category of “Party Games” has now become a focus for families, rather than social gatherings. Games such as Mario Party, the Jackbox series, Mario Kart, Drawful, and Overcooked 2, have become solutions for families looking for an interactive, cooperative, or even competitive experience at home.
Games are unique as a creative medium, as they often continue to evolve beyond the original vision of the creator. Minecraft is a prime example of this concept. People have been utilizing the software beyond the core game mechanics and creating their own realities. During this crisis, players have begun constructing structures to hold spring graduation ceremonies they have lost due to social distancing. On March 12 2020, the Uncensored Library opened its doors as a free literary resource dedicated to freedom of press. Reporters Without Borders has created the library to deliver truth to the next generation of youth living in oppressed countries through Minecraft. Hundreds of forbidden articles have been rewritten into virtual books to document political truths covered up by the government controlled media. Notch, the creator of Minecraft (2009), could not have imagined his game would have such social impact today.It’s clear that video games are currently one of the best ways to simulate social activity, given our current circumstances.
Even if you’re playing solo, the interactivity of gameplay can positively affect mental health and provide cognitive stimulation. When you’re in control of your own virtual world, reality can seem a little less daunting.