OPINION: Video games have saved quarantine

Xbox+One%2C+left%2C+and+Playstation+4%2C+right%2C+both+released+within+a+week+of+each+other+in+November+of+2013.+I+would+play+Call+of+Duty+and+Overwatch+with+friends+via+online+on+the+Playstation+4.+%22Gaming+Consoles%22+by+tandemsystemsltd+is+licensed+under+CC+BY+2.0.

Xbox One, left, and Playstation 4, right, both released within a week of each other in November of 2013. I would play Call of Duty and Overwatch with friends via online on the Playstation 4. “Gaming Consoles” by tandemsystemsltd is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Shelby Tolly

When the pandemic first made its mark last year, mass shutdowns occurred across the world, including Sacramento. During the shutdown, everyone had to stay inside and only go out if deemed necessary (i.e. work or grocery shopping) — nothing to do, but pick up a game to mentally get through a shutdown that lasted for months. 

When the shutdown first happened, the business I had worked at wasn’t doing too well in a financial sense already. Because of the pandemic, my employer had filed for bankruptcy and would start liquidating soon after. I had also lost family members back in 2020; it was the darkest year I had yet. 

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To take a break from everything and not drown in a sea of depression, I went to gaming for help. I have always experienced depression since I can remember, but pandemic depression was a different flavor of mental illness. 

Video games have saved me through this pandemic. Gaming helped me look forward to something while still communicating with friends. We kept each other company and made sure we kept socializing. I picked up Animal Crossing: New Horizons for the Nintendo Switch and played it all day with friends. It made me forget about my problems, but also helped me process everything. I needed an escape because I was dealing with so much loss and didn’t know what to do with myself. My friends and I would then play Overwatch, Call of Duty and Ghost of Tsushima. 

A Nintendo Switch sits in a dock on the bottom right with Joy-Cons on the top left next to a copy of Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild on March 4, 2017. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild is another game that I enjoyed during the pandemic. “Nintendo Switch” by Photos By Dlee is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

This made me want to ask students what games also helped them through the pandemic and how it helped them. 

Vonnell Jarrell, a psych major, mentioned via text message that he had enjoyed the Persona video game series, especially Persona 5. 

“I have always been a gamer and especially during the pandemic it has been a fantastic way to stay in touch with friends while experiencing in-depth worlds that have well-rounded characters, awesome soundtracks, [and] immersive environments,” Jarrell said.

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I have to agree with Vonnell on this one; staying social is what kept me sane during the pandemic. But it is rather difficult since we need to keep a social distance of six feet, and gatherings aren’t allowed — so gaming was the answer to socialize and have fun with friends. I always checked in with friends because so much was going on besides the pandemic, I wanted to make sure everyone was OK, mentally and physically.

I feel due to gaming my bonds with my friends have strengthened, something international relations major Rodrigo Garcia agreed with, saying video games have “helped us stay connected and really strengthened our bonds.” 

“I feel thanks to video games, I always have the chance to hang out with my friends,” Garcia said.

I, left, play Animal Crossing: New Horizons with my friend via online play at my friend’s island sitting on a bamboo bench April 7, 2020. This is how I would play and socialize with my friends during the pandemic.

“It was a good distraction, especially at the beginning. I felt like I had no control over my own life, but I had control over,” said Atesemhe Braimah, a business administration major, via Instagram referring to characters in The Sims.

I really resonated with Atesemhe with this sentiment, I heavily rely on routine and some sort of control over my life due to my Autism diagnosis. The pandemic wiped my routine and any control I had over my life. This led to me having constant panic attacks and just overall not taking good care of myself. But video games gave me a bit of that control back, and it was cathartic in every sense of the word. Especially with the game The Sims, a life simulator, I had control over what my character did and wore.

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Gaming has not only helped me through this difficult year, but it has also helped other students to mentally stay afloat. Video games have saved the pandemic for me. I don’t know where I would be mentally if I didn’t game with my friends.