Finding the right quarantine game
today at 5:45 pm
Most everyone’s habits have shifted during the COVID-19 pandemic and people have turned to video games in big numbers as a result.
Video game sales have been up since everyone is spending more time at home. It makes sense. People need ways to kill time and video games can be great time-sinkers.
Last week, a friend recommended Days Gone to me, a PlayStation 4 exclusive that came out in April 2019. She said it should be my “quarantine game.” That sparked an interesting concept to me.
The idea of picking a massive game that you can pour dozens of hours into, gets lost in a world and look at a clock at some point to realize you’ve just killed an afternoon or evening playing the game is nothing new. But that type of game might be more in demand now. Just look at how popular Animal Crossing: New Horizons has been on the Nintendo Switch. It’s a game that is really all about time-wasting and it has become a cultural phenomenon. There’s not really a story and the objectives are whatever you want them to be (I think. Honestly I have no interest it and haven’t fully grasped the point of it yet.).
However, there’s probably another reason why Animal Crossing is hitting right now. It’s not just a low-stress time-waster; it’s set in a happy, smiley world. Even as someone with no interest in that game, I am not surprised by its popularity.
By contrast, in late March Doom Eternal came out. I played the 2016 Doom, which served as the first game in a rebooted series for the franchise. It was great fun. It’s a fast-paced first-person shooter with music that makes you wan to run through a wall, something you do several times throughout the game. You are a badass taking out demons from hell.
I eagerly awaited the sequel when we were relatively early in quarantine. I figured it would be something to distract me from the stress of the outside world. Then I played it and my reaction was very different.
It didn’t click in the same way the 2016 game did. The first couple times I booted up the game I checked out after less than an hour. The high-stress gameplay and dark world (Doom Eternal takes place after the demons from hell have invaded earth) were not what I wanted. I didn’t know I didn’t want that until I played it. On top of the dark setting, it’s a difficult game. The 2016 game pushed me, but this one asks more of you. The stress of struggling to stay alive in the middle of an apocalypse was not serving as a positive outlet so I turned away from Doom Eternal.
Normally I am into the dark and gritty tone that a lot of movies, shows and games have leaned into for the past several years. Everything has been getting a dark and gritty reboot. Now I want sunshine and rainbows. That’s why I went back to an old friend, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey.
I played and beat Odyssey in late 2018/early 2019 and had more recently started the first of its two DLC packs. In returning to Odyssey, I found what I was looking for. While the game had gotten a bit stale by the end of my 100-plus hours in the base game, stale wasn’t a major complaint anymore. I was just looking for something mostly mindless that gave me boxes to check off. Go here, collect this, clear out this location, etc.
The game’s Greek world is a beautiful landscape with green grass, vast open fields, flowers and picturesque sunsets. The gameplay isn’t stressful after you’ve put in over 100 hours. I had more or less mastered the stealth and fighting mechanics. Even as the game introduced new ones, it was easy to adapt.
My point is, the hellish world of Doom Eternal wasn’t what my brain needed to decompress. I wanted the opposite. So I plowed through the rest of Odyssey’s DLC over the course of about three weeks and loved it. It was my “quarantine game.”
For the record, I have since gone back to Doom Eternal (determined to get my money’s worth) and have found enjoyment after lowering the difficulty (something I reserve for desperate times, but it was that or delete the game). I now try to play it in daylight hours and not late at night, which is typically my gaming time. Thankfully it’s not a 100-hour epic like Odyssey or I wouldn’t be able to get through it.
Now my concern shifts to The Last of Us Part II, which is set to come out June 17. The original game is my favorite of all-time, but it is nothing if not a dark world. A post-apocalyptic world where a fungus spreads among humans and controls their brains turning them into hyper-violent enemies? It’s hard to say that feels real, but it feels more real now than a few months ago.
Let’s see if I can handle the world of The Last of Us during a real-world pandemic or if I’ll need to turn to a game with more sunshine and rainbows.