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IBCoMagazine Lecturers’ Column: Pandemic Gaming

IBCoMagazine Lecturers’ Column: Pandemic Gaming

This year’s IBCoMagazine Lecturers’ Column will be opened by Dr. Leandro Borges Lima, who specialises in videogame studies and teaches several BA-1 courses. In addition, our IBCoM lecturer will also introduce a new academic course related to videogames, creative and media industries for BA-2 and BA-3 students this year. Enjoy! 

Since February 2020 the world has gone through significant changes due to the pandemic we are – still! – experiencing. Locked at home and unable to meet our friends, one of the many resources available to mitigate loneliness is gaming. Big companies like Sony soon realized that the situation was somewhat “favorable” for them, and made a few games available for PlayStation owners through their paid services, PS Plus and PS Now. Videogames have, indeed, proven to be a valuable resource to keep our minds occupied and give a sense of community. I lost count of how many games I have completed since March – and some, like Persona 5, took me more than 120 hours to finish! – but I do know that having access to games while being isolated in Rotterdam has helped me immensely.

Thinking about what to write for this post, I remembered some games that sparked discussion in the past months, and identified three that stood out: Animal Crossing, Fall Guys, and the recent success of Among Us. Curiously, each game shows us a bit of a different moment in time and state of mind in relation to the social impact of the pandemic.                                                                                                

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

A very cute looking game released for Nintendo Switch only, and a huge success that led to the console being out of stock for months, rising its price exponentially in the parallel market. The game is, as well explained by researcher Lin Zhu, a “dreamland for players to temporarily escape” from the harshness of quarantine, and an ideal place to combat loneliness. Coming out right at the start of the Dutch lockdown, AC:NH had the right timing to replace our now forbidden face to face interactions and exploration of the outside world, with a plethora of cute animals and heartwarming stories we could share with our friends.                                                                                                               

Fall Guys & Among Us

Fall Guys, a quirky competition game where you play against dozens of unknown players through PlayStation 4 or PC, gives us that satisfying feeling of sharing a nice time with completely random people, akin (to an extent) to being in a club dancing or a sports match. A bit different is the game Among Us, which was originally released in 2018 but saw a sudden rise in interest in the past weeks. The game can be played both with/against your friends or join random online players, a nice balance that is enhanced by its availability in mobile version and possibility of cross-platform play. In the game, 1 to 3 participants are “impostors” and instead of helping you, they are, well, trying to murder you. Players can call a meeting, discuss, and vote on who they believe is the murderer, and can opt to kick the suspect out of the game.

In common, both games allow for relatively short bursts of satisfying gameplay, which can be related to a screen and online interactions burnout. Being able to game and have fun with a digital device for a limited amount of time can be helpful for those that grew tired of the endless hours spent in front of their computers with endless Teams/Zoom meetings. This, coupled with the increase in communication with friends and family via screens, can get tiring. Games can really help in mitigating the fatigue and loneliness we feel in this pandemic.

I will not be surprised if soon we start seeing more researchers trying to prove these correlations and the role of games in dealing with the pandemic (a tip for the BA and MA students thinking about their theses!). What about you, have games become a part of your pandemic routine?                 


Author: Dr. Leandro Borges Lima                              

Editor: Gwendolyne Cheung

Illustrator: Chelsea Blijlevens

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