During Covid, popular games like Animal Crossing gave a lot more people a way to escape the intensity of the reality we are dealing with. It almost doesn’t seem like the world we used to know anymore. Almost overnight the online world became more prominent in the lives of people for not only school or work, but also as a place to escape to. In this post, we’ll give you 3 reasons why people used gaming to escape reality during Covid.
Ready, Player One
In the universe of the book Ready Player One, which was later turned into a movie (which I both recommend), people live their lives in two places: the real world, and the NET world. Almost everyone is connected to the NET via VR screens. You can take classes, get a job, play games, and be anyone you want to be. The possibilities seem endless. But the reality nowadays is not far behind. If you have a VR headset, you can already walk around in a virtual world with all the other people that are connected.
The reason people escape to that virtual world in Ready Player One is that their reality is shit. The world has turned into a post-apocalyptic world, where only people with money have some kind of freedom and joy. That isn’t that far from the current truth we live in in some places. Especially during the first lockdown, people were stuck inside their houses. We were told to stay inside, we couldn’t hang out with friends, we couldn’t exercise in the gym or go to the movies or to bars. The only entertainment you had was what was already available inside your house, or what you could order online. And even what you could order online ran out fast!
Where could we escape to Covid?
Luckily, when the first lockdown happened, the long-awaited Animal Crossings: New Horizons got released. The sales for this game skyrocketed. Within a year, Nintendo sold 7 million copies of the game in Europe alone – that’s one-third of all switch owners according to Nintendo. The game came at a perfect time. Because people were stuck at home with nothing to do. So you might as well start a game.
But there are more reasons for Animal Crossings’ success. Especially during lockdown it’s felt great to be able to take a plane and visit other (virtual) places and see the sand and the palm trees. To swim in the ocean. And to visit friends and host parties. People get creative in the game. I’ve seen it all from online weddings, birthdays, graduations, theme parks, and even music festivals. Things we could not do in the real world, we could do in Animal Crossing. The game gave people a way out of the bland and grim reality we were living in. The downside to this form of escape was the possibly unhealthy obsession that came with it. In some cases it was so bad that players had to stop from playing all together. Read more about the dark side of being consumed by a game here.
But Animal Crossing wasn’t the only game. Call of Duty: Warzone had 75 million players by the end of August 2020 compared to 30 million in march 2020. FIFA doubled its players compared to a year earlier. League of Legends, Fortnite, Minecraft, Among Us, Roblox, and Final Fantasy all saw massive spikes in their player numbers. Phone games saw the same reaction, especially those free-to-play games that were within easy reach of many. Even board games (and digital board games like Jackbox) saw a spike in sales.
What games are most popular?
This poll taken in our female gamer group on Facebook shows that out of the 110 respondents, a whopping 97% use games to escape from reality during the Covid lock down. From that 97%, Animal Crossing is by far the most popular. Stardew Valley and Final Fantasy are not far behind.
And two other RPGs, Zelda Breath of the Wild and the Assassins Creed series, are also not far behind. What makes it that these RPG titles are so popular, especially now?
1 – In an RPG, you have control
While some things are out of our hands, within the digital realm, we hold all the power. Lockdowns don’t matter anymore. You can decide to spend your time fishing or battling bosses. Spend money on ridiculous outfits and roam the digital plains. You can decide to have your character marry a guy, and then get a divorce and marry a girl instead. Anything is possible, and the most creative players generally will seek the boundaries of those possibilities.
2 – You create your own reality
A reason why Dungeons and Dragons has been a popular game for ages is that in an RPG. You create your reality. In that regard most RPGs are alike. You start with building your character, choosing a race and class, and then venturing off into the world to fulfill quests by NPCs. Even in free-roaming RPGs with little to no quests, people come up with their own goals for the game. Valheim for instance has no quests other than to kill all five world bosses, but people have created their challenges since the start of the game.
From building complete city’s from other Games (like Skyrim and Zelda) to killing all bosses with tamed boars and wolves… even a American Ninja Warrior course has been build and completed by various players. Customization, progression and exploration: all key-ingredients to a good RPG and the reason the genre is so popular. Also a reason why RPG’s are so addictive: there is always more to progress on or more to explore. And even if there isn’t, people will create their own challenges.
Here are some examples of people who’ve created their own reality in various games.
Whiterun in Valheim
3 – Socialize and have fun with friends
Most of all, gaming became a way to connect with others and escape the loneliness associated with the efforts of fighting the spread of Covid. In a time where no one was able to travel and meet up, meeting up online became the new normal for more people than before. Even people who weren’t too technically skilled before learned how to connect online IRL with ZOOM and Google Meet. And people who normally wouldn’t pick up a game, stepped into the world of online gaming to fight loneliness and boredom. While avid WOW and GuildWars players always had their ‘real’ parties and holidays in the game, people created their own festivities in newer games like Animal Crossing and Valheim during this time as well.
Did you know that if you want to virtually have a wedding in WOW you can book a wedding official? How fun is that?!
And one of my favorites: Hellfest in Animal Crossing
Have you been trying to escape Covid?
Did you feel the need to escape the whole situation around Covid? What has been your go-to lockdown game? Let us know in the comments!