Weekend Hot Topic, part 1: How has the pandemic changed gaming?

GameCentral readers describe how their video game habits have changed over the course of the year and during lockdown.

The subject for this week’s Hot Topic was suggested by reader Cray, who asked how the coronavirus pandemic has changed how you play games this year. Since the start of lockdown in March how has your approach to gaming changed and have you played more or less than usual?

Almost everyone said they had played more but while most were grateful for the distraction, they were still all very keen for things to turn back to some kind of normality as soon as possible.

Time to play
I have definitely played more games and if you’d told me I’d have all this free time and be able to sit around and play games all day I’d think it sounded like paradise, but it’s not really. Being on furlough this long has been nerve-wracking and even though games have been a welcome diversion I’d still rather it was all over and everything was back to normal. Even if I know that’s not going to happen for a long time yet.

The way I’ve played games has changed though. Since I know I’ve got more time and don’t have to rush to fit everything in I’ve been taking my time and trying to complete games closer to 100% and going back to favourites – which I don’t usually have time for.

I’ve beaten Bloodborne on the ‘best’ ending now and restarted Zelda: Breath Of The Wild on Master Mode. My favourite discovery though has been God Of War, which I purposefully ignored before because I hated the originals. But the new one really is as great as everyone said.

My absolute favourite lockdown filler though has been Final Fantasy 7 Remake. I have never played the original and generally don’t like Japanese role-playing games but gave this one a go, based on the good reviews, and really liked it. Likeable characters and fantastic graphics. And almost certainly would’ve never played it if not for the coronavirus

Hoped for problem
I’d be very surprised to learn if anyone has played less games this year than usual, given we’ve all been stuck at home so much and there’s so little else to do. I suppose that is balanced by the fact there’s been less games out than usual, but if ever there was a time to raid your back catalogue 2020 has been it.

The funny thing is though I’ve probably spent less money on games this year than usual and that’s thanks to, you guessed it, Game Pass. It really is an amazing thing and as unexcited as I am about the Xbox Series X, and Microsoft games in general, the Game Pass is so good I’ll be sticking with them next generation.

The problem next year, hopefully, will then be that I’ve got too many games and not enough time to play them. I’d still rather that than another lockdown though.

Primary source
Due to being disabled I can’t get out much, so I don’t think the amount of time I game has changed due to the coronavirus and the lockdown, it’s still my number one source of entertainment and I can’t see that changing if things ever improve!

I do think I’m appreciating them more now – the need to switch off from everything at the moment and just escape for a while is more important than ever right now!

Try and stay safe everyone!

E-mail your comments to: [email protected]

Multiplayer only
I’ve played a lot more games over the last six months than usually but I’m not sure how much of it I’ve really enjoyed. Given all the stress and worry I’ve found it hard to concentrate a lot of the time and have actually avoided some games I was looking forward to as I knew I would be in the mood (The Last Of Us Part 2 is a complete no-no, given how depressing it seems to be.)

Instead I’ve found myself playing a lot more multiplayer games, which I don’t usually do. Since I don’t own that many it’s mostly been free games like Fortnite, Apex Legends, and Call Of Duty: Warzone. It’s been fun but since I’m not really that committed I’ve kind of reached the ceiling of my skill level and am losing interest.

I’m thinking of getting an Xbox One S on cheap and Game Pass in order to get a bunch of cheap games I can dive into without spending too much money.

Wholesome addiction
The pandemic hasn’t affected which games I care most about but I bought Animal Crossing: New Horizons in early April, after a couple of weeks of working from home. I now don’t expect to be back at the office till well into 2021 at the earliest and while I’ve had plenty of other games on the go, I’ve snuck in multiple mini-sessions of Animal Crossing every day since I got it.

It’s the first game in the series I’ve properly gotten into, having only played the GameCube original and ditching it as soon as I’d upgraded to the biggest house.

My total playing time as of Thursday morning is a slightly embarrassing 370+ hours, almost definitely the most time I’ve spent with any game (Zelda: Breath Of The World is probably second place at 300+ hours). I have most of the collectibles and all the special event items so far and, probably the biggest achievement, I’ve grown all colours of every flower including the elusive blue roses.

Before and during my working day, I’m very unlikely to play other games on a more traditional console (even during a pandemic) but the Switch’s handheld and sleep functionality combined with the nature of the game has encouraged me to pop onto my island every morning, afternoon, and evening to see what’s happening and to get new crafting recipes.

I can now empathise a bit more with those who have compulsive behaviour exploited by certain games that don’t seem to do much beyond that exploitation. I’m also grateful, though, that the one that taught me this first-hand hasn’t monetised that exploitation but instead tries to be a bit more wholesome with it.

Chaos relief
As far as I’m concerned the only thing 2020 has been good for is playing games. There might have been less big new games overall but I still think it’s been surprisingly decent and have particularly enjoyed The Last Of Us Part 2, Doom Eternal, Final Fantasy 7 Remake, and Ghost Of Tsushima.

I wouldn’t normally have bought so many new games so quickly but I got Doom on cheap and traded in The Last Of Us Part 2 to get Ghost Of Tsushima to get them all. It’s worked out great too, with plenty of time to play them without rushing and looking for all of the secrets.

It doesn’t make up for the world being in chaos but it’s pretty good for taking your mind off it.

Catch up on every previous Games Inbox here

Gaming as usual
Coronavirus has made little difference to the number of games I have played this year or the time spent playing them.

In theory, working from home should have given me more time to play games as there is no longer a commute to deal with and less socialising. But in reality, all it seems to have achieved is longer workdays that encompass the time that was previously spent commuting and often additional hours as well.

This year I have completed 26 games so far, which is pretty average for me (last year was 38 and before that 24). This covers a mixture of AAA titles and small indies with the highlights being XCOM 2, Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition, The Last Of Us Part 2, Resident Evil 2 remake, and Return Of The Obra Dinn.

One difference given the reduced games on sale this year was that I played a few more games from the backlog than usual and picked up some older games in sales. (As was probably evident from my top dive above). I even played a few games from the PS Plus subscription, which apart from Resogun at the very start of the generation is not something I have really done much of on the PlayStation 4.

I also went on a bit of a nostalgia trip and played through a few old Mega Drive favourites and I am currently playing Supper Mario 64 as part of 3D All-Stars. (Although this is more to do with turning 40 than coronavirus.) Getting a weird craving to play a racing game a couple of weeks ago probably was coronavirus related though, as it is not a genre I normally play and was probably my subconscious missing the outside world.

E-mail your comments to: [email protected]

The small print
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