Among Us, Minecraft and Animal Crossing: Video gaming during quarantine

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When we were one week into the pandemic, my friend Xochitl decided she had finally had enough. She invited me and our other friends, Jack and Hailey, to a Discord server, a chatting platform that allows communities to connect through text and voice channels in real-time. 

On our small server, we played video games like Minecraft and Animal Crossing together using the voice channel capabilities. Soon, our small group of four friends expanded to our outer friend group, and later friends of friends. Our server is now made up of 20 other students experiencing similar feelings of loneliness.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, our main source of connection has come through our screens. We have found salvation in texting, hope in FaceTime calls with friends and happiness in the cute virtual animals we have invited to live in our virtual towns. Video games such as Animal Crossing, Minecraft and Among Us have become an integral part of our quarantine experience.

Photo: ILIANA GARNER/The Stanford Daily

Gaming companies such as Blizzard have reported an increase in the number of people playing games during quarantine. Its games achieved a total of 32 million MAUs (monthly active users) alone in the first quarter of the pandemic.

“It seems people are either returning to gaming following a life that just couldn’t make time for them, or more people are interested in the world of video games,” wrote Dr. Natalie Coyle, otherwise known as Platinum Paragon, the author of the Psychology and Video Games series who has a Ph.D. in mental health and wellbeing. 

Coyle explains how people young and old have taken up video gaming as a way to “ease anxiety during quarantine.” The bright colors and simple movements in games such as Fall Guys can provide an escape from the hectic outside world. These games can be a healthy form of “escapism,” an outlet “to withdraw from life’s stressors and challenges.”

It isn’t just longtime gamers who have used video games during quarantine — even “beginners” have become absorbed in these user-friendly virtual worlds.

“In my personal experience, video games such as Animal Crossing were used to connect three generations of a family during quarantine, ranging from 12 to 60 years old,” Coyle explained.  

Most of the games that have become popularized during quarantine have features that allow for multiplayer play. Among Us, for example, is a multiplayer online “mafia” game where one or two players are “imposters” and the other players, “crewmates,” have to deduce the identity of those imposters before the imposters kill them.

I’ve always been an avid video gamer, but the pandemic has enhanced my appreciation for video games, especially as a tool for communication. In the past, I would play mostly single-player games like Fire Emblem and Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild. Now, in the midst of the pandemic, most of my gaming hours are spent with friends. 

Sure, I didn’t exactly win the game of Among Us when I killed my best friend in front of every other player in the game. Yes, I lost all my exp levels in my friends’ Minecraft world when I killed myself trying to hit an MLG water bucket (a pro-gamer move that consists of placing water underneath you before falling, negating any fall damage). To me, it was the laughs that followed that meant more than any video game death, and this connection has served as a much-needed relief during this challenging time. 

Photo: ILIANA GARNER/The Stanford Daily

Reach out to Iliana Garner at igarner3 ‘at’ cps.edu.

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Iliana Gardner was a Stanford Multimedia Program Participant.