If someone had told me back at the end of 2019 that a pandemic was going to unfold in 2020 I would have laughed at them. While a part of me would go “You know… I wouldn’t be surprised…” a more rational part of me would say “Nah, there’s no way we could fuck ourselves THAT hard.” And looking back… I wish I would have listened to the latter because let me tell y’all… Humanity in fact fucked themselves THAT hard.
In March of 2020, the state of California issued a “stay-at-home” order due to Covid-19 reaching us and starting to spread. The goal was if we followed these orders, in 8 weeks the state could “reopen” and it would be back to business as usual. To quote Tyler The Creator: “So that was a fucking lie.”. We did not go back to business as usual. As I sit here writing this we’ve been stuck in this pandemic for over a year now. While vaccines are starting to roll out, we still aren’t at the end of the road yet.
That year was an extremely long one for me, and most likely anyone who just so happens to be reading this. Back in March, I had this optimistic point of view. I’d stay at home and only leave for essentials. I’d make sure to wash my hands, wear a mask and practice social distancing. I was looking forward to what should have been two months of downtime. I said “Now would be a great time to take some courses on photoshop. Go hard into my podcast that I’ve been working on. I’d start a new fitness program and I’ll start chipping away at that backlog of games I’ve had sitting around for a while.” But as May arrived my optimistic attitude started to die down.
Things got worse. Numbers were rising, people refused to wear masks, social distancing wasn’t working, and the world around me was burning. I no longer had the motivation and drive to take my photoshop classes online. It was getting harder and harder to podcast because my depression made editing it feel like a grueling task. The more time passed, the more my depression got the best of me. I hadn’t seen my friends in months. The outside world started to scare me. My fear of getting Covid ramped up and all I could think of was “I don’t want to get this because I don’t want to die.”. My body and mind had gone into full survival mode.
At this point, the one thing I could do, that brought me any sort of peace of mind, was play video games. And for the past year that’s exactly what I did: I sat at home and played 100s of hours of video games to help me cope with the existential dread that I struggled to shake.
The first game I tackled on my list was The Witcher III. I spent 130 hours immersed in the life of Geralt Of Rivia. Every minute I spent in Witcher was one I didn’t regret. I took on every side quest that I could, I cleared both expansion packs. I got to take in everything the game had to offer, and god did it have so much to offer. Seeing the impact of your decisions unfold as the game progresses blew me away. The Battle of Kaer Morhen is probably one of my favorite moments in the history of Open World RPGs. Geralt makes his way back to Kaer Morhen in preparation to defend it from The Wild Hunt. At this point in the game, you’ve managed to make so many allies, as well as enemies, across The Continent. At this moment you’re able to go back and visit these people, in hopes of recruiting them for this epic showdown. The fact I had so much free time meant I could actually recruit a massive amount of allies. One of those allies was able to save a major character from dying during that battle. Another one of those allies was able to help hold the fort down. If I didn’t have all this free time, I wouldn’t want to imagine what the outcome of that showdown would have been like.
Once The Witcher III was complete I moved onto my next massive game: Assassins Creed Odyssey. I actually bought the game back in 2019 and it had been sitting on my table in its shrink wrap, unopened and waiting to be played. I fired it up and began my journey as Kassandra through Ancient Greece. Greek history and mythology are two things I’m incredibly crazy about. Odyssey delivered a wild experience that focused a bit more on the history portion and less on the mythology. I got to meet Socrates and listen to him share his thoughts on philosophy and how they reflect on the current quest I was embarking on. I witnessed The Plague ravage Athens and it made me think about the current state of events in the world and how they somehow repeat themselves. I saw Perikles practicing democracy in Greece, only to catch the plague and then meet his end from an assassin. But one of the best historical figures I got to interact with was Hippokrates, the father of medicine. In a time where so many people believed in Gods and Goddesses, as well as the power of prayer to cure illness, Hippokrates relied on actual medicine and physical aid. As a player, I learned about the birth of the Hippocratic Oath and even saw it in action as Hippokrates aided a bandit who Kassandra felt should have been left for dead. I even picked up the DLCs, which while I have mixed feelings about, did go heavy into the Mythology portion of Greek History, and even gave us this really cool SciFi take on it.
But I didn’t just tackle these massive single-player adventures. Even though I couldn’t see my friends in real life, I managed to find a way to spend time with them during the pandemic. At the start of the pandemic Call Of Duty: Warzone was released. A couple buddies of mine had it installed and we decided to give it a shot. We spent HOURS together learning the layout of Verdansk. We knew the perfect drop zones, the best places to get loot, and the best missions to snag as the gas slowly circled around us. It felt so good to be spending time with my friends while getting tactical on the battlefield. I’ll never forget the first time we won a trio match together. The intensity of being trapped in the final circle with the gas closing in on you with very little cover left. One of my buddies dead and gone, while the other one was still alive down to their last ammo clip trying to give me cover. The rush of jumping the last person and mowing them down only to see the words victory appear on the screen. It was some wild times. We spent hours level our guns, climbing up the ranks, pumping up our battle passes, and getting some of the coolest unlocks ever. We did some crazy shit like jumping out of a helicopter midair and letting it crash into the enemy team to get a full squad wipe. The hours we poured into it were some of the best times we got to spend together.
But Warzone was only the tip of the iceberg. At the start of the pandemic, a little game by the name of Among Us was starting to pick up a lot of steam. It was released in June of 2018 but a lot of streamers started to pick it up and with everyone trapped at home in 2020 the game really took off. I remember spending hours with 9 of my friends wandering The Skeld. I’ll never forget how shaky my hands were and how sweaty they got when I was imposter for the first time. Trying to do my best on discord to lie to the people I care about to clear my innocence. To gain the trust of one of my closest friends only to proceed to stab them in the back once the group meeting was over. I’ll never forget some of the heated meetings we’d have. Sometimes we’d end up in shouting matches just to prove to everyone who was the imposter. While we’d be angry at the moment, once the match was over we’d start laughing and talking about how things went down. Hosting these games not only let me spend time with friends I didn’t normally get to spend time with… it also created a new friend group. It was awesome to see so many of my friends link up with each other and bond over common interests. Seeing them friend each other on Facebook and share memes with each other was so satisfying. If it wasn’t for Among Us, I don’t think a lot of my friends would have linked up and gotten to know each other. At a time where we couldn’t go out and meet new people, Among Us gave us all the opportunity to find new friends.
The other big multiplayer game I had gotten into was World Of Warcraft. I was someone who had played it back at its launch 16 years ago. Jumping into it now was such a wild experience because so much had changed. The Shadowlands expansion had just launched so it was the perfect time for me to begin my journey into the World Of Warcraft. I’ve leveled 4 characters to 60, gotten two of them geared up in epics, and managed to complete the entire main storyline of Shadowlands. I joined a guild where I made new friends and got to embark on my first raid in ages. I’ll never forget the feeling of walking into Castle Nathria on heroic difficulty for the first time… Clearing every fight was such a wild experience. Having to coordinate with 15 other people was so wild to me. The big baddie of Shadowlands was Sire Denathrius. Going through the main storyline you witness him do some really fucked up shit that pretty much turned the Shadowlands upside down. When I arrived in his chamber to face him head-on with those 15 other people, my excitement was high. The different phases of the fight were insane. Hearing Denathrius taunt your group as you fought on really made me feel like I was one of the heroes from Azeroth out here making a difference. When we got him down to his final phase and delivered the killing blow it was oh so satisfying. There was such a grand sense of accomplishment for me to not only kill the final raid boss of the newest expansion pack… But to have done it on Heroic difficulty and have it be the first raid I cleared since Trail Of The Crusader back in 2009. As of now I’ve joined a new guild and am working my way to accomplishing the goal of Keystone Master. Being able to have this community of people to work with to achieve a common goal really gives me a sense of purpose at a time where I feel so isolated and life really feels a tad bit meaningless.
Within that year I managed to play a few other things that helped me cope with the pandemic blues. I poured a bunch of hours into Hades which I felt should have been game of the year for 2020. I finished Spider-Man: Miles Morales and I’d like to argue that Miles is The Superior Spider-Man. I also completed an entire playthrough of Cyberpunk 2077… which is a hot mess but god damn do I love it. I’m truly grateful for all the time I’ve been able to spend gaming over the last year. As much as I hate the pandemic, and as much as it’s made me depressed, I don’t think I would have been able to complete as many games as I’ve done. My time would be focused on photography, podcasting, hosting panels at conventions, going out to watch wrestling with my buddies, and I would have seen the reunion of My Chemical Romance. With all of that going on I’d probably have been able to complete a game or two and I doubt I’d be able to get into raids in WoW. I know when life returns to a somewhat normal pace I’m going to miss all the gaming time that I had available to me. But for now, I’ll continue to make the most of it till I make my return back to the real world.