As video game week continues on, I’m reminded about how easy it is to use sports as escapism from the real world. Why? Because many people use video games in much the same way. This year has been a year where we all have desired to just take a break. Some people, like front-line workers, emergency responders and activists, haven’t been able to or don’t feel like they should. Some people, the vast majority of people, have found ourselves blessed enough that this has been a option.
We don’t have sports to take our minds off of reality right now, unfortunately. Slowly but surely, they’re planning on returning, and hopefully they will be able to do so soon and safely. For right now, millions of people the world over are filling the void with gaming.
I’ve been playing video games since the NES - heck, I even had an Atari 2600 with the wood paneling - so games have always been a way for me to take my mind off of things. Life does get in the way, so I have a backlog of games on my PS4. While socially distancing and working from home, I’ve decided to hop in the Wayback Machine and clear off some oldies.
I played through the first four Uncharted games for my goofy fun fix. The big action movie setpieces and well-written, empathetic characters are like going to the theatre, but you’re going to the theatre for 12-15 hours at a time. That’s probably the reason that games don’t translate well to the big screen. Between the amount of time you spend with the character controlling them and the amount of time it takes a story to unfurl, movies don’t build the connection with a character that a game can. You also have to condense a story down to two-ish hours that even cutscenes alone might take three hours to tell. I still have The Lost Legacy to go, but getting to know Nathan Drake, Elena, Sully, and everyone else was a great way to tamp down the anxiety of the first bit of the pandemic.
I am terrified of the upcoming movie. Tom Holland as even a young Drake is a mis-cast and it feels like this is going to be another movie that misses the point of the franchise. Can’t we just stick with Nathan Fillion in a fan film and call it a day?
Speaking of franchises with awful movies attached, Assassin’s Creed is another way I’ve been passing the time. I’m a history teacher and history nut. The idea of Mary Sue-ing around historical time periods to me is basically catnip. I started finally having the time to get into AC when Odyssey came out, and if you need a long term commitment to a video game but don’t want something that requires as much attention as Red Dead Redemption II, Odyssey’s a good way to do it. Assassin’s Creed Origins is also a good time suck, but not as huge as Odyssey.
The AC games can be hit or miss for sure - I went back and polished off the Ezio Collection and AC III, and the controls on the old games are finicky. The plot takes ages to click in AC3. The modern day story with the Isu and the origin myth and the end of days and yada yada yada... well, no one really plays the games for the modern day, do they?
Some folks might be into the comfort food of routine. I haven’t been playing The Sims 4 much because I know what happens when I boot it up. Hours disappear and I don’t know where they go. Ditto with Civilization VI. I don’t own a Switch (I know, I know) so I can’t attest to the power of Animal Crossing, but I know that it’s getting a lot of people through this year.
Of course, there’s always NHL 20 or any of the other sports games out there. MLB The Show 20 might be as close as we get to a baseball season at the rate the MLB/MLBPA are going.
If you want something a little too on the nose for our pandemic times, The Last of Us Pt. II is coming out Friday. I can’t finish the first one (not a fan of zombies or pandemics, it turns out), but if some survival horror is your bag, there you go.
Do you guys have any suggestions for your fellow readers? I know I’m always on the look out for new games to try. Leave your favorites in the comments.