Normally on Wednesdays, I have a game night with my friends. That hasn’t happened in a few weeks in 2020, and it isn’t just because one of my buddies moved house. He’s still local, but we’re also in the middle of a nationwide state of emergency. The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t going to wipe out the human race, but it’s made life drastically difficult in March 2020. Part of that is “social distancing,” the primary way to get infection rates down during such a crisis. It’s hard to just stay inside, even for antisocial nerds like myself. Luckily, thanks to several games I have access to, some of them even free, I can still stay in touch with my friends.
I’d normally probably be pretty sad about losing yet another game night. But while we aren’t going to go hang out together at my friend’s new place to play board games, we’re still going to hang out. Tomorrow, we’re going to meet up and slay some behemoths in Dauntless. We’ve been playing it casually together, but now it’s our best outlet for hanging out together. It’s free-to-play, has plenty of progress goals to reach, doesn’t care about progress gaps between players, and is 100% cross-platform. If there’s an issue I can hop from one platform to another, from my PC all the way down to my Nintendo Switch. Each version has the same options (including voice chat!).
I bring up Dauntless because not only is it my multiplayer game of choice right now, it’s also ludicrously accessible as far as online games go. There’s no entry fee, no subscription fee, and while there’s a “Hunt Pass,” even the free version nets rewards. With cross-platform play and progression, it’s easy for people to play together no matter what their hardware or living situation is. It only supports groups of four on one hunt, but you can establish a guild for no investment, and still hang out as a bigger group if you want.
But while Dauntless is "my" game, there are so many options in the world of video games that people can use to hang out and be social. Social distancing may be a necessary practice in real life, and we all have to go a little stir-crazy for the greater good. But that doesn’t mean you have to be cut all the way off from the outside world, and it doesn’t mean you still can’t talk to people, or even hang out in a space doing activities together.
There are so many big, online games that encourage cooperation over competition. There’s Destiny, World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy XIV, Fortnite, Dauntless, and a million other options. Hell, you could even boot up Second Life, get together with some friends and just look for the weird stuff people have built there. I dunno man, the virtual world is your oyster, and no virus outbreak is going to keep you out of it. All you need to do is fire up your game of choice, boot up Discord or something, and you’ll have a pretty good chunk of your social needs taken care of.
Obviously, video games aren’t the full answer to this horrible situation. But I was just thinking about how cool it is that despite being locked inside for the most part, I can still make up for lost time with people I care about. There is a huge difference between hanging out in-person versus playing a game online, but considering the alternative, it’s perfect. Hopefully, everyone else in this community has a game like Dauntless working for them. If not, perhaps now is a good time to get something going with their friends. Final Fantasy XIV is free to start! So is Destiny 2! There are plenty of options, and being totally lonely doesn’t have to be one.