Social distancing is creating a contact vacuum and zoom calls were quick to plug the void. But what if they’re not your thing? I am here to (hopefully) help. Over the coming issues, as the new games researcher for Horrid Covid, I will be exploring many aspects of games and gaming, and how they are fitting into our lives at the moment.
Games offer a mind-bogglingly wide spectrum of opportunities, including places to hang out, learn, problem solve, collaborate, compete, or build new worlds entirely. From the game-like instagram filters flooding group chats, to intensely competitive family board games, they seem to be offering a much needed chance to spend time with one another in an entertaining way - or to escape into other worlds of our own.
The experience of being physically alone but feeling a sense of togetherness is also interesting, and I think that games offer us the chance to do that. I am a big fan of this in my international long distance relationship, and especially in the current lockdown situation. A regular section of this entry will be a review of the games we are playing to stay connected, in case any of you are also separated from people who you care about and are in need of new ways to pass the time together.
So, without further ado - welcome to Horrid Covid’s games corner.
Price: £10.99 - I took some persuading but have managed to rack up over 150 hours, so it could be seen as a bargain
Buy from: Steam
Want to escape reality for a bit and run a farm? This relaxing, simple game with its bright, pixelly aesthetic is easy to get wrapped up in, either with friends or alone. It is much less stressful than Farmville - I remember the few days that I played that game for including much concern over whether my strawberries would rot away while I was at school (oh, to be back in the simpler days of 2009). Stardew Valley is different - when you are not playing time essentially stops.
If farming is not your jam you can also fish, forage or go mining (this is less relaxing as there are monsters which you must slay). Another big aspect is interacting with other villagers (who each have a thorough back story) and potentially getting married - if that’s your kinda thing. The game is made all the more impressive by the fact that it was made by one person. There is also a very detailed website
to go with it, which answers almost every question you might have (if it doesn't, google it - someone, somewhere, will have answered).
This game can be played with up to 3 friends which is great, as it feels like you are building something together, and you can all do different tasks depending on your mood. You can share a house (and decorate it), cook virtual meals, fix up the community centre, give gifts, make clothes, have babies (they don’t do much more than crawl unfortunately - poor Bartholomew disappointed us terribly) and pet pets - as I said, easy to get wrapped up in.
Buy from: your app store
This one is good if you are in a situation where one (or both) of you doesn’t have facebook and you are playing on different types of devices (the android vs apple war continues).
It’s basically Scrabble, but you can have the board laid out so the extra points are in random places, which was interesting for a short while. However, we found that it often created a runaway winner so decided to go back to the standard layout. We usually have several games going at once which is nice because if you have horrible letters in one, hopefully you won't in the others. The vocabulary aspect is somewhat unusual due to the game's slightly mysterious dictionary choices - KO is allowed but OK isn’t? This leads to some random letter placement in the hope that you will make something, but does offer the opportunity to discover new, weird words.
It is a slight shame that you can’t play with more than one other person, but if you like words and feel very slightly competitive then this could be a good way to slowly (you have 72 hours to complete your turn) interact with one another.