Escapism and Entertainment
Innovation & Tech Today|2020 Year-End Issue
How Video Games Are Getting Us Through the COVID-19 Pandemic
Alex Moersen

On March 11, 2020, the NBA officially announced they would be suspending their season indefinitely. It was a pivotal point in the year, signaling to the masses that COVID-19, which at the time was still shrouded in mystery, was something to be taken seriously. For many, it was the pandemic’s beginning that kept us inside our homes for most of 2020.

But not all was lost. While we were all locked in our homes this spring and summer, you know where people escaped? Video games.

Video games, which still exist in the gray area between childish toys to some and technological artisanship to others, became a main source of entertainment for many this year. According to a study by Deloitte Insights, 34% of those surveyed, of all ages, tried a new video game activity during the pandemic, including subscribing to a video game service, using a cloud gaming service, or watching an esports event. Even 16% of Boomers (ages 55-73) tried out a new video game activity during the pandemic. This sudden increased interest in video games shouldn’t come as a surprise as video games can provide two key psychological benefits to humans: escapism and social interaction.

A Whole New World

Not only are video games a common form of entertainment and escapism during an anxiety-inducing pandemic, but many games also provided an opportunity for people to connect during the lockdown. Take Animal Crossing: New Horizons, which was released in March, as an example of the perfect marrying of escapism and social interaction. Animal Crossing, the social simulation game where you mosey around a peaceful island, sold 13.41 million units in its first six weeks. “The psychology behind video games during COVID-19 pandemic: A case study of Animal Crossing: New Horizons,” a study written by Lin Zhu and published in Human Behavior and Emerging Technologies, examines the phenomenon of Animal Crossing as both a form of escapism and social interaction.

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