These are the games I'm playing for comfort and escape during the coronavirus pandemic
So the world's ending, huh? It's easy to be facetious — and sometimes situations like this warrant some dark humor — but COVID-19 should be taken seriously. That's what all of these quarantines and social distancing recommendations are for. Even if you personally don't fall ill, many others will, and much of society has effectively shut down. It's a scary time, and games are the perfect way to provide a little escapism.
Truthfully, I'm less worried about contracting COVID-19 myself because, in all likelihood, I'll be fine. It's my family that I'm worried about. And what scares me, even more, is how society is reacting to it. In situations like this, it never hurts to be over-prepared, and the guidelines in place only serve to save lives, but that doesn't make them any less stress-inducing. There are a lot of unknowns. Games right now are providing me some comfort.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps
I can't tell you how many times over the past week that I've been working and just thought, "Man, I really wish I was playing Ori and the Will of the Wisps right now." It got to the point where I was looking forward to finishing the work day just so I could hop back in.
It may seem a little counterintuitive considering it's a game known for its frustratingly difficult gameplay, but I've actually been engrossed in Ori and the Will of the Wisps since it came out. The Xbox exclusive platformer has a lot of soul and personality and is just downright gorgeous. No matter how hard a boss battle may be, I can't help but want to get lost in the world of Niwen.
There's just something about Ori's art style that is immediately comforting. It's warm and it's welcoming. It's been a great distraction from the world around me as of late. I don't need to worry about stores shutting down, or possible quarantines in my area, or my family members getting sick, or any of that stuff. I can just focus on Ori. It's involved enough that it doesn't allow me to get distracted.
There are definitely scenes that tug on your heartstrings and seem dour, but the series has always been a message about hope, perseverance, and the beauty of life. Ori and the Will of the Wisps is no different. I haven't beaten it yet, but I already know the ending. It's an uplifting tale where our heroes can look forward to a bright future. There's always light at the end of the tunnel.
There's also the fact that I adore platformers and love exploration, so Ori and the Will of the Wisps is the perfect fit for me. The gameplay is impeccable, the exploration is rewarding, and there's always more to do.
Cute and charming
One of the best platformers to ever release
It's easy to think of Ori as a frustrating game, and I get that, but it can be incredibly relaxing as well. I find playing on normal difficulty isn't all that hard, and you can always change it to easy should you want to. Regardless, it's gorgeous and has a lot of soul, and the artstyle is exquisite.
Another game that I've been revisiting is Skyrim, my go-to when I just want to chill out and relax. Realistically, I don't need to do anything. I can just wander around and take in the beautiful scenery while the soundtrack plays in the background. There's nothing quite like it. Sure, there are a ton of open-world games, but I've yet to find one that recreates the same sense of calm and comfort that Skyrim does.
I've still yet to beat the main storyline, so it says a lot that I can play it for hundreds of hours without doing that. Right now I'm trying to finish up the Dawnguard and Dragonborn quests before mopping up some side quests I've still yet to do. I don't know if I'll ever watch the credits roll on it, but it's relaxing and keeps my attention and that's all it needs to do for now.
The best part is that because it's Skyrim, it's on basically every platform imaginable.
There's never a bad time to return to this RPG
Like I said before, Skyrim is my go-to game for nearly any situation. I've honestly never even beaten it, but I've spent hundreds of hours just exploring its world and taking in the scenery. If you want to have epic battles with monsters, you definitely can. I just find it much more relaxing to take a nice stroll around the lands.
What I am definitely not playing
There's been a large uptick of people playing Plague Inc. lately, and your mileage will vary on how cathartic you find it. It's a free-to-play strategy game on Android and iOS where you create and evolve a pathogen with the goal to eventually kill off the human race before scientists can discover and administer a cure. Though it's fictitious and isn't exact science, it does a great job at modeling how diseases spread in real life. The developers have even spoken with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding the game and how it can be a tool to inform the public.
After a good half an hour with Plague Inc. and watching tens of millions of people become infected while hundreds of thousands died and the governments of the world did nothing until it was too late, I found it much more horrifying than cathartic. So, uh, maybe pick up a different game. I couldn't uninstall it on my phone fast enough.
Infect the entire world (or don't)
I can't stop you from playing it, but it's not something I would personally recommend. Each person will be different. I find it more terrifying than cathartic. Other people think it's a great tool to use to at least learn about how diseases spread and our responses to them.
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Jennifer Locke has been playing video games nearly her entire life. You can find her posting pictures of her dog and obsessing over PlayStation and Xbox, Star Wars, and other geeky things.