For what feels like an eternity, we are informed every day around the clock about the state of the coronavirus pandemic. We are told the number of new infections, and how many people have died from COVID-19. We read about risk areas, travel warnings, lockdowns, partial lockdowns, aerosols, incidence figures, the dwindling number of intensive care beds, the long-term effects of the virus, possible vaccines, anti-vaxxers and people who refuse to wear face masks — some of whom would like to abolish democracy while they are at it.
We’ve faced quite a challenge these past months, at times unsettling, at times upsetting, and at times it leaves us clueless. Sometimes, it gets to be too much for me. At that point I need a break from the news, a time-out, a trip into another world. Some might call it escapism. I simply say: I’m going to play.
Coronavirus lockdown? Take a trip around the world
I don’t have to wander into the woods like so many others do during this coronavirus lockdown — to a point that forests and natural reserves near cities can be pretty crowded these days with urbanites wearing trekking shoes and functional clothing.
I bring the Peruvian jungle to my home: I am Lara Croft exploring abandoned caves and don’t have to worry about infections at all. I’ve also ridden my horse named Horsie in the Wild West, slid down pyramids in ancient Egypt and snowboarded down Mont Blanc. And I’ve liberated New York from corrupt bad guys.
Video gamers get around. You see the world without having to leave your living room and without endangering yourself or others. Even the face mask can stay in your pocket.
It’s one of the forms of entertainment that is best compatible with the coronavirus crisis. One could claim that books, movies and series work as well, but I can only experience those by myself: Reading and listening to someone talking at the same time is impossible, and it’s annoying when you’re watching a movie. But playing a game and talking at the same time is not a problem. If you long for social contact, you can arrange to meet friends online and hunt bandits together, play soccer, or visit them on their island for a chat.
Get up, adjust your crown and move on
And video games teach us one more thing, something that helps us not to go crazy especially in times of crisis.
They help raise your frustration tolerance level. Even the best players fail, over and over again. It’s incredibly frustrating if you can’t figure out a riddle in a children’s game, or reach a platform in a jump ‘n’ run game, or if you are overwhelmed by a mob of enemies. Digital games force players to stand up again and again, to learn new techniques, to try new ways.
Completing the level, eliminating the villain, solving the puzzle or finding a valuable artifact is very motivating — a satisfying reward for all your efforts, and an effective way to strengthen your tolerance to frustration.
So hit the gamepads — the first step is always the hardest, but it’s worth it. The more people play, the faster you can get past the cliche of the socially-awkward gamer. People who are better at controlling their anger might be better prepared to stand calmly in line in front of the supermarket in real life and wait in the freezing cold to be allowed to enter to buy flour and toilet paper.
Adapted from German by Dagmar Breitenbach.