We’re two years into a pandemic that feels like an eternity, living a new life that comes with new rules and new stipulations. The world as we know it is dead, even if some are clinging onto it at the risk of others, and something that is becoming more commonplace is remote work. In the past couple of years, I’ve gone from late nights at the student paper’s office, drinking coffee with my mates until it’s time to catch the metro back, to spending eight hours behind my desk at home. All on my gaming laptop that I don’t even game on anymore. It’s all about work.
The pandemic has fundamentally changed my gaming habits – the last thing you want to do after a day of work is stay with your tools. Imagine hanging about the office hours after your shift ends, sitting with your Switch to play some Mario Kart. It’s strange, but it goes beyond weird and uncanny – it’s monotonous because you’re stuck in one spot, glued to the screen and afraid to pull yourself away because for so long it’s been the norm.
People aren’t great at staying in the same space all day, every day. Eight hours of work accompanied by a few hours of gaming in the same spot is mentally exhausting, my Steam library now a museum to wasted money. It’s gathering dust, the hours I spend on the platform shrivelling away, while I find myself more and more comfortable going to coffee shops with my Switch, sitting on my sofa playing Assassin’s Creed, or just going for walks to catch Pokemon. Working from home is great and I treasure this change – it’s much more freeing and accessible – but a change of scenery is needed to keep me afloat when it comes to playing games for leisure.
We have plenty of gaming options now thanks to each console taking a radically different approach to the medium – Xbox as a service, Nintendo for mobile, and PlayStation as a hub for blockbuster exclusives. A nice night on the couch, snuggled up with the heating on, playing It Takes Two with your best mate while ripping the piss out of each other? It’s a major shift from the colder office chair, the bland desk, the keyboard clacking, and the silence of noise-cancelling headphones. Consoles offer me a way to game without feeling claustrophobic, as though I’m being bound to my chair with no other way of entertaining myself. Compared to before the pandemic, things have changed so much.
Back then, I didn’t have a Switch, I had the same PS4 I’d used for years, and an Xbox? No way. Game Pass? Certainly not. I’d barely scratched the surface of console gaming. My PC was enough to keep me entertained. But now I’m collecting them all like a hoarder who needs a kick to the shin to tell them to stop being so stupid with their money. You don’t need the Series X! Sure, but I want one because I’m practically abandoning my Steam library and would love another – Game Pass offers me that and so much more.
Consoles have always been the most intuitive, approachable way to game, but that’s true now more than ever – doubly so in the pandemic with remote work rampant and socializing becoming more and more of an online habit. The old way of waiting for sales, buying as many games as I could only to never play them, and then slumping into the usual safety nets feels like it’s coming to an end. I can buy a whole new backlog, try a ton of games, and not feel like I’m wasting my money. It’s perfect considering that I barely touch my Steam library anymore.
The pandemic has changed our lives forever and will continue to do so as new variants crop up – life is changing and it won’t be the same when it ‘ends’, as much as people want it to be. Gaming is just one of my life’s many aspects to upheave itself completely, and part of me is happy for it. I’ve been playing on PC for as long as I can remember – I have memories of the green-tinted, militaristic Steam, the original Half-Life 2 zombies with blue shirts instead of white ones, and boxes! Remember boxes? We went digital early on PC. But even with 20 years of fond nostalgia behind me, remote work has managed to make me lose interest, but it’s bittersweet. It’s a new chapter to new memories, to a new way of gaming, and I’m closing the old one and leaving it behind.
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