When I told famous Devil May Cry fan Kirk McKeand I might try to write something, he told me, “Just no lists about games to play during the pandemic.” Which I get. It makes sense. Now isn’t the time. Also, we all know the answer is Devil Dice on the PSX.
It feels silly to write about games at the moment. I know academically it isn’t. People are still playing them. Steam just hit a record number of concurrent users. This is kind of our time to shine, right? Animal Crossing, Doom Eternal, this should be a great week for games. And, again, I know it is! But, guys, I’m struggling.
Don’t get me wrong; of all the problems we’re facing as a world, this is the least important. It ranks right below, “Who let the dogs out?” But as I hit a full week of self-isolation (and maybe more by the time that this goes up), I’m not enjoying anything. Every time I boot up Kentucky Route Zero, I get a news alert on my phone and stop playing again. I can’t seem to focus.
I keep thinking about that Twilight Zone episode, “Time Enough at Last.” Even if you haven’t seen it, you’ve probably seen the parodies. A lonely man who’s constantly mocked for his love of books accidentally survives the apocalypse. Stumbling across the remains of a library, the man celebrates finally having his chance to read as much as he wants. He then breaks his glasses and realizes he can never read again. He dreamed of a day when he had the time to read all he wanted. He got his wish.
My situation isn’t nearly that fucking serious, but I find myself feeling something similar. I’m at home now, probably for a long time. As serious as things are, I always dreamed of the day I’d finally have time to finish those games. And I don’t want to. I don’t care. Or I do care, but I’m not sure how to keep that caring while switching from news to family to work to news.
Nor is this to say I’m a good person. I’m not. I’m selfish and dumb and I didn’t take the situation seriously enough when I could have. This isn’t me asking everyone to care for your fellow human beings. I hope you do, but if it takes a video game column to tell you that, I dunno, man. Look in the mirror for a second.
Games are important to me. Like all of us, they’re my childhood and the art form I spend the most time thinking about. I’ve worked in and out and back in the industry. I love them. I don’t think they’re a waste of time or trite, especially now. Everyone needs the comfort. I have multiple friends who have lost jobs and have to spend time with their kids at home. Games help that more than we can know. People are playing Final Fantasy 14 - great! Folks are doing D&D through Zoom - awesome.
I just wish it was working for me.
The game that’s got the most playtime out of me this week is Ring Fit, and that’s just because I need something to compensate for all the ramen I’ve been eating. It doesn’t replace outside exercise, but it feels good to do something that isn’t sleep, eat, masturbate, shower, and then, after my morning routine, start work.
Maybe it’s the worry. I’m worried about my parents. I’m worried about my co-workers and my friends, which is probably not a healthy ranking order, but whatever. I’m worried about catching it without knowing and infecting the older people in my apartment building. I’m not particularly worried about myself, but I’m worried I’ll fuck things up for everyone else. It all makes it hard for me to value the Doom Marine’s relationship with demons.
Honestly, I’m not entirely sure what I’m getting at. Maybe I just needed a place to vent and be seen by people who love the same things I do. It feels good to write something that’s not for my primary job, which itself is part of another industry struggling to keep the lights on. I’m not saying games are bad now or some moralistic horseshit. Games are probably one of the best ways people are spending time and finding comfort and connection - especially those of us (including me) who live alone.
I’m going to keep trying. I’m going to keep trying to enjoy one of the few things that’s brought me pleasure over the last 36 years. What else am I going to do? I’ve already gone through all the porn online - all of it. Every video. Even the gross ones. Especially the gross ones. As I’m struggling to help friends with childcare expenses and berate my parents to stay inside, I’ve forgotten how to relax for more than five minutes. And, to be clear, I’m one of the lucky ones right now. I am grateful for what I have, and I know people have it so much worse.
But none of that stops me from being sad. Not depressed. I’m always depressed. But sad.
I’m sad that after years of playing Fallout and BioShock and every other game about an apocalypse or an abandoned city, I’m finding it hard to care about the fictional ones in front of me. I’m sad that I selfishly dreamed of a scenario where we’re locked down so I could finish - I dunno - fucking Yakuza 0. I’m sad that I can’t seem to enjoy games and movies and TV and single-player board games. And I’m sad that I’m sad about something that doesn’t matter.
Maybe it’s just the fact there was time now. Time enough at last.
Take care of each other. Even though I said I wouldn’t put that in here. Take care of each other.