Coronavirus has meant we’ve had to stay physically apart from our friends. But throughout the pandemic, people have been coming together in the virtual world through online gaming.

In his words, Study Melbourne Ambassador Karex Huang shares how gaming can prevent loneliness and his picks for the best video games to play with friends.

Words by Karex Huang

“Welcome, Sam Porter Bridges. Verifying Sam Porter Bridges’ ID.”

That’s a mechanical sound I’m all too familiar with. I have no time to rest, I need to put myself together so that I can focus on my next delivery. That’s the only way to keep those isolated people connected. People are afraid to go outside so they need everything delivered to them – food, medication, recreation and even work documents. And as the character Sam Porter Bridges, I’m the courier to get it to them.

That’s my regular routine in the video game ‘Death Stranding’. Does it sound familiar? When the game was released in late 2019, I’m sure no one could imagine it would describe the life we’re living during coronavirus (COVID-19) just a few months later.

The thing I like most in this game is its core concept – keeping people connected. The main task of the game is to help re-connect the isolated characters so that they realise they’re not alone.

You can also interact with other players. During the game you can find infrastructure built by them. You’re free to use it and express your appreciation by giving them a ‘like’. Of course, other players can interact with yours too. That’s quite fun because basically it’s what we do on social media every day. But instead of liking a photo or a video, you’re liking a bridge, a ladder or a truck.  

Video games are probably one of the most popular activities to fill the time during the coronavirus lockdown. So what are the best titles for playing with friends?  

I’m not a big fan of e-sports, but my friends who are play ‘League of Legends’, ‘PlayUnknown’s Battlegrounds’ or ‘Frontier’. My girlfriend likes Nintendo – especially the new ‘Animal Crossing’ game. I have to say this game has come out at a really good time. Perhaps you can’t host your friends for a dinner party at home right now, but nothing will stop you from hosting a selfie party on your island!

Some other great choices for playing with a group are ‘Mario Kart 8’, ‘Splatoon 2’ and ‘Super Smash Bros’.  Even though it has been years since these games first came out, there is still nothing better than having a match full of thrill and laughter with players and friends all over the world.

Just right before I finished writing this piece, I saw an Instagram post from one of my friends. It’s a short video of some pixeled characters running in the game ‘Minecraft’. It looks nothing special at first glimpse, until I realise it is her high school running a virtual graduation ceremony! This is another fun example of how the virtual world is keeping us connected.