Between the pandemic, the isolation and the sheer amount of losses, these last few months have been fucking hard. The world just doesn’t seem to stop inflicting pain. One of my primary forms of self-care has always been video games. When reality gets too hard, I take a break from it and escape into a virtual one.
Below are the three games that have provided me relief during what has arguably been one of the strangest and toughest periods of my life.
My friends make fun of me due to how hard I’ve gone on Tetris Effect for the last two years. Tetris is basically a perfect game; there’s a reason it’s endured for so long. Yet, somehow, Tetsuya Mizuguchi and the team at Enhance found a way to improve upon perfection. They took the tried-and-true Tetris formula and turned it into a visually stunning rhythm game. Every line clear, block movement and turn of the tetromino works in tandem with the music. Getting a certain amount of clears results in the music evolving. Combine that with the gorgeous particle effects and psychedelic block overlays and you get an experience that’s beyond comparison. If you happen to have a VR headset this is a must-cop.
Playing this game takes me out of my head and immerses me in its world. It’s not just relaxing, it’s transcendent. Whenever I’m feeling stressed out or just depressed, I play this game and for a little bit, I’m taken out of my head and into a world of light and sound. The variety of modes allow you to choose between catching a vibe or seeking a challenge.
If you want to remind yourself what wonder feels like, play Tetris Effect.
One of the worst parts of quarantine has been the isolation. I’m by no means an extrovert but I love being around my friends. Even as we’ve gotten older and responsibilities such as work, marriage and fatherhood have come into play, we usually managed to find a way to kick it at least once or twice a month. The pandemic has obviously affected our ability to do that.
As we don’t all have the same consoles, it’s hard for us to find a game we can all play together. Luckily, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and its free-to-play battle royale mode Warzone is cross-platform, which means no matter what console we have, we can all play together.
This has been a godsend through these times.
Being able to get a group of us together to just crack jokes and blast on 12-year-olds has been a delight. It’s not only provided a way for us to get together but, most importantly, created new reasons for us to roast each other. Like when we were in a (virtual) car being shot at and my friend Don thought that jumping out of a moving vehicle into gunfire was the logical thing to do. Or, when my friend Keegan and I were surrounded in a building and my dumb ass accidentally went outside and got dropped instantly. You will do something stupid and you will get clowned on— but that’s all part of the fun.
It doesn’t have to be Warzone, but I highly recommend finding a game that you and your friends can all team up and play. While it’s not quite the same as being in a room with one another, it’s still a nice way to spend time with the folks you care about.
Final Fantasy VII: Remake is one of the strangest experiences I’ve had in gaming. It’s a deadass remake. Not an HD remaster or port but a straight-up adaptation of the 1997 original. Seeing the world that captured my imagination as a child brought to vivid life with today’s technology has been a surreal experience. No joke—when the iconic opening cutscene hit I started to tear up.
It looks how it felt. As a kid, I used my imagination to fill in the blanks of the rudimentary 3D graphics. Now those blanks have been fleshed out with cutting- edge graphics in 4K High Dynamic Range.
Final Fantasy VII: Remake has probably been one of the few high points of the last few months for me. It’s everything I wanted it to be. The combat manages to successfully combine the classic Active Time Battle system with a battle system resembling the Kingdom Hearts games. While the changes to the story are, uh, something, the game still hits like nobody’s business.
If Final Fantasy VII doesn’t do it for you then I’d suggest revisiting a game you love from the past. There’s just something comforting about revisiting worlds that mean a lot to you. Especially if it’s received a remake on the scale of Final Fantasy VII.
I find gaming to be one of the best forms of escapism. You get to fully immerse yourself in an entirely different world, experiencing new stories or creating ones of your own. Now, more than ever, I’ve found myself leaning on that form of escape. There’s no shame in needing a break, so if you can, pick up a controller and take one.