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Video Games & Keeping Together, Separated

Since the pandemic started, it has been difficult to stay connected with friends and family. Although you could have Zoom get-togethers every week and stay connected that way, there are better ways to do it; and besides, are you really paying attention to what is being said, or are you looking at your nephew Jimmy’s room to make sure it is not a mess? A better way of staying connected is video games. Now there is a chance that someone reading this will think that video games are harmful to you, but I am not here to argue about their pros and cons. Rather, I am just here to talk about how to stay connected during social distancing. You may be wondering what games could keep you connected, and that is a valid point. Although there are some great single-player games like Undertale and Portal 2, and although they can definitely fill your time, multiplayer games are the ones that can help you stay connected.

Among Us Banner Photo
Among Us Banner Photo (Innersloth)

If before the pandemic you played games like Murder Mystery, and Clue, or did escape rooms, you would like Among Us. Among Us has blown up on the Internet recently, and centers around finding the “imposters” (number of imposters varies from one to three) within your group. You can play online or with a group of friends over Discord, Zoom, and the like. During the game, the “crewmates” (other players) perform tasks while trying to find who the imposter is. Meanwhile, the imposters must whittle down the crewmate population until there are an equal number of imposters and crewmates. Crewmates can win by voting all the imposters out into space, or by finishing all their tasks — whichever comes first. The imposter(s) can win by killing and voting out each crewmate until there is an equal number of crewmates as imposters or sabotaging the ship.

Imposters have four different sabotages that can be solved in different ways. The first two, which can actually win the game for the imposters, are Oxygen and Reactor. There is a countdown timer, and if the crewmates fail to do the specific action needed before the timer runs out, the imposters win. The next is Lights, and it is pretty self-explanatory: once sabotaged, the crewmates’ visibility is reduced until resolved. The final sabotage is Communications (Comms for short). Once sabotaged, Crewmates cannot see what tasks remain, and anyone on the security cameras or map, cannot use them until fixed. It is worth mentioning that if a body is reported or an emergency meeting is called, then the sabotage will immediately end if it is Oxygen or Reactor; but if Lights or Comms are sabotaged, they will remain until resolved. If you are on a call with friends, it is common etiquette that at the beginning of a round (whether it be the start of a game or after a meeting) that you mute your microphone until the next meeting or the game’s end. At a meeting, players talk about what they did during the round and what they might have seen. In the end, Among Us is a good game to keep connected with friends and family because you can talk to them a lot, and can learn how they try to fool you, too!

A stylized representation of Minecraft's "Ender Update"
Minecraft "Ender Update"

If you are more of a hands-on or craftsperson, then Minecraft is the game for you. Many are likely to have at least heard of the game over its 11+ year lifespan. It is a sandbox game, meaning you can do whatever you want, provided it is within the game’s limitations. There are two main modes that you can play in, those being creative mode and survival mode, both of which are accessible in singleplayer and multiplayer. In creative mode, your player can fly around with an infinite number of resources at your disposal. In survival mode, you need to work for everything and try to survive and beat the Ender Dragon. Even though the Ender Dragon acts as a final enemy, or final boss, once you beat it, there are still things to do, unlike most story games.

When playing multiplayer, your friends can be in the same world as you. You can either have your own server or join a public one. These public ones tend to be more dangerous to your items being stolen if you are not careful. In the end, Minecraft is a great game, and you can take on a variety of playstyles, which is what has kept me playing the game for over five years now.

A Pokemon Dynamax Battle
A Pokemon Dynamax Battle (Serebii)

Finally, if you are someone who likes stories but still has some wiggle room to make it your own, then you will want to play Pokémon Sword and Shield, the eighth generation of the Pokémon Franchise. Like the other main series games (besides Sun and Moon and Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon), Sword and Shield follows the pattern of eight gyms which you then you fight the champion of that region. But unlike these previous ones, instead of fighting that specific region’s Elite Four, (a final frontier before the champion), you fight in a tournament that leads to a fight with the champion of that region. Also, in previous games, there is an evil team, and you know who the bad guy is; but in Sword and Shield you do not exactly know what’s happening and you don’t find out the true villain until near the end of the base game; there is also the post-game, like with previous games, but instead of the usual sequel, it was announced that these games would get DLC, with the first part being the Isle of Armor, and the second one, the Crown Tundra, having come out recently and they both add a lot of great content to the game, and changed how competitive Pokémon works. The way that this can connect people during quarantine is that you can set up your own tournament with friends and you can just battle with your friends.

In Sword and Shield, there are Raid Battles and Dynamax Adventures which can be played singleplayer and multiplayer. The Raid Battles consists of you and 3 other players and/or CPUs, where you will fight one Dynamax Pokémon and if the battle goes on for more than ten turns, or four Pokémon are killed (Pokémon get revived after a turn) then you are thrown out of the den and can try to fight the same one again. With Dynamax Adventures, you and up to 3 other players and/or CPUs face several Dynamax Pokémon before coming up against a legendary Pokémon. There are a lot of other things to do if you do play the game, but I’ll leave that up to you to figure it out. All in all, Pokémon Sword and Shield is great to play with family and friends; not only is it part of a 24-year-old franchise, but it also has a lot of online features to keep everyone entertained.

In the end, there are many games that you can play to stay connected during these trying times. Among Us is a game about conviction and persuasion. Minecraft is all about expressing yourself and seeing what you can build. And Pokémon Sword and Shield is about fighting your friends and seeing who comes on top and seeing who has the better team. Even though it is difficult to keep in touch with family and friends in these trying times, you can still have fun together playing games such as these.