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Games Features

The Social Distancer’s Guide to Gaming

You're probably at home and bored. There is no better time than now.
March 20, 2020, 12:14pm

So you're stuck inside, bored, and have decided to play some video games. I'm here to help you on that journey.

Maybe it's your first time playing games. Maybe you're coming back from a long break. Maybe your friends bullied you into getting Apex Legends because you're probably not going to see them for a month. Whatever the reason, being stuck inside is normally a great time to play video games. That said, games are also confusing and often have a steep learning curve, and other people who play games are usually the absolute worst at giving you help when you need it. How are you supposed to get the timing on a jump right if you don't know how to jump?

This guide isn't going to answer all of your questions, but hopefully it'll get you started on passing the time for the next month.

Eight Animal Crossing players playing co-op on the same island.

Image: Nintendo

WHAT SYSTEM SHOULD YOU PLAY ON?

I want to be under the covers:

Switch

The neat thing about the Switch is that you can play it as a console on your television and as a handheld in your hands. Usually I play it completely horizontally in my bed. Even if I'm not wearing pants, my crops are getting watered in Stardew Valley.

I want the overall best gaming experience and have an expendable income:

Gaming PC

If you have the time, money, and know-how to build a PC, it will be worth it to you. Now ask yourself, do you have several multiple-hour long stretches of time over several nights, over a thousand dollars you can throw around, and are you able to deal with the existential terror of never really knowing if you did it right?

I miss sports and like anime

PlayStation 4

Not only did the PlayStation end up with a bunch of cool exclusives like God of War and Spider-Man, it's also the one with all the sports games. Are you really just gonna play FIFA with your buds? Get the PS4. This is also the system that has the upcoming Final Fantasy VII remake, which now has a demo, and Kingdom Hearts III, so if you share your household with a black teenager, they'll be stoked.

I fucking love free shit

Xbox One

Look, there's no such thing as an exclusive anymore. If a game initially comes out on one system, eventually it'll probably make its way to the XBox One. If you grab one and sign up for the subscription service XBox Game Pass, you can try lots and lots of those games for ten dollars a month. If you also have a PC, you can use Game Pass on there as well.

Iron Bull, a large man with horns who loves to fuck.

Image: Bioware

GENERAL TIPS

If the game you are playing is in the first-person perspective, walking around might trip you up.

Traditionally, first-person shooters and other games in the first-person perspective will have you using the right analog stick to move the camera, and the left analog stick to walk around. If you've never played a game with these controls, it will be very disorienting. Practice walking around for a while until it feels natural. If you just can't get used to it, go into the settings and try inverting the vertical axis, sometimes called the Y-axis. I'm one of the freaks that can't play a FPS without an inverted Y-axis, and for some people it just makes these kinds of controls make sense.

Do not be ashamed of changing the difficulty.

Some people get weird and competitive about video games. Great news about the coronavirus though: those people are not here. There is absolutely nothing wrong with lowering the difficulty if a game is too hard for you. That's why those difficulty settings are there. Some newer games, like Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, have gotten the clue that not all players are here for punishing game play, and their difficulty settings show exactly what kind metrics are adjusted, and which setting to choose if you'd rather focus on the story.

A walkthrough will be your friend.

Life is too fucking short to get lost in a video game. While figuring out a puzzle can give you a sense of satisfaction, if you're already frustrated because you're new to games, save yourself the trouble. There is a cottage industry of people who make YouTube videos or written guides to help out players who are stuck. Feel free to use them early and often. You can find walkthroughs by searching YouTube or Google, and if you're playing an older game, it's worth looking at GameFAQs as well. If you're having a particular issue with an easily Google-able puzzle, just search for it. Someone has most likely had the same problem as you before. Don't let yourself get stressed out over shit that does not matter.

WHY ARE YOU PLAYING GAMES?

A lot of video games are good, but not every game is the game you need to play right now. If you're just getting started, ask yourself why you are playing a video game is better than asking if it is the “best” game. Games can be a lot of different kinds of things to different people. Some are social, others offer a place to escape from reality (which you may be craving right now!) Here are some that might serve you:

A Pirahna Plant about to bite an unsuspecting Wario's ass.

Image: Nintendo

I want to hang with friends

Super Smash Brothers Ultimate, Switch

This is the classic, and although the Switch's online service is confusing, you have most likely played random matches of Smash with your pals in years past. While one of the big draws of this new version of Smash is that it has literally every character that has ever been in the series—and a few longtime asks from the fandom like Metroid's Ripley—my favorite thing about it is just how easy it is to set up gimmick matches to make your friends laugh. Do yourself a favor and try Bad Balls and Bees.

Overcooked, Switch, PS4, Xbox One, PC

If you work in a kitchen, this game might be a little too real for you. You'll also probably be very good at it. This is a co-op cooking game, where each kitchen has some kind of obstacle for the players to overcome. Sometimes certain ingredients will be blocked off; other times you'll be cooking in the arctic and sliding around on the ice. One stage is set on the back of two trucks that go in and out of sync, trapping you on the back of one stuck as the stoves on the other light themselves on fire. In order to get all the orders to the window, you and your friends will have to communicate efficiently, or face disaster. This one is local co-op only, though, so it's strictly for roommates who want to get to know each other really well right now.

Apex Legends, PC, PS4

While I'm not usually one for competitive multiplayer games, there's something special about Apex Legends. The game is a mashup of Fortnite's Battle Royale mode and Overwatch's lively character based shooter. In Apex, you play in a squad of three, each playing a different character with different abilities. The last squad standing wins. Maybe it's how precise the controls are—whenever I play this game, even if I'm doing poorly, I always feel like a greased up panther jumping from hillside to rooftop to zipline. Maybe it's how fun I find all the characters, especially the wise cracking Mirage. Mostly I think it's because the ping system is so robust that I don't necessarily need to have my mic on. Sometimes I want human connection, but I really don't want to talk.

A Sim City 4 neighborhood

Image: EA

I want to destress

The Sims 4, PC, PS4, Xbox One

Do you miss outside? Do you miss human connection? Do you miss going to the bar until 4am trying to hook up with Shrek until you piss your pants? You can enjoy all that and more in The Sims 4. The game is currently on sale, and so are some expansions, so go ahead and get Seasons and Cats and Dogs. You've earned it.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Switch

Playing this game is like having a sanctuary in your pocket. The world of Animal Crossing is one based on nature, community, and taking things slowly. It doesn't matter if you're here to complete the Museum and pay off your loan or if you'd just like to fish for a couple minutes a day. Your friends will all be waiting for you. You can read my full review here.

Sim City 4, PC

It's an oldie but a goodie. I have spent hours upon hours creating perfect systems of traffic, elegant and efficient public transit, and tinkering around with trains. Creating perfectly functioning cities in Sim City 4 is soothing, even when you're trying to figure out where to put the high school so that it doesn't get polluted air from traffic from the highway. When you untangle that routing problem, you'll feel the same relief as when a knot of stress unravels in your shoulders.

Three teens and a cat planning a heist.

Image: Atlus

I want to shut out the world

Dragon Age: Inquisition, PS4, XBox One, PC

A couple years ago, I wondered where the hell all my internet friends that I talked to all the time were. The answer was that they were playing the massive, dialogue heavy, and inexplicably horny role playing game Dragon Age: Inquisition. Even if you have no relationship to Dragon Age, you will probably find a good reason to stick around. Mine was Iron Bull, a large man with horns who loves to fuck, voiced by Freddie Prinze Jr.

Persona 5, PS4

The Persona series is the kind of melodrama you get from a fun CW show mixed with a challenging-to-the-point-of-controller-throwing role playing game. It is worth learning its bizarre and esoteric systems for its loveable cast of teens—and sometimes, the idiosyncrasies of the Tokyo of Persona 5 are what makes it feel like a living city. Ultimately the Persona games are about forming connections with other people. My tip? Get to know the goth nurse.

Stellaris, PC

Even if you're not especially sure you're good at strategy games—if you have enjoyed Civilization, you probably are— Stellaris is worth it for tooling around in its character creator. The main goal of Stellaris is to see your civilizations reign supreme over all others, which are controlled by AI. It's a couple notches more complex than Civilization, and it gives you a lot more systems to juggle, but this space-colonization strategy game is worth digging into. Choosing a system of ethics for an entire society really puts me in the mood for unifying it, the ultimate goal of Stellaris. You can create, and play as, a peace loving race of adorable fennec foxes, war hungry bird people, space elves, or even just regular old human beings. Now that the Foundations expansion is out, the game finally has a lot to chew in the beginning, middle and end game sections of the game. You will be conquering the galaxy for a long time.

Jesse Faden floating in a red mist.

Image: Remedy

I want to get baked and turn off all the lights

Proteus, PC

There's probably an internal logic to Proteus, but I don't want to find it. If you're ever heard the derisive term "walking simulator," this game is one of those. You walk around, have an experience, and that's it. It's nothing like Stellaris or even Animal Crossing, but getting engaged with another, fantastical world has its own pleasures. I just want to luxuriate in its outdoor spaces, where the wind and the plants carry music. If you ever feel like you just need to chill, get under the covers and wander Proteus's worlds.

Control, PS4, XBox One, PC

If you like a good conspiracy theory and are already binging The X-Files, chances are good that you'll dig Control. In this third person adventure game, you're playing as Jesse Faden, a woman trying to find her missing brother in the secretive Federal Bureau of Control, which studies—and covers up—supernatural happenings across the country. Over time, you'll uncover the secrets of the Bureau, and also gain psychic powers from the things that they've locked up. Eventually, you will learn to fly, and that shit just rules.

Glitchhikers, PC

In Glitchhikers, you pick up hitchhikers with strange faces who ask you strange questions. Another so-called walking simulator (though you're in a car here—you see why that term's a little silly?), in this game you drive along a long, lonely road in a black night. It's the platonic ideal of a highway, never ending, signs changing only slightly, passing strange towns you've never heard of and will never hear of again, bizarre radio stations fading in and out of focus. The drive lasts as long as you want to. Sometimes, all you really need is a long, quiet drive.

This article originally appeared on VICE US.