Exploring the world, going on an adventure or practising life in quarantine, online games are providing much more than just entertainment in lockdown.
By Reya Mehrotra
Henry David Thoreau’s 1854 book Walden, a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings, is quite an apt read for current times when we have all been advised to live simply in seclusion at home. It’s no wonder then that the book is the inspiration behind an eponymously-named video game, which takes you on a wild trip. To survive in the woods in the Walden game, one needs basic necessities like food, shelter, fuel and clothing. The game teaches you to be self-reliant and live in harmony with nature, exploring and discovering its various marvels.
Not surprisingly, the video game has been an extremely popular choice for netizens to pass time while staying cooped up at home. And it’s not the only one. With ample time in hand, families and friends, divided by distance and cities, are bonding over online games in the country today. With people working from home and practising social distancing, mobile gaming has emerged as a preferred recreational/daily life activity to beat boredom and spend quality time together.
Gaming app owners say they have seen phenomenal growth in the past few months. Parth Chadha, founder, EWar Games (part of gHack technologies), a real-money gaming platform that combines features from multiple platforms providing a one-stop solution for a mobile gamer, says it’s been less than four months since EWar’s inception, but the growth has been increasing every month. “Since the start of our journey in January 2020, we have had double-digit growth every month. The number of games played on the EWar platform increased by around three times between February and March. The last three-four weeks have been exceptionally phenomenal for us as a company, especially after the announcement of the countrywide lockdown,” says Chadha, adding, “EWar’s gaming platform recently witnessed 200% growth in its user base, taking our total user count to over five lakh. Further, since the lockdown, our app has noted four times the growth in the average number of games played daily, and also an overwhelming surge in terms of organic, as well as referral traffic and in-app user engagements.” For Chadha, the 18-24 age group forms the major part of the e-gaming traffic.
The online gaming fever is so high that between March 10 and April 10, the game Call of Duty: WarZone was downloaded 50 million times, making it the hottest action war game in that period. The game PubG also reported a 50-80% increase in active users in February and March.
Seeing the potential in the segment, Facebook, too, has added a gaming icon as one of its main tabs.By clicking on the tab, one can discover, play, watch and share personalised gaming content. It’s a shortcut to easily connect with gaming groups and access content related to games. The social media platform plans to expand the feature after getting feedback for the current setup. It is also in the process of testing its own Facebook gaming app on Android.
Gaming from home
For many, online gaming is the bridge that is allowing them to connect with loved ones in a fun way. “I play Ludo everyday with my family. I also play it online with my cousins who are based in other cities. It makes for good family time, as everyone is working from home or on paid/unpaid leave. I would rather prefer physical sports because they keep you fit, but one doesn’t have the option of going out these days, so online gaming is everyone’s favourite,” says Alina Harun, guest experience specialist, Courtyard by Marriott Gurugram.
Aspiring professional video gamers are treating this time to finetune their gaming strategy. “Since I have no studies and internship work at the moment, I am dedicating more time to online games. I am an e-sport player and play games like PubG. I practise everyday for three hours. I also plan to take up gaming in the near future, so this time is good for practice and to remain updated about new features. I mostly play with my friends who are all e-sport players and we are aware of each other’s gaming styles,” says 18-year-old Aditya Sharma, a Delhi-based student and avid gamer.
With so much time at hand, there are some, though, who feel that there should be more variety of games and sports to be played online. “Working from home has been quite flexible, as one can wear comfortable clothes and save money while taking short breaks to play these games. I wish I could also play cricket and badminton online,” says 25-year-old Surbhi Aggarwal, a Delhi-based assistant teacher, adding, “I play Ludo, Snakes & Ladders, chess, carrom, hopscotch (on the terrace), paper and pencil games… to increase my word power, I play word cookies and scramble words these days. I play these games with my parents or friends everyday for one to one-and-a-half hours. This acts as a stressbuster for us.”
Comparing indoor, online and outdoor games, Aggarwal says, “I prefer all three because they have their own pros and cons. But nowadays, online gaming is bringing together families even far apart and making relationships stronger.”
Walk & explore
With a strict lockdown in place, one might miss going out or travelling. But now, with the advancements in technology, one can go on a trip through a video game. A number of gaming platforms today can take you on an adventurous nature trip (known as ‘walking and exploring simulators’) from your couch. The Lost Ember, for instance, is perfect for those who love wildlife. The game takes you to the ruins of forgotten civilisations and ancient cultures that have been, over the year, claimed by nature. The main character of the player in the game is that of a wolf who can inhabit and act as other creatures to do things or go to places where the wolf can originally never go. For instance, it flies as a bird, digs underground and even dives into the sea like a fish. By inhabiting the body of other creatures, the wolf understands the reasons for the fall of the ancient world.
Then there is the interactive game Gone Home, which is for those who love exploring and solving puzzles. In the game, the character (player) returns home after a year abroad, but finds his family home empty. The player then explores the house, inspecting every detail, every drawer and every piece of furniture for clues to find out what happened. The Stanley Parable, What Remains of Edith Finch, Everyone’s Gone to the Rapture, A Short Hike, Eastshade and The Longing are more such walking and exploring games to enjoy from home.
Game from home
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Call of Duty: WarZone
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