Pandemic games

I seem to want something different out of video games this year. I’ve instinctively retreated into the familiar, preferring games I’ve already played and franchises I already know to new experiences. These are the ones I’ve been playing the most:

  • Desert Golfing: I started a new playthrough on New Year’s Day with a plan to finish all 10,000 holes by the end of the year. That seemed unlikely for a couple of months, but recently I’ve found myself in an almost meditative state while playing and the holes just melt away—I’ve cleared around 5,000 in July alone. At this rate I might finish it twice! (The sequel Golf on Mars is interesting too, but nothing beats the original for me.)

  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: I’ve had an Elder Scrolls game installed continuously Morrowind came out, because sometimes I just have that itch and nothing else will do. At this point the mere suggestion of Elder Scrolls is potent enough for me and I don’t even need to do anything “fun” to get what I need; more than once I’ve launched the game to do nothing but collect ingredients for a few minutes. Its spell is still strong after nearly a decade.

  • Forza Horizon 4: Much of Forza’s fantasy feels wasted on me because I don’t know anything about cars, and my general aversion to competitive multiplayer means that after over a hundred hours I still haven’t raced with another human even once. That hasn’t stopped me from having a blast running roughshod over Great Britain, though. Similar to Skyrim I’m happy to load Forza up, drive around aimlessly for a bit, and then stop, accomplishing nothing.

  • The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky: Trails is my favorite RPG series, and I’ve been revisiting the early games that aren’t as fresh in my memory. I’m taking careful notes as I play this time, as though I’m preparing for someone to quiz me about the NPCs. In a sense I suppose I am with how dense the references have become in recent games; Trails of Cold Steel IV, my final exam, releases in October.

  • Animal Crossing: New Horizons: Even if I end up preferring something else, Animal Crossing has been such a defining experience of the pandemic that it feels like the only honest choice for my 2020 game of the year. It’s become part of the texture of my housebound life; I don’t think I’ve gone more than six waking hours without at least checking in on my island since its release, and I’m closing in on 500 hours played. I literally cannot imagine what this year would have been like without it.