Gamers embrace online connections during pandemic

As many people struggled with how to remain socially connected during a time of social distancing, Phillip England found solace in the fictional worlds — and real-life connections — of online gaming.

For Phillip, a Geek Squad Agent in Arizona, that wasn’t a big change from his routine prior to COVID-19. The avid gamer would regularly conquer missions on Arma 3, a military game that led him to collaborate with players from around the world, many of whom he now calls friends.

“These events are the highlight of my week,” he said. “The amount of joking around and engaging gameplay is just really exciting for me.”

Online gaming has been Phillip’s primary means to remain connected with others during the pandemic. He’s even found online opportunities to deep his relationships with his fiancé and circle of friends.

He’s certainly not alone. Many gamers have long used video games as a platform for escapism, and nearly half of U.S. gamers say they’re playing more now due to the pandemic.

The virtues of a virtual world

As a Geek Squad Agent and military veteran, Phillip is no stranger to tackling unexpected challenges. Yet COVID-19 presented circumstances he never could have anticipated, namely how it reduced the social engagements intrinsic to us as human beings.

Phillip sought refuge in online multiplayer games as a source of human interaction — and sense of normalcy — during a time when face-to-face interactions are so limited. He’s been able to continue engaging with friends, only now everyone is fitted with virtual avatars.

He discovered an even deeper appreciation for those connections when he recently fell ill.

“A few weeks ago, I got a fever for two days and was forced to stay home from work for at least 10 days as a precaution.” Phillip said. “Naturally, this led to me spending more time gaming.”

Thankfully, it wasn’t COVID-19, but that time led him down the path of video game streaming. Phillip would broadcast his gameplay online, using it to interact with people from around the world.

Gaming also has brought him closer to his soon-to-be bride.

“I recently built a computer for my fiancé,” he said. “We’ve started to play games like Overwatch together with our friend group, which has turned into a good alternate activity for us as we used to be quite active about going out all together for movies or food.”

And with no end to COVID-19 in sight, they’ll likely be sticking to virtual gatherings for some time to come.

“For me, having that connection between people is incredible,” he said, “because it works as a break from everything going on in the world.”

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