ABOVE: Maliki Pope, business administration sophomore, takes part in many video game sessions with his friends. He spends his free time with controller in hand in order to safely hang out with his friends during the global pandemic. (Mallory Graves/Staff photographer)

By Kaleb Vining
Staff reporter

Gaming in the midst of the pandemic is one of the best ways to stay connected with friends especially when social gatherings are not an option. The once frowned upon pastime provides a new outlet for an essential connection between people.

Since the start of 2020, the pandemic has put a limit on how students are able to interact with each other.

Geoffrey Salas, psychology senior said, “Considering most of my friends are online, it makes it super easy to stay in touch with friends.”

Many have been quarantined or even isolated from their friends and teammates for weeks on end. However, it is gaming that provides an answer to these problems.

Jake Haertl, business senior, was previously isolated at one point during the second semester. Haertl said that gaming helped him focus on something other than just staring at the wall in isolation.

Gaming also provides a way to network with friends and teammates on campus without having to meet up at gatherings.

J.C. Fuentes, communication senior, said that gaming is one of the main ways he communicates with his friends on campus and back home.

While it may not replace, the face to face interaction that most students need it does give a way to talk to friends without risking personal health.

People who rarely play games or who do not at all have even taken to it during the pandemic. One example of this would be the game “Among Us.”

This game came out as a free murder mystery. It forces people to work together in order to solve the mystery of who killed one of the players.

The killer is one of the group and has to sneak around in order to kill more members of the group. Many people who had never played games before began playing this as a way to distract themselves from the stresses of the world and the pandemic.

“I play games all of the time because it gives me a way to escape everyday life and responsibilities,” Haertl said.

Salas also said that gaming is just one more way for him to keep his mind entertained and to have fun.

However, gaming has not always been looked at in a flattering light. It is more recently that people are starting to see it in this positive way.

People are starting to see it as a way to connect with friends and to just get away from the stresses of life.

It can also be seen as a way to stimulate the brain and to have a good time for relatively cheap costs. “Fortnite,” “Call of Duty: Warzone” and “Apex Legends” are all free multiplayer games that were released in the last four years.

Fuentes, Salas and Haertl said that they play all three of these games and that they are a great way to connect with friends. These are the games that are shining gaming in a positive light.

“The pandemic definitely helped wake a few people up to the idea of gaming because it’s something relatively cheap that helps people keep busy during these tough times,” Salas said.

Gaming also provides people who feel or are isolated with a way to meet new people.

There are people from all over the world who can connect over one shared interest. Individuals can then talk, and figure out what other games they are interested in.

Most parents do not see meeting strangers online as a good thing, but it allows people to become more social without leaving the comforts of their home.

This social aspect is an essential tool to have when one is sequestered indoors with no hopes of face to face interaction.

“Gaming can get a bad rap meeting strangers online, but when you have a common interest it really turns into something more and you make true friends,” Fuentes said.