Massively Overthinking: How are MMO players faring through the pandemic?

    
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Ah yes, teamwork.

This week’s Overthinking is going to be a bit different from normal. As we’ve been covering extensively for more than the past two months, the impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic has been spreading into our jobs and our homes and even into MMO gaming, and everyone on our writing staff (and probably most of our readers) is affected in some way at this point. On an earlier podcast, we did a little check-in with a few of our writers to determine how they’re faring through the crisis. Speaking for myself, I found it therapeutic as well as weirdly comforting to hear from other MMO players and writers in the same boat.

So we’re going to do something similar today, as I’ve asked all our writers to chime in on their experiences – how they’re feeling, how they’re functioning day-to-day, the highs and lows of trying to play and cover MMOs (among other jobs) under quarantine, and even what it is they’re playing to make it through. We invite our readers to join in as well.

Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): It’s trying times. I’m doing better than I thought I would be, considering the situation (I was in the travel industry, so you can all imagine how things are now). Shout out to everyone else who’s dealing with this and unemployment!

Pokemon Go changes have helped me as a player, but not my communities as a whole. Animal Crossing New Horizons came out right on time. I’ve reconnected with some people and even got others on voice chat now. Even got a new acquaintance to play with, so that’s cool.

I guess one of the highs is that more people are seeing what it’s like to work from home. I didn’t get much sympathy from people when I started having personal issues from the isolation I was feeling when I first came back. However, it’s also a low, as we can’t meet up and comfort one another. Physical presence just does something words and even voices alone can’t replicate. But hey, at least I have a virtual town to take care of!

Andy McAdams: The anxiety comes and goes for me. I worked from home full time before all this happened, so the actual impact to the logistics of my day-to-day didn’t really change. But I lost/am losing a lot of headspace in my day-to-day so my productivity has suffered. I’m exercising more than usual – the physical activity keeps me healthy – physically and mentally. I’m also spending time meditating and practicing my Duolingo Spanish. My chaturanga has never looked better. Animal Crossing: New Horizons has been a godsend — it’s feelgood positive escapism at it’s best. I’ve been playing FFXIV too. But most of my discretionary time goes to Animal Crossing. What’s the phrase? Stay Calm and Game On? If not, that’ll work yeah?

Ben Griggs (@braxwolf): The shelter-at-home order has been interesting. In some ways, it’s a welcome change. I don’t have to worry about who’s driving the kids to practice and the deadline for getting my license plate stickers because nothing is going on. Since working from home, I’ve saved quite a bit of money on gas and unspent cafeteria funds. But on the other hand, it’s worrisome that I don’t feel like I’m getting much exercise beyond walking the dog a few times a week. And it’s strange trying to figure out all of the new processes and procedures for ordering and picking up food from local restaurants that are now limited to drive-through or pick-up.

Fortunately, Elder Scrolls Online has given me a lot to work through with the upcoming Greymoor release and the recent prologue quest leading up to said drop. I’ve also kept busy writing up some Greymoor preview stuff for MOP!

Brendan Drain (@nyphur): It’s been a hell of a month here, with a lot of uncertainty. I’m in the UK, which went into a full lockdown just over a week ago and ordered everyone to work from home or cease work immediately. We’re only allowed to leave our homes for a specific list of things such as going to the shop for essentials, and we’ve been ordered to maintain at least a two-meter distance from other people at all times if we must go outside. I’d actually already closed my office and isolated earlier than that as the number of UK cases rose, as a lockdown was inevitable.

Watching the news of the pandemic and the official announcements feels like living through the start of an episode of Black Mirror or Dr Who, but there have been some positives to come out of it. For the first time literally ever, there isn’t a single homeless person sleeping rough in my entire city. There’s been a lot of support for smaller local businesses, retailers are overwhelmingly starting to offer delivery, and companies that have for years said they couldn’t offer work-from-home as an accessibility adjustment are suddenly finding that they actually can adapt to it.

In terms of gaming, I started a Minecraft server to help stay in touch with a bunch of local game developers during the lockdown, so I’ve actually been playing more of that than any MMO. I missed the entire EVE Online lowsec PvP event because I was busy building a big replica church and railway station, sorry everyone :D

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): I’m hanging in there – my county’s been in official lockdown for three weeks now, and we were self-quarantining already for quite a while before that. My immune system is a joke, and I’m particularly susceptible to ENT/lung illnesses, so hiding inside it is, cheerfully unraveling all the progress I’d made on my hangups like compulsive hand-washing.

I already worked from home full-time, so that’s not really much of a change. Now, trying to tutor my elementary-school kids while working, while my husband is also trying to teach his classes on Zoom in a tiny house where our living room is also our office? That is a fun new challenge. My favorite new words to read online are “out of stock” and “no delivery slots available,” and my favorite new hobby is “scouring everything with alcohol and having panic attacks about touching things.” I’m teasing myself here because as bad as this is, it’s such a trivial burden compared to the catastrophe everywhere else that there’s no way I can even complain.

Above all else, I feel really guilty and lucky and useless, that my family and MOP can weather this storm. I mostly worry for my family stuck in other places that are far less safe; I worry for my guildies and our staff and our readers, some of whom are sick, recovering, losing jobs, or in danger – or mourning. I worry for the people who are caring for the sick and working essential jobs. It feels bizarre and almost unfair to keep covering MMOs let alone playing them in the middle of a damn plague. But that routine, especially with my “comfort food” classic MMOs, is definitely helping me not freak out more than strictly necessary, and I hope it’s helping others too.

Carlo Lacsina (@UltraMudkipEX): It’s been pretty chill for me, I’ve had a chance to catch up on some work and get some gaming done. More than ever gaming’s been a really good escape because since I’m home more I’m also on social media more. And with people blurting out their personal politics left and right on the crisis, it’s getting exhausting.

I’m laying off the social media in favor of more gaming time just to get away from all the politics and general condescending attitudes some folks on my feed seem to have. I’ve always wanted to learn League of Legends, so I’ll be putting in some time in that in the next few weeks. I’ve also started a workout regime; I wouldn’t want to come out of quarantine unhealthier than I started!

Chris Neal (@wolfyseyes, blog): Things here haven’t really changed much since I last spoke up on this topic during one of our recent podcasts. I am still effectively jobless on my second job with no immediate knowledge of when I’ll be back on that horse again, and the PTO I have banked is beginning to run thin, so that’s a concern. At the same time, I also am kind of glad I’m in at a point, however temporary, to hold just one job instead of having to work two to get by, and I’m doing more fun stuff with my FFXIV guild than I ever have before. It’s a weird cocktail of delight and concern.

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): This situation has been, in turns, bizarre, tough, and encouraging. My wife lost her job, but that’s allowed her to homeschool our four kids, which has turned out to be pretty great for all involved. Our family’s enjoyed some more together time than normal, and we’ve been playing board games, going for drives and walks, and doing a lot of Facetiming with friends. Meanwhile, my job as a pastor has taken a very weird turn into remote ministry and fielding a lot of phone calls and conversations from people who are sick, worried, or looking to connect together. It’s a bit mentally, physically, and spiritually exhausting, but this is the sort of thing we gear up for.

As for gaming, it’s been more or less a constant. Being able to game and write about MMOs is a welcome slice of normality and a way to blow off steam at the end of the day. It’s certainly nice to have the social ties that gaming provides, and there is comfort in knowing that we’re all in a difficult situation together. We’ll make it through this!

Mia DeSanzo (@neschria): I am doing well enough. I am not sleeping much, which means that I am permanently exhausted, but it also means that I have some alone time in the middle of the night for gaming, reading, and writing. I left my day job just before things got really bad and everyone got locked down, so I do have some money concerns, but I also know that I have some financial back-up and some advantages over other folks out of work.

I am almost afraid to analyze what is going on in my psyche that has me playing so much Frostpunk and Rimworld, but it might be that I hope I can manage some virtual people so that they survive their desperate situations, while in real life, there’s nothing I can do but stay home and take care of my family here. That’s probably the reason I was up making chili at 2 a.m. this morning. I can’t fight the monster, but I can keep people fed.

MJ Guthrie (@MJ_Guthrie, blog): Honestly, it feels like I can say “Welcome to my world!” to folks. But not in a snide way – in a we’re-homebound-buddies-now kind of way! Things are actually pretty status quo for me. Because MOP has been my only job for more than eight years (minus a tiny bit of other copywriting), my illness has already seriously limited what I can do, and there are immunocompromised people in my home, the day-to-day of my life hasn’t changed much because of the pandemic. Since I have been a pretty secluded homebody for the most part, making that transition was seamless for me. I am lucky for that. My big differences are wearing gloves and a mask when I go out, not being able to schedule grocery pick up anymore (because everyone else is doing it now, too), and having church services in my home. Oh, and the big hit of the loss of conventions, especially TennoCon. That one hurts. And I might actually miss the gym now!

Interestingly, I almost feel a twinge of envy for folks who by staying home now get to spend extra time with family, start hobbies, and/or do major projects because they have so much extra time. Me? I have no extra time. In fact, I have even less than before because I don’t have that quiet window of half-day preschool anymore. I do feel lucky and blessed that I do not have any extra anxiety about becoming ill (ill-er? LOL). I’ve had a level of worries about munchkin’s health and well-being for a couple years now so maybe I was already elevated. And I also worry about the economy and how the itty-bitty supplement fund I had that helps me to get by was hammered extensively with the stock market drops.

As for playing, I still dabble in a number of games, especially to stream them. And I am glad I get to stream extra during this time and hope I can stay strong enough to keep that up for as long as Bree lets me! I still enjoy survival games the most right now, or sandboxes that let me express creativity.

Every week, join the Massively OP staff for Massively Overthinking column, a multi-writer roundtable in which we discuss the MMO industry topics du jour – and then invite you to join the fray in the comments. Overthinking it is literally the whole point. Your turn!

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elenie

My partner and I just moved to a new city a good week ago after selling our house earlier this year. Thankfully our move was still able to go ahead, though it is a very strange feeling to be in a new apartment in our new city, unable to really explore or even get a lot of furniture.
We both work in IT and have already worked remotely for years, so that part is business as usual (other than our company suddenly realising that working from home exists and therefore must be regulated down to the tiniest detail). I feel extremely privileged to have a job that is basically unaffected by the shutdowns.

On the gaming side, my FC in FFXIV has been keeping me sane and socialising (I will be attending my first in game wedding in a few hours, in fact!), and I am playing some single player games from my backlog (Arcade Spirits, Heart of the Woods being the latest). MOP as always is a daily pleasure as well :-)

I am sad and angry about a lot of things that are happening now. If I could hope for one thing, it would be that this crisis helps people see that we need to all be there for and help each other, with no strings attached. Everyone deserves to have their basic needs met, and then some, and as a species we can make that happen if we really want to.

Wish you all the very best.

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Utakata

Self isolation and social distancing has always been easy for me when I’m strange. So the toll of all of these COVID-19 directives from those that know hasn’t been too, too distressing that way.

What has been stressing though is that I have family and a few friends I have to stay away from for a very long time. As they are higher targets for complication with this virus if they could get hit with it. And don’t want to be the carrier that sends them over to it. And I worry if they unintentionally pick it up from other sources. As well as their livelihood has been greatly affected and not in good ways. Extend that to everyone else..I could go on…

…so that’s my anxiety. It will take months before this through with. The immediate Spring and Summer are write offs. This is the new norm. And one I’m not sure anyone could get used to. /bleh

So not only please stay safe everyone, but also please stay sane. /bows

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Utakata

PS: Thanks for posting this Ms. Bree. It really helped out. /bows again

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Bruno Brito

Self isolation and social distancing has always been easy for me when I’m strange.

Let’s be honest here: It’s not easy. It’s never easy. It’s just easier than going through the pains of socializing.

I’m 4 months into self-isolation and it takes it’s toll the same. Every human being needs another human being. Take care of yourself.

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Utakata

I am being honest here. Social isolation for me is not as bothersome when I’ve been a loner for most of my life. So why should it be equally problematic as those who spent their lives socializing? I think that would be wholly unfair to them otherwise.

But there are a lot of other things that are bothering me about this. And those are causing me considerable anxiety and issues as long as this pandemic exists.

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Bruno Brito

I am being honest here. Social isolation for me is not as bothersome when I’ve been a loner for most of my life. So why should it be equally problematic as those who spent their lives socializing? I think that would be wholly unfair to them otherwise.

I never said it was equally problematic. But it’s problematic nonetheless. Downplaying the issue just because we’re loners doesn’t help us when we need to focus on mental health.

I’m also pretty used to solitude and isolation, but it’s not easy. It’s NEVER easy.

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Malcolm Swoboda

Was job hunting (and will return to it asap but things are more chaos by the day with my now-non-opportunities), now I’m just surviving and happy when I’m not bringing the virus in. Partner is working from home, difficult at first but better for him with time. We know that even with our troubles – and some more are trickling in like the worry about new border checkpoints we have to deal with – it pales compared to many others’, and we’re still really good with each other.

I’m still gaming mobile, but a little more of it and a little more picky with the titles. Gonna return to Masquerada and actually finish it, and explore some other games. Partner is full Animal Crossing Pandemic meme, with like nine other friends playing at same time Friday night. My days are mobile checkups throughout the day and fitting in a Wizards Unite walk (or now, jog), and his are old Nintendo games in morning, maybe a break or two that he wouldn’t have at his office, and Animal Crossing at night. Instead of D&D nights with the regular group, we started playing Terraria. Instead of barely having time to even watch some shows, we have the time for more SWTOR (I also just made an in-game friend there) than otherwise. I’d love to play a complete playthrough of Skyrim by the end of summer.

A lot more cooking is happening – two chili meals have lots of leftovers in the freezer, and I made some crappy cookies today. I’ve snuck out for burgers once but that’s it. Like so many others, we’re coping with March, but have bigger concerns for April.. May… and really the next year+. Most of my dread is over though; I felt like I was going insane in February thinking of so many scenarios that are now In Real Life and once I got over the Cassandra complex kind of feeling, its OK. ISH. For now.

I’d be a lot more involved in volunteering and available-jobs-of-any-sort, but I’ve been diagnosed mild asthma in my teens and always had the nagging sense of something wrong with that part of me, and I’m not going to take too many chances. Its online courses and any little computer work I can find, quite soon.

My family is stable and in good places at the moment but I’m already seeing possible cracks in the corners of their lives, from overwork to missed physiotherapy to bad day planning. Just as I see society changing in front of me – I’m in a usually very safe area, but I now notice ambulances in my complex more than once this last month, and I’ve been closely verbally accosted by imposing men two times on my walks – two times more than I have in my several years here!.. that is, zero (without counting the core downtown of my city of course, there’s always change askers there). Not good. I’m going to be cutting out the late night walks and taking more care around me in the day. Already. Jesus. Weeks ago we were bringing a can of beans with other things up the elevator and my dread-sense was imagining ‘people in this box will know we have beans, so they have an idea that we’re on X floor and we may have food’. Ridiculous enough then, but only barely ridiculous enough now. I hope it stays that way. I’m in a safe area. I’m in a safe area.

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TherecDaMage .

I do want to add, to those who are struggling, or who test positive, hang in there. I hope you make it through this and get back to a normal life. This whole thing is insane and nobody deserves this level of chaos and suffering.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

Retired, with working-from-home husband. We are constantly thanking our good fortune that my husband works for an essential industry and can easily work from home. So despite the pandemic and weeks of sheltering in place, we each still keep the same routines we had before he stopped going to the office. Our local market is an organic food store that sources nearly everything locally, so we have not experienced any abrupt changes except that shopping is now done first thing in the morning during the early morning senior hours.

Our five-county area in California was the first to go into shelter-in-place following Washington state. As a consequence, the rate of infection and death is low here and we know of no one who is ill.

The air is amazingly clear and clean, reminding me of what California was like in the 50s, when we could see the distant mountains from our backyard.

With all that is going on, we had completely forgotten that April is our anniversary month until a family member reminded us. It seems strange not to be doing anything for our 50th wedding anniversary, but we promise ourselves something special when this is over.

The disturbing and disconsolate daily news of mounting deaths and equally mounting incompetence from our federal government distracts me from gaming, but I have managed to climb slowly up the paragon levels in D3, now over 700 and aiming for the magic 800.

ESO has dangled lots of interesting new stuff in front of me, so there’s that. I’m considering starting a garden in No Man’s Sky, and returning to the wars in SWTOR.

Wishing everyone well.

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Mewmew

I am out helping get groceries and necessities for some people who are high risk and can’t get them. I like that the streets and stuff are empty in many ways, but I don’t like the reason that they’re empty. The reason they’re empty is disturbing, otherwise, I’d be enjoying the lack of people.

Even more disturbing is the images of the bodies from Covid-19 deaths in NY being stacked up in trailers because they’re overwhelmed by the number of people dying at once right now.

I’m angry and want to lash out at the people who kept saying this wasn’t any worse than the flu and not to worry about it. I’m angry at the people who didn’t take it seriously enough and kept spreading it. I’m angry at the people who bought up all the safety supplies when this first started in order to try and re-sell them at 5-10 times the prices for their own profit off of what was coming. I’m angry at the people who *still* aren’t washing properly and being careful because they want to show what big shots they are and how unconcerned they are.

I’m angry at a lot of things happening right now. I need some good games that would let me take that anger out.

I hate to say it but I need some games that let me shoot people right now. I’d never ever want to shoot someone in real life, but I feel like shooting some people in games right now and pretending they’re people I’m angry at. I feel a bit weird about it, but there it is.

I’d be happier to play games where we get to kill viruses right now though.

I’m also very worried about the aftermath of local economies. So many small businesses are screwed right now. These people are going to need government help to even feed their families, much less make the payments for their homes and vehicles, etc.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

Destiny 2 is a very satisfying shooter. I understand there are problems with the season going on right now, but if you aren’t interested in elite gear or end-game stuff, you might find Destiny 2 a good blowing off game.

Any Borderlands game is good for shooting and blowing up stuff. Then there’s the new Doom Eternal, which by every account, is just awesome.

Although I do enjoy Destiny 2, I’m more of a whacker-and-smacker. Diablo 3 just totally suits my mood right now. I-am-going-to-kill-those-effing-demons-until-not-one-of-them-is-left kind of gameplay.

It’s surely a time to test our patience with our fellow man. And while there might not be actual angels and demons in our world, it sure seems like some folks have discovered their inner angel, reaching out a hand to those who need it, and some have been exposed as demons, displaying cold cruelty and gross venality in the face of great suffering.

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Bruno Brito

Smite would be something good for you i guess.

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Erik Van Meter

Everyone is drunk in general chat all day long… Thankfully Eve online doesn’t really have a general chat… Lol…

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Schmidt.Capela

and my favorite new hobby is “scouring everything with alcohol and having panic attacks about touching things.”

Fun fact about this virus: like every Coronavirus, and indeed most viruses, it’s enveloped in a lipid (AKA fat) layer. Which is particularly vulnerable to soap (a product, after all, specifically made to break apart fat and grease), to the point soap and water is actually better at disinfecting most surfaces from this kind of virus than alcohol (or alcohol-based hand sanitizer); the virus seems to do a cotton candy impression when it comes in contact with soapy water (though you do need to wash whatever you are disinfecting thoroughly, as any missed spot can still contain the virus).

You don’t even need anything fancy; after all, it’s a virus, so anti-bacterial additives in the soap make no difference, at all, against it.

So, the recommendation to wash your hands isn’t just out of cleanliness (though that would already be reason enough); you aren’t just washing the virus away, but outright killing it, and more effectively than if you used alcohol or hand sanitizer.

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Utakata

…and sing Happy Birthday to yourself twice before rinsing off the suds. <3

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Zero_1_Zerum

I was job hunting, with no luck, before the pandemic happened. Now, tons of people are out of jobs, so the job market is going to be lots worse.

It’ll suck for everyone trying to find a job, once things are “normal” again.

On the gaming front, I played and beat a RPG called Cat Quest in a few days, so I’ve started a new game+ of that. It’s fun to trounce enemies that used to one shot me, because I started a new game with all my levels and gear.

I also started playing Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, because Konami released it on Android phones. It was only $3, with no ads or IAP!!! I wish more devs/pubs would release games on phones like that. It’s one of the Castlevania games I haven’t played yet, so I’m enjoying it for the first time. I either forgot how hard these games can be, or I’m getting slower in my old age.

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Toy Clown

The biggest change for me is the added stress of what’s going on, which has brought on bouts of inability to focus and weirdly finding myself roaming the house, thinking in terms of survival over the next 3 months, preparing lists, etc.

I have an essential job and thankfully going into this I had food and supplies already stocked up since I’m a sales shopper. Due to unemployment rates shooting through the roof, my employer has the go-ahead to hire as many people as come through the door currently, which in turn has cut my pay close to a third as they cut back everyone’s hours to give the new people hours. (How is this fair?) While I do have a savings account to fall back on in emergencies, I won’t have to dip into it yet.

I’m a Type 1 Diabetic, which means my system is compromised, so the largest stress factor has come from keeping myself safe in an essential job dealing directly with a public that still doesn’t take things seriously. I live in a rural area and we haven’t been hit too hard.

The thing that’s upended my world is thinking I was secure in life. At 52, I thought I was set, for the most part, and had plans in place for retirement and savings. Struggles and hardships either bring the worst, or the best, out in people. I’ve realized that where I was neutral, but loyal to my workplace, that it is a horrible place to work right now, realizing they don’t care about anyone but keeping the money coming in, no matter the cost to human life. My values have now split with those of my employer and I want to return to school when this blows over and find a new profession.

With the new plan formulated, my stress levels eased enough I could get my head back into gaming. My time is divided between SWGL and ESO. I’m running an event in SWGL this weekend and as I do every year with ESO, I hop back in for the anniversary events and usually play through until a month after the new expansion releases. Clockwork! Normalcy. I can grasp that.