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

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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