Gaming in Lockdown – the games that killed hours of time

Lockdown probably didn’t hit as hard for me as might’ve for most people. While a lot of people love travelling or love their work, at the time I was unemployed and looking for work between my previous job and starting a Masters Degree in September and I’ve never been a die-hard travel fanatic. I still had things I missed – my girlfriend primarily – but when we weren’t on Discord having a chat there were plenty of games that kept me occupied. Here are just a few.

Civilisation 5

This poor battering ram has lost its way.

Civ 5 seemed to be the go-to game for friends and myself to play over the lockdown. None of us were particularly aggressive players – we just enjoy the thrill of progressing through wonders, technologies, and culture policies. We only completed a couple of games – everyone else’s work from home schedules made it difficult to consistently get the same group, but even playing the early game over and over again was fun. The game also provided an easy event to gather and chat over, rather than having calls specifically just to chat – which would usually just lead to people saying they hadn’t really done anything with their time.

Nintendo Switch

I took the plunge with some of the money I had saved up and bought a Switch in April and honestly, after being a previous N64, DS, Wii and Wii U owner, the Switch is probably my favourite Nintendo console to date. Even with my currently thin library I’ve really enjoyed everything I’ve played on the Switch, varying from great experiences to good time-killers. I’ve beaten the base game of Mario Odyssey and I’m looking forward to eventually tackling 100% completion. I’ve had a blast playing Mario Kart 8 Deluxe both on my own and online, as well as with my girlfriend in local split screen once lockdown restrictions eased. I’ve put 200+ hours, as of writing this, into my Animal Crossing island and even though I’m not particularly creative when it comes to island layout and custom designs, I’ve enjoyed the collect-a-thon of bugs and fish as well as giving myself projects to make the island prettier. I’ve even unexpectedly had fun with 51 Worldwide Games, which I initially bought to play with my girlfriend when I visited her flat but have since played both solo and online, with both familiar games and new games to learn like Mancala and Mahjong.

I've been enjoying the fast-paced gameplay of 200c on Mario Kart and the laid-back nature of Animal Crossing equally

I wish I had bought more Switch games but a lot of them are just quite expansive, especially in comparison to the wealth of sales and deals on PC. Still, it’ll be nice to occasionally pick up games I’m interested in as and when they come, as well as reach into the backlog of games released years ago – I still haven’t bought Breath of the Wild!

Orion: Prelude

This game is so bad it's good. Seriously. I mean it.

No beating around the bush here, Orion: Prelude is objectively a bad game.

It’s a mess, but I don’t understand when people say you can’t have fun in a bad game, especially if you’re playing that game with friends. The graphics are terrible, the gunplay lacks any real oomph to it, and the game on the whole is a rather simple affair. Even with these glaring issues, the sheer simplistic thrill of shooting dinosaurs with bizarrely imbalanced weapons, driving ridiculously overpowered vehicles and having a T-Rex throw giant rocks at you are some of the reasons why I absolutely enjoyed the few hours I played with friends.

The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth

Rogue-like procedural games are the kind of genre that just have time-killing baked into them. I’ve been playing Binding of Isaac: Rebirth for a few years now, having never really played the original. It’s the kind of game I could just pick up and play whenever during lockdown, and there’s always some kind of progression to make with the different characters available to play (especially if you’re not very good at the game like me). The Binding of Isaac provides enough of a challenge to keep you going, but not enough to make you want to put down the game in frustration – there’s always a better run round the corner.

If you like poop, blood and gross creatures, you'll probably also like this game.

Other games and closing thoughts

There’s plenty of games that I picked up during lockdown that didn’t really resonate in me or, in some cases, that I didn’t have the patience for. I set out initially to try and play all three Witcher games in sequence, but after about seven hours my patience had worn thin with the clunky combat and the relatively slow pacing. It’s something I definitely want to pick up again though. I also tried playing GTA Online again but the game just feels pretty empty unless you’re playing with friends. Doing missions with random people doesn’t have the same gratification as playing with people you know and all the things you can do solo are either pretty monotonous or just better done in other games.

Overall, I kind of wished I had tried some more of the games I already had on hand during lockdown. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve really enjoyed the new purchases I’ve made, especially my Switch. But I have a library of 260 Steam games that aren’t going anywhere any time soon and I hope to tackle them in the future.

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