How 2020 was a massive year for changing perceptions of gaming

It’s hard to believe this crazy year is almost over, but soon enough we’ll be welcoming what’s hopefully a much less chaotic one! Knock on wood, someone, please.

In some ways, this has been a big year. And I don’t just mean because some major milestones happened in our little family this year! I was actually thinking about it yesterday as I was sitting down and writing the outline for this post. Okay, it technically occurred to me in the shower and I promptly lost most of it as soon as I got out, but still.

As much as this year absolutely sucked, it had a lot of bright spots too—ones I suspect will continue to ripple out into years to come.

I’m talking, of course, about the ways the gaming world evolved this year.

As much as video games have become more and more mainstream over the years, they still come with certain stereotypes. You know, things like violent video games make people violent, they’re all bad for you, they make you antisocial, et cetera.

I’m willing to bet most of you have heard at least one of those at some point in your lives!

But 2020 turned a lot of things we’ve always accepted as normal in our lives on their heads—including outdated preconceptions about video games. As folks were confined to their homes and needed to find new ways to fill their social bars, we started to see stories of all the good video games were doing for people—especially when it came to staying sane.

And that meant the attitude toward gaming started to shift.

Here’s an experiment, just for fun. What happens when you search up any combination of video games, social, and pandemic? I got stories starting as far back as April that listed out social video games that people could play so they didn’t lose all sense of connection to other humans.

The one that stuck out to me (and the reason I did that search in the first place, because I read it days ago and forgot what it was called) was a story from BBC about how online gaming has become a social lifeline this year. The author had a good point: We gamers have known exactly how social games can be for years, but the rest of the world started figuring it out this year.

Think about it.

When Animal Crossing: New Horizons came out, it wasn’t just the convenience of launching right at the start of lockdown that made it so popular. It was the promise of an idyllic island escape from everyday realities—one where you could actually gather with your friends without worrying about anyone’s safety.

Think about how quickly it became the new universal gathering place—synonymous with social events from small family events to weddings, pop-up Selena Gomez concerts, and everything in between.

I wouldn’t say that’s a case of video games making people antisocial, would you?

And I think this is only the start of change for gaming.

Though it’s a strong one, ACNH is hardly the only example of a change in attitude toward gaming this year.

People saw how pure the community could be when mainstream news got wind of a massive gathering in FFXIV to celebrate the life of a player who’d passed away from COVID-19 complications.

They experienced the sense of escapism that we’ve always known video games have—and discovered that maybe it’s not so bad after all to get away and make-believe that you’re something, somewhere, or someone else for a little while.

They saw even the World Health Organization admit that maybe screen time wasn’t so bad, as it partnered with the gaming industry for an awareness campaign that showed people how essential video games can be for mental health when used in the right contexts.

Any one of those new experiences could have been enough to significantly shift the general attitude toward the gaming industry, but all of it together? Let’s just say I’m excited to see how this ripples out in years to come.

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