Why the Pandemic has Caused an Explosion in Online Gaming


It’s not exactly a secret that the past year and a half has witnessed the entire globe being ravaged by a pandemic that swept across the population in a matter of weeks, taking the lives of millions and changing the entire fabric of society – from governmental decisions being made in different countries to people’s everyday habits and ways of interacting with one another.

For starters, much of the world has had lockdowns and restrictions placed on them at various points over the past year, prohibiting physical contact with others outside of the home, preventing any form of gathering that includes more than a handful of people – in both open and closed spaces – and the enforcement of mandatory mask-wearing anywhere outside of the home. Workplaces have been shut down; transport services reduced with social distancing (a new term that has become part of daily vocabulary) measures ordered; cinemas, sports stadiums, theatres, and nightclubs have been closed; and governments have pushed for the rapid formulation of vaccines to combat the effect of Covid-19.

Despite the huge changes to our everyday habits, humans the world over adapted relatively quickly to this new way of life. The internet – an important element of our everyday life prior to the pandemic anyway – suddenly became absolutely integral to every aspect of people’s everyday life, being the main way to work, consume news, socialise, and find different forms of entertainment.

With this rise in the use of the internet, there came a veritable boom in the number of people turning to online gaming, proven by the fact that the Nintendo Switch was impossible to purchase after the first week of lockdown due to selling out. But why exactly is this?

Variety is the Spice of Life

Computer gaming first entered society in the 1970s via clunky games consoles and rudimentary games that you played on your television. Since then, this form of entertainment has evolved into something far exceeding its original form. Nowadays, we can play games on our smartphones, a variety of ever-improving consoles, PCs/laptops, and other handheld devices; essentially, no matter where we are, we can play games.

A huge part of their allure is the sheer volume of different games and game styles that we can play these days due to the imagination of developers – they keep the list diversified to keep us entertained. From traditional MMOs, RPGs, and FPS games to online casino games, platformers, and slow-paced puzzle adventures, the list of choice is seemingly endless and yet is forever expanding.

And it’s this variety that makes gaming so popular – which the pandemic has exemplified, when the vast majority of us had time on our hands to find and test out the types of games we enjoy (or don’t enjoy, for that matter). When it comes to online casino websites – such as onlinecasinos.co.uk – they keep the list diversified and regularly add new games related to a popular theme or movie franchise to maintain interest and excitement, with the roster of available games, from slots to poker, constantly expanding. This, alongside the indie game developers putting out content over the pandemic, has helped to fill the dearth of big game releases that have been repeatedly delayed.

A World Away

One of the main allures of gaming is its ability to help distract us from life’s problems, transporting us to new worlds in the same way that books have often been purported to do. Throughout the pandemic, many of us found ourselves using this element as a figurative lifeline, helping us to shake off the brain fog caused by lockdown, distract us from the anxiety-inducing newsreel announcing daily infection and death tolls, and break the monotony of the endless ‘Groundhog Day’-like routine experienced by many.

Being able to escape to different lands or alternative versions of Earth, imbibe potions that bless our characters with magical powers, and compete in wacky karting races has saved many-a-person’s sanity during a very tumultuous period of time, and this helps to explain the allure of online games.

Maintaining Connections

Humans are (in general) social creatures who crave contact and company. Mandatory lockdowns forced many to isolate in their homes alone, unable to socialise in-person and have contact with family and friends outside of internet-based devices. And it was only a matter of weeks before people tired of apps such as Zoom – particularly once it was being used to hold work meetings.

With the plethora of games available online and across a range of devices allowing for multiple players to join games and chat with one another, it became one of the key ways we had of communicating and socialising with friends in a fun way throughout ongoing lockdowns and social restrictions – the impact of which on maintaining our wellbeing and our collective mental health cannot be underestimated.

Stimulating the Brain

Gaming naysayers often state that it is ‘mindless entertainment’, requiring little in the way of complex thought processes and instead inspiring or exacerbating negative personality traits. The restrictions enforced as a result of the pandemic have elucidated that this is, in fact, not true – especially when compared to the effect of sitting on the sofa binge watching Netflix day after day after day…

On the contrary, playing online games is good for cognitive ability. It requires skill, logical and tactical thinking, forethought, the recognition of patterns, quick responses, predictive thinking, and, if playing multiplayer games, the ability to coordinate and communicate. Not quite as simple as it seems.

These requirements helped to keep many people’s brains active throughout the pandemic, with the difference between gaming and traditional routes of mental stimulation being the ‘fun’ and ‘competitive’ aspects of this form of entertainment. The bright colours and sound effects definitely help, though.

Without the ability to play games that not only match our own personal skill level, but also helped us to communicate with one another and distract us from the horrors occurring outside our windows and around the world, it’s fair to say that many of us would have found the 3-months-at-a-time lockdown enforcements impossible to survive with our mental health intact, and it is for this very simple reason that online gaming numbers exploded throughout the pandemic.

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