Since March, interactions with others have changed. People have found themselves being cloistered indoors without much physical contact to the outside world. As a substitute for regular entertainment, individuals have used the internet 70% more. Alongside this, mobile games have increased in popularity as dependency on smartphones for entertainment has grown during quarantine. With this new dependency on technology, much of the population has turned to mobile games to preserve connections with friends. However, studies have shown that Americans’ loneliness has gotten worse during the pandemic, and use of technology has not improved that.
Through quarantine, many mobile games have increased in popularity, but games like Animal Crossing and Among Us have especially gained traction. These games have a very similar format which has made them very successful. Both Animal Crossing and Among Us offer escapism to their players. Animal Crossing gives players “an island paradise” where “‘there is no nastiness’”, while Among Us places players in space and gives them a chance to be a hero by finding the imposter. Most importantly, these games provide players with the ability to communicate with friends and make acquaintances through chats. In interviews with The New York Times, users have said this is why they play the games so much: they get to have fun and make companions, which is a stark difference to not being able to socialize with many in person.
With people relying heavily on the internet for work, school, daily activities and personal relationships, exceeding the recommended amount of internet use is inevitable. However, the effects of such prolonged use are detrimental to mental health. A growing amount of people have reported feeling lonely in the pandemic despite speaking to others through the internet. Past studies have explained the cause of this effect, showing how online interaction makes relationships grow superficial and does not allow social cues to be picked up.
An alarming consequence of the loneliness a lot of the population is experiencing is an increase in anxiety. While multiple factors have played a role in this, there is no doubt the loneliness produced by isolation is not a major factor. The CDC has gone on to publish that stress has become a by-product of the pandemic, including various lines to call for coping.
With so many negatives in the real world it seems logical that the masses will turn to mobile games. They are providing quick amusement and a distraction. An analysis done at the University of Albany has actually shown that mobile games have beneficial effects on one’s psyche during this time. Nevertheless, it can not be denied that such extensive use and dependency on mobile games is unhealthy.
Humans are meant to have physical interaction and until COVID-19 lessens or a cure is discovered we will have to adjust to our present situation. Unfortunately, this means more Zoom calls and having to meticulously plan out how to see others in person. Having to speak to someone doesn’t have to be limited to the internet though, as social distancing progresses, alternatives are going to be considered. Phone calls are still an option, and it is rather fun to send letters and receive them. Whatever way chosen, it is important to still contact others, there is nothing wrong with it being through a chat — once in a while.