For most gamers, COVID-19 didn't have much of an effect on their gaming habits. They just continued playing their games.
But for a lot of people, the pandemic had a huge impact on their entire life. And this included their view of video games. In a 2021 report by the Entertainment Software Association, 74% of parents said they played games with their kids at least once a week. The year before, that number was only 55%.
Said ESA president Stanley Pierre-Louis: "What I like about that is it mirrors some of the recommendations that ESRB makes to parents about understanding games and gameplay. And one of those pieces of advice is to play games with your children, both to understand what they're playing, but also as a form of connection."
Pierre-Louis stated that most parents and grandparents will shy away from the word "gamer." They will adamantly say they are definitely not a gamer. They only play games with their grandkids. But that is gaming. That's a gamer.
And more and more people are realizing this.
Casual gaming continues to be the most popular type of gaming, with almost 50% of games falling into that genre and getting an E for Everyone rating. Just look at Nintendo's biggest sales for the Switch. As of March 2021, the top two games are Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Animal Crossing: New Horizons, both beating out Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
Animal Crossing saw a huge influx of players during COVID-19. Many gamers saw it as a way to connect with friends or as an escape from reality. While I am personally not a fan of pulling weeds and talking to creepy-looking animals in a game, I can see why it took off. My sister, who hasn't touched a game in over a decade, even bought a Nintendo Switch during lockdown just to play Animal Crossing with friends she was too scared to go see in person.
Before COVID-19, you'd often see copy pasta-like posts in groups and forums about how Animal Crossing and Pokemon "aren't real games" and you "can't call yourself a gamer" if you just play for fun once in a while. But it seems that the pandemic has started to push back on this mindset.
And it honestly seems to have started with parents.
"People have a perception of what is a gamer versus, 'No, it's just Candy Crush.' Or, 'It's just Bridge with friends online.' ...For us, a lot of this is providing context and humanizing the narrative. Because once we talk about it and they share their personal experience with either playing or someone in their family playing games, it opens up the conversation in different ways," Pierre-Louis said to IGN.
There's a misconception of "who a gamer is," Pierre-Louis explained.
A person casually playing Mario Party with friends is no less of a gamer than someone grinding Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. A couple playing Overwatch for fun is no less of a gamer than someone competing in a Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournament. A parent playing Animal Crossing or Angry Birds with their child is a gamer.
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