Whitman students, teachers turn to video games for social interaction over quarantine


Junior Josh Klubes playing “NBA 2K21” on his XBOX. Since in-person get togethers have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, video games have become a medium for Whitman students to virtually interact with friends

By Quentin Corpuel

Aboard a spaceship with his fellow crew members, senior Greg O’Connell only has one goal in mind: survive. There is a murderous impostor aboard the ship, and everyone is a suspect. 

All of his crewmates are scattered across the map, narrowly escaping death while attempting to identify the impostor. Suddenly, O’Connell stumbles upon a fellow crewmate’s death body. With the killer on his tail, O’Connell races through the winding halls of the ship to slam on the “emergency meeting” button. Right before the impostor can slay him, O’Connell successfully presses the red button and gets his chance to expose the rogue crewmate to the rest of the ship. O’Connell is quick to call out the murderer. 

Then, chaos. A screaming match between the singled-out teammate and the other players forces a hysterically-laughing O’Connell to take off his headset. The mix of laughter, jeers and shouts from the other players drowns out the impostor’s frantic attempts to put together an alibi. O’Connell and his crewmates unanimously vote the impostor off the ship and triumphantly celebrate another win. 

Even though O’Connell is seated alone in a gaming chair in his office, it feels like he’s in the same room as his friends. Though he’s unable to see anyone in person, the sci-fi, hidden role video game “Among Us” has become an enjoyable platform for O’Connell and his friends to hang out virtually. 

Over the past several months, countless Whitman students have turned to video games for social interaction. O’Connell compares his interactions in video games to lunchtime discussions in school, saying that gaming is about more than just results. 

“If you sit at a lunch table with someone, you’re there to eat your lunch, but you’re also there to talk with them,” O’Connell said. “When I play video games, I’m there to play, but I’m mainly there just to talk with my buddies.”

Plenty of other people feel the same way. Since the beginning of the self-isolation period in March, video game sales have skyrocketed. In early May, the Washington Post reported a noticeable sales increase among several major video game media companies, including Microsoft, Nintendo, and Epic Games. As of May 12, Microsoft reported a 130 percent increase in multiplayer engagement throughout March and April. Overall, video game sales in March approached $1.6 billion, a $920 million increase from January 2020, according to Statista

Although gaming has been an integral part of the entertainment industry for decades, it’s starting to take on a new meaning with everyone being stuck in quarantine. 

Junior Josh Klubes has played the multiplayer third person shooter game “Fortnite” competitively over quarantine, often participating in tournaments and refining his skills through hours of practice. Although he often plays by himself, Klubes shares O’Connell’s preference for playing with friends, especially during quarantine. 

“You get to talk to your friends everyday because they’re online everyday,” Klubes said. “Being on an Xbox party for a couple of hours and playing with other people is a lot better than playing by yourself.”

For sophomore Max Goodman, being stuck at home means he has a wider array of opportunities to bond with his family, especially through video games.  

Feeling nostalgic, Goodman and his younger brother decided to fire up their Wii and play “Mario Kart” for the first time in years. The two had a blast playing the old racing game, Goodman said, and the experience made him remember how many hours he had devoted to Mario Kart in the past. 

This newfound video games craze goes beyond students. Over quarantine, English teacher Christopher Williams has been using video games as a way to both bond with his daughter and take a break from the rigors of teaching. 

“We’ll take turns playing ‘Fallout’,” he said. “Video games are definitely a mental escape. Thinking about the quests or tasks I want to do takes me away from being like ‘Ok, it’s day 150 of not doing anything.’ I don’t think about that anymore when I’m playing video games.”

Although video games might seem like a waste of time to others, the pandemic makes seeing friends in person simply too difficult, O’Connell said. Gaming offers a platform where students can meet up without having to coordinate too much or worry about contracting COVID-19. 

“I could go to Bethesda and social distance with my friends, but that’s a pain in the butt to plan,” O’Connell said. “It’s much easier to add everyone in a group chat and tell them to get online.”

For Williams, video games offer a welcomed distraction from the grim times our country is in. 

“It’s like a nice spring break,” Williams said. “We do need time to blow off steam, and video games can certainly do that.”