Even online gaming can be an antidote to social isolation

Technology has many benefits, and during such frustrating and perhaps lonely times, it can be beneficial to use the internet’s incredible power to our benefit by staying truly connected with one another

GeoGeussr uses google maps to put you in a random location and you can guess where that is
GeoGeussr uses google maps to put you in a random location and you can guess where that is

In March 2020, when the reality of COVID-19 had just hit Malta, I recall telling my business partner: “Whether we survive this or not, we’ll at least have enough material to write a book.”

Those early days were some of the most trying times in our professional lives. We had to make big decisions, such as deciding to shift to remote work and questioned whether we would need to reduce working hours because of the reduced workload. We even had to think about the unthinkable: will any of us have to be made redundant? We also had other concerns such as, how to communicate effectively and how to avoid having everyone drift apart due to working from home.

Fortunately for some of us, working from home was, and remains a viable option. However, for most, the anxiety of work-induced uncertainty is just the tip of the iceberg. While there is very little doubt that social distancing and the avoidance of public gatherings are crucial in diminishing the impact of a deadly pandemic, our semi-lockdowns can significantly impact our mental health and well-being.

Those who know me appreciate that I was never a physical-contact-kind-of-person. The 2-metre social distancing rule fits my pre-COVID lifestyle very well. Yet even as a half-introvert, a healthy dose of social activity remains essential. Fortunately, technology has always aided me in staying connected with a close group of friends. In fact, for as far back as I can remember, I’ve been able to somehow hang out with my friends daily. Social activities do not always require physical contact, nor the likes of the usual social media platforms, such as Messenger, Facebook or Instagram.

I was born in 1989 and from around the age of 13, I have been a computer gamer. Back then, spending long hours on the computer was an unusual and worrying pastime. One time, the school headmaster felt the need to call me into his office to express his, and my parents’, concerns about my troubling hobby. He was worried that such a pastime meant I was isolated and disconnected from the people around me.

However, this was far from my reality. I was not missing out on any meaningful social activity, as I spent endless hours hanging out with my friends virtually, from the comfort of my home.

Obviously, it is unfair to compare staying at home out of your own free will, as opposed to having to stay home because of a deadly pandemic. Nevertheless, I believe that technology can go a long way and connect us with our friends even in these trying times, so we can still have some wonderful experiences together. What is essential for this to work out is finding the right tools that can mitigate the ‘loss in quality’ that a virtual experience typically incurs.

There are many hobbies you can engage with while stuck at home, and you’ve probably exhausted a lot of them by now. And I’m sure that even the most introverted individuals are now starting to crave some social activities.

Online gaming can be a welcome antidote to isolation and boredom. Like every other entertainment form, you should enjoy it in moderation, as it can be highly addictive. If you engage with such a hobby, try not to become overly competitive, make sure you leave some time for physical exercise, and, most importantly, work and any family duties. A hobby should remain a hobby. It should never take over your life.

My proposition to you is to try online gaming, at least for a couple of hours a week. You should also encourage your family members to join in. This will allow you to connect with your family or friends regularly and spend some fun, much needed relaxed time together. Just like your favourite group of friends from your favourite comedy sitcom meet up every day, so can you and your friends.

Here’s all you’ll need to do:

Get a good headset. Install a free program called ‘Discord’ on your PC or laptop. Create your free server and ask your friends to join. Pop in anytime you feel like having a chat, or you can even watch an episode together or play some games.

There are loads of free web-based games you can play together with only your web browser, here are some interesting examples:

GeoGeussr – a game that uses google maps to put you in a random location and you can guess where that is. Works quite well if you share your screen over Discord and take it in turns to guess the location.

Sketchful.io – basically a free online Pictionary.

Spyfall.app – an interesting social game of guessing who the imposter is.

The above just scratches the surface. When you start getting the hang of hanging out with friends online, you may begin to discover many new worlds of adventure and excitement. You can visit a magical kingdom with your friends or children, slay a dragon, parachute into a warzone and work together towards victory. I know this may all sound out of your league because let’s face it, you’re probably not a gamer and don’t want to become one.

Many choose to shy away from such leisurely activities as they worry it requires technical know-how or some form of gaming skills— it doesn’t. The focus here is socialising; in fact, you can just hang out on something like Discord even while doing some chores or mindlessly scrolling through your Facebook feed. This level of connectivity works so well that we’ve also been successfully using Discord at work – facilitating team communication and giving everyone that open office feeling again.

This may sound like a crazy idea for parents, who are all too familiar with kids glued to a tablet or monitor, utterly oblivious to the world around them. I agree that that cannot be a healthy use of their time. While it can help with a range of cognitive skills, the complete lack of social interaction must negatively affect them. That’s why I suggest sticking to online games with friends rather than playing single-player games.

Technology has many benefits, and during such frustrating and perhaps lonely times, it can be beneficial to use the internet’s incredible power to our benefit by staying truly connected with one another.

More in Blogs