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Gaming During a Pandemic: A look back at the first half of 2020

It's hard sometimes to say the right words when so much turmoil happens around us. The vast majority of people today haven't lived through a global pandemic. And even though in the middle of the day I can walk outside and recognize the beauty of my neighborhood and how clear the skies are, it's painful to know that we're just barely getting by with what we have. I guess you could say I'm one of the lucky ones. 95 percent of my work is online, so I can take it home with me. Most of what I enjoy doing is indoors, so the worst of what I've seen with this year amounts to a vitamin D deficiency. I've enjoyed more time streaming on twitch lately, mainly because gaming during a pandemic is kind of the default. 
In this post, I'm going to explore my thoughts on 2020, and see if I can make sense of the madness going on around me.

gaming during a pandemic

What Gaming Means During a Pandemic

The absolute best outlook I can glean from gaming during this time is that I have more time to do so. I have more time to learn what it means to be a community manager in gaming. I have more time to reflect and see where I'm wrong about things and understand where I sit in this massive entertainosphere.

With all this free-floating anxiety while people hold on to what they love, tensions are extremely high. Gaming saw another massive backlash of harassment, the vast majority of it being allegations of men abusing women in several horrid ways. It's just a reminder to me that two people dating in this industry can get pretty sticky, so I've learned that seeing someone who is heavily rooted in gaming could lead to roads I don't want to go down. It isn't much of a problem anyhow since nights out with a woman are far and few between.

But gaming during a pandemic has given me a new perspective—that even during the darkest times, where we may lose our jobs, lose our homes, lose our loved ones—that we might still hold fast to what makes us smile during a time where the default is sadness. It's why I continue to push foward every day, because an ounce of smile is worth living through a ton of sadness.

A Good Year for Gaming

Despite the fall of Mixer, the sexual allegations, and the volatility of a pastime that I hold to my soul dearly, this has been a strong year for gaming during a pandemic. We've seen reveals of two consoles (neither of which have a price point yet, we're waiting...), a wonderful list of launch titles, some fantastic gaming titles released, the launch of a cloud-based gaming platform, Stadia, the dedication of many publishers and developers to the Black Lives Matter movement, and a wealth of new content creators coming out of the woodwork.

The Fall of Mixer

gaming during a pandemic

There was a lot of speculation about Mixer and where the platform was headed. I decided—after running into politics and pairing up with people that really only gave me support when I started recognizing a lot of unethical actions—that I would move to Mixer and network there. It made sense to branch out since gaming during a pandemic was really the default thing to do after work. But as I went further into Mixer, I started recognizing there was a lot less to the platform than I realized.

Something felt off about Mixer. I think the R&D team was probably three people at most, since a lot of the channel integrations were left up to the broadcasters. Plus, the soundboard functionality just seemed to detract heavily from the actual stream.

In addition to this, the branding was not at all attractive. There's something about Twitch's glimmering purple that stands out and yet tends to be a color everyone loves. Mixer had a very unoriginal blue gradient, one that felt slapped together by a contacted graphic design artist. And I'm sorry, but "Mixer" belongs in a kitchen. Not that "Twitch" is all that reminiscent of gaming either, but when you're gaming during a pandemic, a name for a household appliance doesn't tend to stick like Twitch does.

For about 6 months, I broadcasted on Restreamio. I think it's an interesting platform, but I recognized I could still network on other platforms as well. I decided to re-sign my affiliate contract. I still browse other platforms in search of the best content, but after 7 years of broadcasting, I'm sticking to Twitch.

Allegations Galore

gaming during a pandemic

What to say about this debacle? Many women stepped forth about sexual allegations, some were absolute horrid stories of forced interaction (to be PC about that), and many people were used for their positions in gaming. Jessica Richey (a fantastic person) compiled a list of the worst offenders and was mentioned in the New York Times for outsing many, many broadcasters and people in gaming for sexual abuse. It was fantastic work to see abuse unveiled.

I actually had my own story to tell and while I won't publish details here, it wasn't traumatic in any sense. It was just an odd interaction by a woman who had offered a lot of sexual favors in the past to other individuals. I certainly wasn't comfortable with the situation, but I never felt out of control or against my will. The person accused isn't in gaming any more and admitted to heavy substance abuse. I hope she finds peace in her endeavors.

The Rise of Cloud Gaming

gaming during a pandemic

Cloud gaming has been around for awhile, but it hasn't been mainstream until lately. In my humble opinion, I think this console generation will be the last. Consoles are extremely expensive to manufacture and sold at fractions of the cost of production, which is often why store employee discounts for retailers are a few cents at most (I can say this from working several years in  retail.)

Cloud gaming, especially during a pandemic, is the future of gaming in my opinion. A lot of people are against it and I understand their arguments since you're not actually -owning- anything with a cloud service. I think the same was said about Netflix for a long time, but eventually those arguments disappeared. With the rise of PSNow, GeForce Now, Stadia, XCloud, and others, in the next 10 years I think we'll see a shift away from traditional consoles.

With that said, there are a lot of communities against cloud-based gaming. The modding community absolutely hates it because they don't have access to any hard data to alter. Plus, it's not possible to share a game to a friend (I can't recall the last time I shared a game anyhow). Even though Stadia's launch was weak and underdelivered, I still prefer it to other platforms since I can take it almost anywhere with me, and it's super cheap.

With that, I think we'll start to see more developments on cloud services in the coming years.

Black Lives Matter

gaming during a pandemic

I won't get into personal thoughts about the movement, but since gaming has become more mainstream, it's being dragged from the standard white male demographic into a diverse salad of individuals. It was natural to see BLM affect gaming during a pandemic, and hats off to Twitch, many Twitch broadcasters, and major publishers with their "blackout" efforts. 

Wednesday, June 24th was Twitch "Blackout" Day, where many broadcasters put up either a black screen or some humble graphic to display their protest. Twitch released a statement about inequality on the platform and started issuing permabans, much to the delight of other broadcasters and viewers who faced a lot of racism and sexism.

It's refreshing to see people step up to the plate of systemic racism, especially when it comes to my favorite pastime of all. I'm not without fault, but I try to keep things as positive and welcoming as possible.

I guess that's the best I can do while turmoil rises in 2020. It's so hard to look and examine all we've gone through objectively because so many people are distraught with heavy emotions and anxiety. I try to keep my head up and remember that what we're facing with gaming during a pandemic will get better, but first we have to come out of the fire that cleanses us all. We can't grow unless we shed our old ways, and that can be painful to say the least.

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