The only light in the room was a glowing computer screen, with no sounds except for keyboard taps and the soft swivel of the computer mouse. The image on the screen changes with every tap and small wrist movement. Sophomore Mark Bellemare intensely stares at the screen, listening for any peculiar sounds through his headphones as he scans for any virtual ghosts.
“I was playing a ghost hunting game called ‘Phasmophobia,’ and we were looking for the ghost, as one does in a ghost hunting game, and I had said something along the lines of ‘Wow, this game gets less scary the more you play it,’” Bellemare said. “And then the ghost popped up in front of me and my friends and we all screamed.”
With the pandemic once again worsening due to the Omicron variant, many students like Bellemare are using gaming as a way to safely socialize with others. Bellemare said that while he has been using gaming to socialize during the pandemic, it was a good way to connect with people even before the outbreak.
“Having a group to play games with is important because it makes you feel better if you’re not the only one struggling with a mechanic of the game or something else,” Bellemare said. “Also, having others with you to create great moments that you can all look back on and laugh is great.”
Sophomore Cutter Higgins said he also enjoys gaming as a way to connect with his friends, especially when they have distance between them during the break and this quarter’s two-week remote period.
“I think the most memorable moments I have had through gaming with people are just the shared experiences of beating something together or breaking records,” Higgins said. “It’s sort of a feeling of achievement within your group you share and look back at.”
Though he enjoys the experience, he said it can be difficult to continue playing with friends once classes start and his workload starts to pick up again. But, when he gets the chance, it helps him build a closer relationship with his friends.
“Since coming to DePaul, I haven’t really played too many games, but I have seen a very big presence of the gaming community here,” Higgins said. “I have stayed in contact with a few people I met my first quarter on campus through online gaming, which has helped me get to know them more. I think playing video games with someone can be more effective to get to know someone rather than a text or call because it’s more of an activity paired with socializing with them that creates a stronger interaction.”
In a time when going out and meeting with large groups pose significant risks, Bellemare agreed that gaming is among the best ways to socialize virtually.
“Playing games with your friends makes it so you don’t really have to talk about anything,” Bellemare said. “You could just be talking about what’s going on in the game and you’d still have a great time with that person, it’s a non-physical activity that works just as well.”
Sophomore Noble Thompson said he also thinks gaming provides an activity for friend groups during the pandemic, not just a format of communication.
“Texting or calling are nice to do but that requires more focus at times, playing games with people is like a background activity, like going bowling or go-kart driving, just on a smaller scale,” Thompson said. “Gaming is similar to a sport, people can bond over it online or offline and it isn’t exclusive. Being good at a game is not required, it is meant to be a means to have fun and relax with, or it can be used as a medium of art like cinema but more interactive or it can be a grouping area where people can find communities.”
But, while Thompson thinks it is important to have this option during the pandemic, he said people shouldn’t stop seeing their friends in person when possible.
“I think people can hang out with friends as long as they aren’t going out to many places,” Thompson said. “Social media outlets are limited in interaction but it acts as a replacement for a little bit. Games are to be treated as an extension of entertainment and interaction; it shouldn’t consume lives nor should it replace in-person interaction.”