Staying connected: Maintaining friendships through video games

Online gaming is a staple of connecting with people all around the world.  Now more than ever, online gaming has become a go-to asset for some to stay connected with their friends and family. As it appears, Los Angeles will be under the “safer at home” orders from Mayor Eric Garcetti for a while. Some Cal State LA students are looking to gaming to maintain close friendships they had prior to the pandemic’s effect on their social lives.

Second-year student Derick Castro was worried because, like many others, he never experienced a quarantine. He said he became concerned with his well-being especially while his mother had been stuck in El Salvador for a month. She recently returned home last week, according to Castro.

“I felt hopeless being in my house and my mother being stuck in another country and having to be on my own for the time being. However, as I was home, I was playing ‘Apex Legends’ with a friend of mine as well as my brother and cousin who were also stuck in their homes,” said Castro. 

He utilized the online chat service Discord to communicate with friends and family. He mentioned how gaming extended into something more for him as it became an avenue for him to keep connecting with others.

Some students described video games as an ideal method of escapism during this time. Criminal justice major Robert Rubalcava said social distancing has made people try to come together through gaming, even keeping people close in his life.

“I am playing with… a friend that has muscular dystrophy and a weak immune system. Right now, his parents are worried that something may happen to him so he can’t really leave the house at all for anything, so video games are a good way to stay close together,” said Rubalcava.

Rubalcava’s online games of choice are “Destiny 2,” “Monster Hunter: World” and “Animal Crossing: New Horizons.” He mentioned all these games are major time investments, but in this state, he finally has the time.

Similarly, some students found meeting up to be easier while self-isolating as planning around schedules has almost become a non-issue. Communication major Jessica Rejano said she has more time for gaming since there are no visitors to her house recently.

“Gaming and online communication have always been the way that [I] communicated with [friends]. In the past, we would only ever meet up once or twice a month, and even now, it’s a little nicer not having to worry about timing and feeding any guests I may have come over,” said communications major Jessica Rejano.

Rejano has been playing “Animal Crossing” and found even though she isn’t a creative person, the game challenges her to try to be. 

“Building my own town is a nice way to place all of my anxieties and drive [to] control…what I can,” she added.

English major Jose Reynoso said the situation has forced his friends back home to be creative as well. He said despite the pandemic, he and his friends have used other mediums to connect.

“The silver lining is that we all got back into our group chats to catch up, and one important catalyst would be video games. It lets us relax… and catch up with everyone else,” said Reynoso. He said he has been playing “League of Legends” and “Call of Duty” as they are both games that are most available to him and his peers within his gaming social circle.

Like Reynoso’s situation, graphic design major Salvador Contreras moved back to Victorville, leaving behind friends he made in L.A..

Contreras said he has been playing video games since he was 4 years old. Since then, they have become an essential part of his life. He often enjoys the absurdity within the video games he plays as a way to escape from reality. 

He said, “There’s a deadly virus in the world and most of us are confined [at home] talking to virtual animals.”

Some say that video games, especially online, are breaking stigmas against gamers. During this coronavirus pandemic, they’ve given Cal State LA students a way to keep their friendships even when they’re miles apart.