Playing Together… Separately
While youths stayed home during the circuit breaker, Lee Zhi Ying finds out more about three popular online games that played a part in helping them stay connected during that period.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons has become a popular game among youths during the circuit breaker. Photo courtesy of Chan Jing Yi.
LEE ZHI YING
July 7, 2020
A recent HYPE survey conducted among 101 youths between the ages of 18 and 35 found that 95 per cent had played online games during the circuit breaker. Among those who played, 91.7 per cent flocked to online games to stay social during that time of physical distancing.
Youths in Singapore found solace in online games which helped players develop a sense of community.
In a bid to curb escalating Covid-19 transmissions, the Singapore government put in place strict circuit breaker measures from Apr 7, which included the shift of schools to Home-Based Learning (HBL) and the closure of most work premises.
In the same survey, Skribbl.io, Houseparty and Animal Crossing: New Horizons were listed as the top three online games played by youths during the circuit breaker.
Skribbl.io: Drawing Connections Online
Skribbl.io was a popular source of entertainment for many groups of friends during their downtime. Photo by Lee Zhi Ying.
Screenshot of a Skribbl.io game, where participants compete to be the first to guess the drawing. Photo by Lee Zhi Ying.
Skribbl.io is a multiplayer drawing and guessing game that puts the players’ drawing skills to the test. Each game can accommodate up to 12 players, and they can choose to play with either friends or strangers around the world.
In each round, a player selects a word to draw while others guess what the word is. Points are awarded based on the time taken for a player to guess the correct word and the number of players who correctly guess the chosen word.
The game struck a chord with youths, as many used it to reconnect with friends whom they had not been in touch with for many months.
“When I played Skribbl.io with my church friends whom I have not met face-to-face in over three months, it wasn’t awkward because we could laugh at each other’s drawings,” said Deborah Tan, 19, a marketing intern at Singapore Airlines.
While the game had put some players into fits of laughter through each other’s drawings, other players felt that the game’s unique appeal is its feature for players to add custom words into the word bank.
“Playing Skribbl.io with my friends from secondary school brought back many fond memories from the past as we played with custom words that contained a lot of inside jokes,” said David Ivan Vicedo, 19, a final-year Engineering Science student from Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP).
Houseparty: Virtual Parties From Home
Favoured by many youths during Covid-19, Houseparty enables friends and families to host video chats while playing a slew of games. Image from Houseparty.
Houseparty is an application that allows users to video call while selecting a host of in-app games to play, such as “Trivia”, “Heads-up” and “Quick Draw”.
The application has been around since 2016, but it saw a resurgence in popularity when self-isolation kicked in. According to Sensor Tower, about 17.2 million people downloaded the application in Mar 2020 alone.
With up to eight players allowed in one room, one’s friends can easily walk in and join the conversation if the ‘door’ to the party is left unlocked.
Some users were drawn to the application’s format of spontaneous notifications when their friends opened the application.
“Houseparty has really allowed me to interact with my friends more than I expected to, and the circuit breaker does not seem so bad after all,” said Alden Andrew, 18, a second-year Psychology Studies student from NP.
“However, the more I play [Houseparty] with my friends, the more I appreciate the times when I could interact with them in real life and really just reminds me [of] how much I miss them,” Alden added.
Animal Crossing: Crossing Boundaries Into New Horizons
Ms Chan’s virtual birthday party celebration with her friends on Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Photo courtesy of Chan Jing Yi.
Nintendo’s Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a social simulation game where players take on the role of a lone human placed on a deserted island inhabited with anthropomorphic animals. In the game, players are tasked to build their own version of a utopian island paradise.
Since the game’s initial release on Mar 20, it has become a global phenomenon, according to Nintendo’s quarterly sales report which revealed that the game sold over 11.7 million units within the first quarter.
Chan Jing Yi, 26, a graphic designer from Golden Village Multiplex, had been working from home since the government’s announcement of the closure of all entertainment venues on Mar 24. She bought Animal Crossing: New Horizons on her Nintendo Switch to keep herself occupied while being cooped up indoors.
Her purchase proved to be the saving grace for her lack of physical interaction during the circuit breaker.
“Animal Crossing has created a safe space for me to hang out with my friends and family, which makes spending time at home more bearable,” said Ms Chan.
Animal Crossing has created a safe space for me to hang out with my friends and family, which makes spending time at home more bearable.
The social aspect of the game had resulted in endless opportunities for virtual social gatherings.
With the ability to visit each other’s islands, innovative players made use of this feature to host virtual celebrations like birthday parties ever since the pandemic derailed plans worldwide.
“My most memorable time in Animal Crossing has to be hosting a birthday party and inviting my friends over as my birthday [coincided with] the circuit breaker period and none of them could physically be there to celebrate with me,” Ms Chan recalled.
Although online games served as a substitute for face-to-face meetings among youths during the circuit breaker, some said that they would stop online gaming once they emerged from the Covid-19-induced tunnel of isolation.
“I will definitely make plans to meet up with them as soon as the circuit breaker ends as physical interaction, in my opinion, is somewhat a basic need for most youths,” David said.
I will definitely make plans to meet up with them as soon as the circuit breaker ends as physical interaction, in my opinion, is somewhat a basic need for most youths.