It’s no secret that there’s been a lot of negativity and horrible things happening in 2020. It has been tough for a lot of people, physically, emotionally and socially. However, videogames have helped many of us in a lot of ways and have made some things about this year easier to get through.
In just 12 months, we’ve gone through a pandemic, the threat of world wars, political catastrophes, racial injustices, the death of beloved celebrities, widespread wildfires, economic collapse, natural and man-made disasters and the delaying/cancelling of most sporting and gaming events. So I cannot stress enough how important gaming has been for me and many others as a source of escapism throughout all this turmoil.
It’s easy to get caught up in all the bad and shocking things that have happened and forget that, actually, a lot of good things have happened. In many ways, 2020 has been a great year for videogames despite a few unwanted exceptions.
Here I will be providing a summary of all the good things from the past 12 months, which brought joy, happiness and a sense of community to gamers all over the world. Of course, with every story, there is a negative side, a counter-argument that can be useful to address in certain contexts. However, this article will act as a celebration of the good of videogames in 2020, so I believe this isn’t the time or place for negativity.
Loads of Great Games
It’s actually surprising how many great games were released despite most developers having to work from home since March. Videogames in 2020 have ranged from cinematic adventures in gorgeous settings such as with Ghost of Tsushima to beautiful hyper-stylised roguelikes with Hades and joyfully relaxing times spent in Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
There have also been loads of surprises and hidden gems this year. As mentioned, the new Animal Crossing received widespread acclaim when it was released in March and has sold incredibly well as people have become obsessed with it while in lockdown. Among Us saw an insane rebirth despite launching two years ago. Game show battle royale Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout came out of nowhere and captured a sense of excitement and fun, which was in desperate need, to get us through the tough times.
Then there are games like The Last of Us Part II, which presented a rich and layered narrative that has been widely acclaimed for the maturity of its story and the flawless craftsmanship of its design. While at the same time, it gave us one of the most beautiful and heartfelt flashback sequences with Ellie’s birthday trip to the museum.
If you want to know more about the best of 2020, check out our list of top games overall and our picks for the best in each genre. Generally, the Game of the Year competitions have been incredibly close and passionately contested.
Connecting with Friends
Meeting up with friends and family became very difficult for a lot of people this year, but videogames in 2020 provided an alternative to face-to-face interaction. Multiplayer gaming has allowed for people to come together in virtual spaces to work together, compete against each other or simply to hang out and socialise.
Many of the most successful titles of the year allowed for this, including titles mentioned earlier such as Among Us, Fall Guys and Animal Crossing. Plus others that came out a few years ago, like Stardew Valley, older Call of Duty games and Fortnite. This highlighted the positive impact of videogames this year, allowing social connection while it has been unavailable elsewhere.
Keeping in touch and making sure your loved ones are OK is very important no matter the circumstances, but as 2020 has been especially taxing on our mental health, being social and having fun with friends is even more important now. It doesn’t matter if this takes place on the Verdansk battlefields of Call of Duty Warzone or while horseback in the open plains of Red Dead Online.
2020 also saw many gaming communities come together with various collaborations in Fortnite, Rocket League, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Polar opposites even came together this year in the form of Animal Crossing’s Isabelle and Doom’s Doomguy due to the shared released date between the two titles. The unlikely pairing was shared by fans all over social media and was even picked up by the official accounts, which continued to spread the positivity despite the radically different types of games.
— sarah ☾ (@Fluffielox) February 20, 2020
A New Generation
November saw the release of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S. A new generation of consoles is always an exciting time as it continues to break through the limits of what is possible for gaming. Having something to look forward to is very important for mental health, and what can be bigger than a brand new PlayStation and Xbox? With the new hardware, videogames in 2020 are set to become more immersive with higher resolutions, framerates and better graphics. The PS5’s new controller also provided completely new ways to play, highlighted by phenomenal games like Astro’s Playroom.
I believe the difference between Sony and Microsoft’s consoles this generation is smaller than it’s ever been. With the PS3/360, the PS3 was initially way more expensive than the 360 and notoriously hard for developers to use. In the PS4/One era, Xbox has a disastrous reveal resulting in them playing catch-up for seven years. Whereas now both consoles are similarly priced with cheaper versions and similarly powerful; Xbox has Game Pass and PlayStation has great exclusives. Strong competition is good for everyone, and it helps to ensure innovation and better experiences. This year no matter which console you went for, you’re guaranteed to have a fun time, and many games have been cross-generational, so you’re not missing out if you’re unable to upgrade.
PC users weren’t left out in 2020 either. Nvidia released its new 30 series of graphics cards offering powerful graphical capabilities for a much cheaper price than its predecessor. Overall many gamers could potentially experience a new level of videogames with all the excitement that comes with it, providing an end-of-year treat for the most dedicated fans.
More Time to Play
The best part about growing up and getting a job is that you can buy all the videogames that you want, but then you realise that you spend all your time working and now you’ve got no time to play them. 2020 offered an alternative for a lot of people: get paid AND stay at home all day. Disregarding any trivial matters such as working from home, zoom meetings and the deep-down realisation that you actually like work, we have all had way more time to game this year than ever before.
This is one reason why many of the games mentioned before, such as Fall Guys and Among Us, became so popular because people had the time to focus on multiplayer competitive gaming and weren’t discouraged by anyone who had played more than them. The extra time also gave many people the opportunity to dig into their backlog, uncovering masterpieces that had gone under their radar.
This is for the better as well. Videogames can be seen as a way of self-improvement by encouraging planning, mastering systems and reaching personal goals. You can master a certain difficult boss in a Soulsborne game, or build up your farm in Stardew Valley or work together with a friend to be the best in a multiplayer lobby. Whatever you’re doing, you’re teaching yourself valuable skills that can transfer to other areas in life.
Growth of the Industry
As more people were stuck at home, a major source of entertainment has been videogames. In 2020, total spending grew to US$33.7 billion in the United States during the first nine months compared to US$27.9 billion for the start of 2019. The industry has always been growing year on year recently, but the increase was exponential this year, plus many more people who’d rarely play games started playing more. For example, the amount of people gaming in the UK grew 63% during the lockdown.
The effects of this will be felt for years going forward because as more people play, more investment will be put into the industry, which will essentially result in better experiences. It has also helped improve the wider public perception of gaming, which has been up and down over the years but has never reached the same level as other art forms. By exposing the best of videogames to a wider audience, the out-dated stigmas and stereotypes surrounding ‘gamers’ should soon fade away.
When you really look at it, there have been loads of good things in the world of gaming in 2020. Both as an indirect consequence of the bad and completely independently. It seems that no matter what platform you’re on, what games you played or who with, there has been plenty of ways to have fun and make the most of an otherwise terrible year.