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Sunday, May 9, 2021

Wholesome entertainment strikes back amidst ongoing quarantine

The perfect stay-at-home movie snack. // Western Front archive

Students are still finding ways to stay entertained and connected through video games and shows during the COVID-19 lockdown

By Phoenix McAuley

As the world hunkers down for the foreseeable future while COVID-19 takes hold of the country, many Western students are finding new ways to entertain themselves and stay social. 

Video games bonding people together is a tried and true formula. Kids can remember playing Mario Kart at slumber parties with their friends. A bonding agent as sticky as video games is a great way to stay connected, especially during a time where socializing has become a temporary taboo. 

“Chatting with friends over an online game as mundane as Counter-Strike carries more weight now that it’s basically some of the only social time you get outside of your roommates,” said Jarred Main, a third-year composition major at Western. 

Main says that regular hangouts on Discord have become the new norm for his friend group and most others he knows. Discord is a communication platform designed for the video gaming communities. It is an app that allows groups of friends to chat over audio, video and text, usually while they are all playing a video game together on the same server. 

A game that has become quite popular over the last month is Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Released for the Nintendo Switch on March 20, the  life simulator sold 1.88 million copies in just three days according to the Wall Street Journal, making it the fastest selling game in Nintendo history.

The latest installment in Nintendo’s village community franchise promises that in Animal Crossing: New Horizon’s you can, 

“Show off your island utopia to family and friends—or pack your bags and visit theirs. Whether playing online* or with others beside you**, island living is even better when you can share it. Even without hopping on a flight, you’ll meet a cast of charming animal residents bursting with personality. Friendly faces like Tom Nook and Isabelle will lend their services and happily help you grow your budding community. Escape to your island getaway—however, whenever, and wherever you want.”

Missions in Nintendo’s new sandbox include collecting bugs, farming, doing errands for your neighbor, decorating your house and garden, and other activities. New Horizons world is brought to life by the Switch’s state of the art graphics and gameplay. 

“I’ve been playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons pretty much every day. I like it because I can visit my friends’ islands and interact with them even though I can’t see them in person. Since the whole game is about going out in nature and talking to your villagers, it’s kind of the perfect escapist fantasy right now,” said Raven Klingele, Associated Student Films coordinator.

While video games like Animal Crossing keep students busy chasing butterflies, not everyone has a Nintendo Switch or is into gaming. Before video games, the original communal shared entertainment experience was the movies. Now with the closure of theaters, students are getting together to revisit classics and enjoy some escapism.

AS Films is keeping up with the quarantine by hosting live streaming events for students. Klingele is hosting a live viewing of the anti-marijuana propaganda film Reefer Madness on April 20. She said she hopes  a ton of people tune in.

“ASP is working on some virtual events that I would encourage students to attend! Personally, I’m hosting a live stream of the movie Reefer Madness on April 20th. It’s a really cheesy old movie, so I’m hoping people will all come to make fun of it together.”

Experts recognize that consuming media, you have an experience that shapes your perception of reality.

The Center for Media Literacy lists five core concepts about media. The second core concept is that, “media shapes our perceptions of reality.” Media experts suggest that the media that we consume reflect our outward perceptions of the world. In a time where the world is at a peak of disconnection, maybe digesting media that reflects values of community, trust, hope and positivity.

That would suggest that if we can ingest positive forms of entertainment that reinforce a sense of community and hope, it may improve our perceptions of the state of the world around us.

Western film studies professor Kamarie Chapman said, “Right now we’re all yearning for a sense of community and connection. Students message me all the time for recommendations for what to watch during the quarantine and I keep recommending classic lighthearted comedies. Personally, I’ve been rewatching 80s teen comedies with my family. Watch something that will make you smile!” 

Now when someone asks you, “What’s good on Netflix?” think extra hard about your answer. The perfect show might just be the right medicine.

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