As health restrictions become more intense under level red restrictions, video game enthusiasts have been able to remain social through their pastime of choice.
"It’s kind of given me a way to communicate with people, or socialize with people without being directly in front of them," Brandon gamer Joseph Canada said.
Various multiplayer games allow people to speak with one another in real time, through video, audio and text.
Throughout the years, the 32-year-old said he has made various friends online from around the world.
More recently, he has taken to creating a livestream of his gaming using the online platform Twitch (twitch.tv/flipside13), every day for the last couple of months. During these broadcasts, between approximately five and 20 people have tuned in to watch him play video games and talk with them in real time.
On Nov. 7, he participated in an Extra Life charity event, during which he raised more than $100 toward Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals from his viewers.
"It’s given me a way to kind of express (myself)," he said.
"I talk to viewers about what’s on my mind, so it helps me express what I’m feeling and it also gives me a chance to talk with other people," he said.
They talk about not only video games, but movies, comics and various other interests.
Although his household includes his girlfriend, who he can isolate with during level red, and he’s still able to go to work, which allows him an opportunity for socialization, he said his time with other like-minded people online, talking about their hobbies, has helped throughout the pandemic.
Fellow local gamer Jeremy Baker said that he has been interacting with people through gaming since the mid-’90s when correspondence was limited to the written word.
It has since evolved to include audio and video options.
"I was a kid at the time, and they were all kids, and now we’re all old," he said with a chuckle. "They’re all old friends."
Although he said games are the thing that bring them together, they tend to use it as a launching point for broader conversations about issues of the day, which has most recently included how their respective regions are handling the global pandemic.
More of a tabletop gaming fan, Baker said some people have even taken to finding ways to play these typically in-person games online.
His gaming group has put things on hold due to the pandemic and a member being immunocompromised, but they still talk online.
At local video-game store 8 Bits of Awesome, employee Rob, who declined to share his last name, said there was a significant uptick in sales early on in the pandemic.
"Once school closures were announced, we saw a huge wave of parents looking for games to keep their kids busy and active with games like ‘Just Dance,’" he said.
"As time went on, it kind of shifted to local multiplayer games that people could play together in the same room."
The upward trend in sales continued throughout the pandemic, he said, adding that a lot of people were looking for a way to keep entertained while at home.
"Gaming is definitely a great way to stay connected with all sorts of games, from ‘Call of Duty’ to ‘Fortnite,’ ‘Minecraft’ and everything in between."
» Twitter: @TylerClarkeMB