One of the greatest phenomena of the pandemic has been the trending video games like “Among Us” or “Animal Crossing: New Horizons.” In a world where there has been little else to do, students have been using video games to stay connected.

In on-campus housing, students have been limited by a number of COVID-19 restrictions. Students aren’t allowed to bring outside guests into their residence halls, and when they leave the halls, in-person events have been largely limited.

One student, junior dance major Wittni Cotton, of Teutopolis, Illinois, lives in Evergreen Hall. She said after downloading “Among Us,” she started getting connected with other students in her hallway in no time.

“I actually just downloaded it yesterday because my roommate was talking about it. We were trying to find some people, and we were like, ‘Well we don’t know anybody in our hallway, so let’s just invite everyone from there … We don’t know anybody, so it’s been pretty cool,’” Cotton said.

Cotton said it’s been tough meeting people under the COVID-19 restrictions.

“We can’t meet people in person really unless we have a mask on and are 6 feet apart. I would definitely consider it way harder [to meet people],” Cotton said.

“Among Us” has been one of the biggest video game successes over the past eight months. According to Steam Charts, the game peaked at 438,524 concurrent players on PC in mid-September.

Leading up to the election, some politicians like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and former congressional candidate Betsy Dirksen Londrigan used “Among Us” as a way to promote their campaign.

Sophomore secondary education major Ben Wilke, of Breese, Illinois, is the “Call of Duty” Team Coordinator for SIUE Esports. He said “Among Us” became successful for a variety of reasons.

“It was actually released back in 2018 … People are going back and looking at all the older not really out-of-date games that they can still use … With ‘Among Us’ you have the text features, you can be online, you have a room code. It really does maximize social distancing,” Wilke said.

Wilke has also been using video games to connect with his friends through the pandemic.

“[My friend] was in North Carolina since about May. I’m now his roommate, along with our two friends, and one way we kept in contact with him was we played games online,” Wilke said.

While video games are helping students stay connected, the games they are using to communicate are rapidly changing. While “Animal Crossing” was popular right at the start of quarantine, the appeal has worn off for some. “Among Us” may also see the end of its popularity soon. Its number of daily concurrent players sharply dropped from 336,108 on Nov. 7 to 135,278 on Nov. 9.

Students aren’t exclusively playing trendy games like “Among Us,” though. Graduate pharmacy student Alek Zajchowski, of Rockford, Illinois, has been playing “Dungeons and Dragons” using Roll20, an online service that lets users play tabletop role playing games virtually. He said he likes the creativity that “Dungeons and Dragons” allows.

“D and D gives us enough flexibility to kind of turn it into our own game … We can kind of do whatever we want because we’re not even doing a traditional one either. We’re doing a ‘One Piece’ [homemade] kind of D and D campaign,” Zajchowski said.

Zajchowski said playing “Dungeons and Dragons” online with his friends helped a lot through quarantine.

“It gave me something to differentiate each day. Deciding what we were going to do for most of the day gave me some way to be social still … I think it’s been very helpful,” Zajchowski said.

Students interested in online gaming can check out the SIUE Esports Club.

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