The past year or so of our new pandemic world has been isolating for a lot of us; I personally delt with a lot of loneliness early on, and worried that I was disconnecting from my friends when I was no longer able to see them in person. Thankfully, I was able to use technology to maintain my friendships in a long-distance way, and one of the more surprising ways that I’ve been able to connect to them is through gaming.
I’ve enjoyed playing video games for many years, but I always considered it a really focused, solitary activity, spent alone in the computer room as a child or locked up in my dorm room at college. I would join occasional board game nights with my friends or family, but they were never my first instinct; I always figured I was too competitive to really enjoy myself in a group game. But as it turns out, connecting through games virtually has been a wonderfully way to keep in touch with my friends regularly. After all, a set weekly game night is a great excuse to meet up with one another!
This has taken multiple forms for me. I’ve done board game nights over Zoom, which always seems to end up in delightful chaos; I’ve joined online games digitally through shared servers where I can team up with my friends; and I’ve even started playing table top games like Dungeons and Dragons with my friends through Zoom, which has become a regular collaborative storytelling experience. I reexamined how I thought of gaming in the first place, particularly my need to be competitive, and began to appreciate gaming as a form of community connection, rather than a solo win-lose activity.
I’ve found that many of these gaming nights have become an unexpected replacement for “girls nights”, and most of the groups I game with are entirely made up of other women. There is still an assumption by a lot of people that gaming, particularly video games or table top games, are mostly a hobby for boys. I haven’t found that to be true at all! In fact, it’s actually created wonderful feminine spaces for me that feel fun and safe, where I feel I can be myself and connect with other fabulous ladies and bond.
Earlier in 2020, I could feel myself pulling away from my friendships because of how stressed and isolated I felt, but gaming with my friends not only forced me to be social in new ways, but also helped to even strengthen the friendships that I already had. I actually became very close with several friends who had moved far away and whom I didn’t see in person very often, but now I talk to them every week. It isn’t always in the context of our gaming nights, but those games are what reconnected us in the first place. In a world that is increasingly digital, there are a lot of ways that we can connect with other people that we can take for granted when we have other options. Even when the world is able to fully recover and we’re all back to normal for good, I can’t imagine cancelling these game nights and not meeting up with my out-of-town friends to shoot virtual lasers, tend to our Animal Crossing islands, or roll some dice and laugh together. I don’t plan on stopping any time soon!
-Gabrielle Van Amburg
Girl Museum Inc.