With so much stress and anxiety in the world currently, many people are looking for outlets that are relaxing and peaceful. The writers at Love Thy Nerd would like to share some socially distanced activities that brought them peace: video games!
When the swashbuckling and hiding in hay bales is through, the feeling of hitting the open seas to the sounds of your men singing a new shanty makes me feel freer than I ever have in real life, like a bird hovering over the waters with no responsibility. Sure, there is a main quest for me to follow … somewhere. But am I going to get to it today? No. And no reason to rush it tomorrow, either. – Jake Corn
Animal Crossing: New Horizons has been my go-to game lately. It just exudes peace. Sometimes it is helpful to set aside all the troubles of the world and just go fishing, catch bugs, and plant flowers. I don’t even have to worry about social-distancing, even when I wish some of the villagers would give a bit more space (I’m looking at you, Zucker). The cheerful music and relaxed setting of my deserted island easily let me forget about the worries of life. – Steve Cullum
One of the aspects of mountain biking that I love most is something it shares in common with video games–both require intense focus. Riding a difficult trail is kind of like playing a precision platformer or a Dark Souls game–it encourages blocking everything out so that your attention is singularly given to finding the best route safely through the trail. Additional layers of complexity and adventure are added when you are miles from the trailhead at any given moment, in the woods, alone. It might sound intense, but I found this to be an incredibly effective way to relieve stress.
It is difficult to express what mountain biking has meant to me over the last year and a half since got back into the hobby. I tell people it is my healthy midlife crisis—it has introduced me to wonderful new friends, improved my physical health, and renewed my love of nature. Sadly, however, the Shelter at Home mandate from the governor of Tennessee means that most trails are closed at present. Up until recently, mountain biking video games have largely failed to deliver on what makes mountain biking great. All that changed, however, with Lonely Mountains: Downhill, which is honestly more of a platformer than a racing game. It’s just you, your bike, and the mountain. There are so many ways to make it to the bottom and the balance between pushing your bike to the limit, maintaining control, and avoiding crashing require focus and lead to flow. I can’t mountain bike much these days but careening down various beautiful low poly environments with only the sound of my tires ripping through the dirt and the buzz of my bike’s freehub on Lonely Mountain: Downhill is the next best thing. – Drew Dixon
I first came across The Flame in the Flood during a different stressful period of my life. Much like Oregon Trail, this post-apocalyptic survival game can kill you quickly and unexpectedly—but it’s also remarkably zen to float down the river as Scout and her dog, scavenging for resources to upgrade the raft or even simply a handful of dandelions or grubs to stave off starvation. Chuck Ragan’s gravelly-voiced songs add an air of both melancholy and hope. Maybe that’s morbid of me—but I appreciate the fact that a little resourcefulness and ingenuity can go a long way. – Lisa Eldred
NieR and NieR Automata
The tension of NieR and NieR Automata, in both cases, came with a lot of peace in the end for me. Especially Automata‘s true ending. – Patrick Gann
Until I played Refunct, I don’t think I ever would have associated speedrunning and parkour with a sensation of peace and calm. Yet there’s a tranquility to the rush of Refunct’s movements, a relaxed sense of purpose in only knowing your next step, and a gentle satisfaction in beholding your finished run. – David Jamison
When I’m feeling stressed, I tend to lean into it rather than away, a trait that shows up even during my gaming time. So, given the state of the world right now, I found myself playing games that increased my stress rather than decreasing it: Death Stranding, Control, Jedi: Fallen Order, and Resident Evil 2. I knew I needed to switch things up, so I took the plunge and booted up Stardew Valley for the first time. The parallels between my character and me became immediately apparent as I gave up the big city life for a quieter existence down on the farm. Now, my game time offsets my real-life stress as I find joy in tilling earth, petting my chickens each morning, making new friends, and experiencing the leisurely progress of time as one day folds into the next. – Lasse Lund
I didn’t realize how relaxing a game Forza Horizon 4 would be for me. I’m not a racing game aficionado (aside from a good game of Mario Kart) or that much of a car guy, but the amazing accessibility of FH4 allows you to tailor your gameplay experience to your tastes. Do you want to drive around a beautiful English landscape listening to classical music while driving off a ramp in a castle? You can do that! In FH4, you can’t crash, it’s impossible to hurt anyone by your reckless driving, and if you do decide to drive off-road onto a farm in your Bond-inspired Aston Martin, even the wildlife will always get out of the way! What results is an amazing driving simulator that strips away all the stress that inherently comes with driving in real life. – Jonathan Reedy
I mean… how chill can you get when you’re an adorable little Nintendo character made of yarn?! Both of these games just fill me with peace and joy. They’re delightful to look at and the music is bright and uplifting. They’re very simple platformers with no game-over screens, no timers, just jump from level to level, fight some adorably crafted bad guys, and get to the finish! No stress, just fun! And if you’re looking for a little more spice, then scour the levels for all the many hidden collectibles and you will find yourself a nice challenge. These games are perfect. – Jonathan Reedy
I have always enjoyed scribbling. My school notes are filled with silly doodles: scratching down random images has always been a soothing way to occupy my mind. Crayon Physics Deluxe turns that impulse into productive play–you solve puzzles by drawing creative… things of any kind. On top of that, it has a lovely zen soundtrack that makes every play session a super chill experience. – Kevin Schut
Flower is all about peace and swooping and wind and harmonious chimes and ecological renewal and really impressive looking blades of grass. This is a game where you can just drift in peace or zoom past plants to spark ecological renewal. I think it stands out less than it used to when it came out on the PS3 in 2009—but that’s because it was a bit of a trailblazer that helped make it more okay to make a game with no combat, a slow pace, and a relaxing soundscape. The indicator of its success is that it’s still my go-to game demo when I want to show that games can be about more than shooting. – Kevin Schut
When I’m stuck indoors and separated from society, Eastshade, is a Godsend. The game is all about appreciating the beauty of nature and of interpersonal relationships. As an artist, you use your skill to preserve the most beautiful parts of your world on canvas. But as a character, you become involved in the lives of every person you meet. It’s one of the most lovely things in the world right now to explore a place and a culture without fear. – Madeline Turnipseed