The chaotic and scary events of 2020 – which so far show no signs of abating in 2021 – have caused a lot of stress, pain and upset. With mental health issues increasingly prominent even before covid-19 and the ensuing lockdowns, one of the biggest and most important conversations around the world has been about how to stay sane in this difficult time.

The effect of the lockdown on our digital lives has been well-documented. In short, it inarguably pushed forward digitalisation – already on a sharp upward curve – by several years. Zoom, Microsoft Teams, eCommerce, food delivery apps, and many others all played an outsized role in our lives in 2020.

Digital Developments

These developments tended to be born out of necessity, rather than want. We needed to communicate for work, so we rapidly moved over to Zoom and Microsoft Teams. We couldn’t eat out at restaurants or shop at brick-and-mortar stores, so we transitioned to apps and eCommerce faster than we would have otherwise.

But those changes aren’t much good at replicating moments of fun and frivolity. With almost all social events cancelled – and with only so much Netflix we can watch before our collective brains fall out of ears – the world needed to have some simple, wholesome fun together.

We tried Zoom quizzes, but that could only last so long. Instead, a supplementary, soothing, balm was the gentle silliness and fun of simple digital games, several of which trended throughout the year.

Mobile Games

One company providing these, Jackbox Games, had a particularly strong year. The operation behind titles like Quiplash – a simple game inviting players to make puns and fill in funny answers – saw a big boom in downloads and revenue.

Other games from Jackbox include Fibbage, which the company describes as a “lying, bluffing, fib-till-you-win trivia party game” and Drawful, which involves illustrating “ridiculous prompts”.

These digital games are generally extremely simple, easy to play and involve multiple players. In other words, they represent a simple and enjoyable escape from the sometimes overwhelming combination of stress and boredom presented by the pandemic.

Easy Multiplayer Gaming

They’re also strategically smart, too – many of these games can be played on a phone, rather than requiring a console – though they can be played there too, making access particularly easy. As the company says: “Jackbox Games titles are easy to pick up and play for gamers and non-gamers alike. We’ve worked hard to make sure you never need detailed instructions to get into a game and start having fun.”

Notable other titles which captured the zeitgeist in 2020 include Among Us, a mobile-based game in which players must either discover the traitor in their midst, or hide their true identity – often with hilarious results. Among Us transcended the gaming world in 2020 when US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez answered questions on live stream gaming platform Twitch while playing the game – capturing a moment as millions of people played the game at home while stuck in the covid lockdown.

And console-based game Fall Guys, another fun and simple – almost child-like – battle royale race-to-the-finish game, did very well in 2020. The game is remarkably simple compared to many of the ultra high-concept, detailed and serious titles which now saturate the market.

This all speaks to a confluence of many factors driven by covid-19. People are stuck at home, so they must do everything digitally. They’re bored, so they want entertainment. They’re stressed, so they want simple escapism. These titles, and other digital games like them, have stepped up and provided moments of light and fun in an otherwise dark time.

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