Video gaming is a hobby that is very well suited to our current state of lockdown for many reasons; most notable is the medium’s ability to provide experiences that transport us from our immediate environment into new worlds, and connect with people all around the world. Whilst presenting the BAFTA Games Awards Dara O’Briain said that gamers had a lot to teach us about ways in which we can stay connected with one another during this time. Whilst the world of online gaming can be a very mixed experience, I have a few suggestions of gaming communities and content producers you could benefit from connecting with, whether you’re a gamer or not!
(Image from EGX)
Outside Xbox and Outside Xtra
As a PlayStation user, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself a regular viewer of Outside Xbox. The tribal PlayStation vs. Xbox division no longer mattered as I enjoyed the warm, wholesome content of presenters; Andy Farrant, Jane Douglas and Mike Channell talking about various unusual and amusing quirks they’d found in their extensive video game careers. The onscreen chemistry between the three of them is wonderful as their personalities and gaming preferences clash in sitcom worthy escapades!
A few years ago, Outside Xtra was formed as a sister channel, with presenters; Ellen Rose and Luke Westaway creating similar content, whilst covering other consoles such as PlayStation and Nintendo Switch. Outside Xtra also developed more of a focus interpersonal games, with various fun challenges around arts and crafts, choose your own adventure and many more. If you’re stuck for fun creative things to do around the house and are looking for inspiration, their Show of the Weekend archives are a veritable treasure trove of fun challenges for you to pinch!
(The Outside Xbox and Outside Xtra teams combined! From left to right; Mike, Ellen, Luke, Jane and Andy. Picture from Eurogamer.)
For the last few weeks, both channels’ formats have changed to allow all the presenters to collaborate on videos from their homes. This means a lot more live streams, where viewers can join in a group chat, for the OX team to read and respond to in real time, giving their shows a more communal and inclusive element. Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending a virtual festival where the team got together on Luke’s Animal Crossing Island for an evening of music, courtesy of in-game canine artist, K.K. Slider! As ridiculous as it sounds, it was a genuine delight and we treated it like a real festival, with Pizza, drinks, summer clothes, and even turning our phone torches on at the end!
(From OutsideXtra’s Instagram)
PlayStation Access has also been a regular favourite YouTube channel of mine. Similar to the OX team, presenters; Rob Pearson, Nathan Ditum, David Jackson and Rosie Caddick, have regular weekly features where they talk about their various experiences in gaming, often with more of a focus on their own gaming quirks, which are very easy to identify with as a gamer. Rob, in particular, has clearly thought a lot about the many positive aspects of gaming, ranging from escapism, flexing your creative muscles, all the way to improving one’s mental health. Rob’s solo Friday Features are excellent and it’s also great fun to watch the Tuesday Checklist (now on a Wednesday…) with the wider team as each presenter tries their best to tell a story whilst being playfully heckled by the others!
(One of Rob’s Friday Features from the channel. Picture from PlayStation Access’ YouTube.)
It’s also worth noting, that there is a PlayStation Access Fans group that has formed a very supportive group on Discord – a useful chatting and community app. The group is not officially endorsed by PlayStation Access but it is recognised and the two groups seem to have a good symbiotic relationship. It’s been a pleasure being a part of the discord group at this time, but not just to chat about games. There are various channels within the group including, but not limited to, fitness, food, creative projects and good news. Admins have also let members know that if they are struggling with anything in their personal lives, to not be shy about letting the community know and it has been so heartening to see the community coming together to support each other whenever this happens. If you’re interested in joining yourself, you need only check out the PlayStation Access Fans Twitter account and follow the link in the description.
For anyone looking for gaming communities that are more table-top (board game) orientated, then I would highly recommend checking out Dicebreaker. Run by Johnny Chiodini, Michael Wheelan, Alex Lolies, Sara Elsam, Alex Meehan and Matt Jarvis, Dicebreaker offers a host of articles and videos. These include reviews of a wealth of games you can order to play at home, ‘let’s plays’ so you can see how they’re run, advice for running and playing games, and suggestions for table-top simulators that allow you to play games you love with friends and family despite the lockdown.
(Johnny (left) Wheels (right) invite you to check out Dicebreaker! You can meet the rest of the team by following this link. Image from Dicebreaker’s YouTube.)
You and others like you!
Whilst it’s great to see all the communities you can link up with out there, it’s also important to remember that you also have the potential to create fun and supportive virtual communities yourself. Apps and websites like Discord, Facebook and Amino allow users to create and partake in communities easily, whilst apps like Skype enable face to face video calls and Houseparty adds a few trivia and drawing games to play with one another, whilst we catch up on everything big and small. Gaming has given us many tools for staying connected during this time, from engaging in multi-player matches on our consoles, through to more low-intensity experiences like table-top simulators and apps to the fan communities that form over shared interests. Thanks to gaming, there are so many positive communities you can connect with remotely and you have the potential to start a community that will bring positivity to others.
(image from Designecologist on Pexels.)