GAME ON: Making Art in The Age of COVID-19

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A few days ago, I got a message from former NYFA Games student Shaquan Ladson (1-Year Game Design Program, 2017), who finds himself quarantined in the rural Pacific Northwest. “This time at home is making me miss being around good company and creatives,” he wrote me. We texted for a bit and I advised him to see the wealth of opportunity in this time alone. What will the world do, I wonder, on this global artist’s retreat?

Those of us lucky enough to be stuck at home during “Borentine” (as a friend so aptly dubbed this time) have a unique opportunity to flex our creative muscles, and create without the usual restrictions of time and commerce. 

While the news inundates us with frightening stats and global uncertainty, and we marvel at the courage of healthcare professionals and those services we consider essential for our modern life, humanity has been connecting in the most inventive and intimate ways. We’re getting our groove on at home with Instagram Live DJ sets from people like celebrity darling @DNice and my hometown hero @DJ_Oso_Fresh, as well as exploring the magical self-expression of distance nightlife through #ClubQuarantine

TikTok insanity has gripped everyone from Jane Fonda’s 9 to 5 send-up to my in-laws’ happy Birthday Abuela dance. Let’s hope you’ve seen some variation of the high fashion Trikini for summer 2020. We’ve gotten weird, people, and I. AM. HERE. FOR. IT.

And that’s all happening when we’re not scrolling, streaming, or gaming. According to SuperData Research, we spent a record $10 Billion in March on digital games – that’s the biggest monthly expenditure on games, ever. Nintendo’s brand new Animal Crossing: New Horizons sold 5 million units in March alone – the most any single title has sold in one month. It’s no surprise that a lot of that spending is on MMORPGs and networked multiplayer games, across all platforms. When we can’t be together, we play together.

I’m not gonna lie, my Farmville 2: Country Escape obsession had definitely cooled until I was forced to find ways to disconnect from all this high-intensity family time. While I farm away 5 minutes at a time, my students are playing hours of FIFA20, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and reliving their youth through fan-supported servers of  Club Penguin. Other worthy titles include:

  • Armchair epidemiologists and politicians have a chance to save the world in Pandemic the board game.
  • Bring your darkest sense of humor to the browser based Pandemic 2, where you play as a virus that aspires to become a species-decimating disease. 

Photo Credit: Club Penguin Online

Whatever your pleasure, games are a way for us to connect, to comfort, and to escape.

I don’t want to sound trite: millions of people are losing their jobs, many are facing life-threatening illness and death on a daily basis, and all the burdens we struggled with before feel a lot heavier now. 

The beauty of creativity is that it is in you, in me, and in us. It’s in the ways we are providing and caring for each other, and the ways we’re finding laughter even in grief. So whether you’re alone in the woods, or stuck in your 5th floor walkup, you have something inside you that deserves to be seen and heard. If games are your artform, I hope you’ll join us in making something meaningful and magical.

Classes in our 1-Year Conservatory, BFA, and MFA programs start every quarter. Click here for more info.

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