Gaming During the Pandemic Is Starting to Feel Like Work

And that’s not a bad thing

Steve Rousseau


A black and white screenshot from Animal Crossing: New Horizons. The player villager looks dazed in front of a computer.
Photo courtesy of Damon Beres and Nintendo.

On March 15, just days before Chicago would issue a shelter-in-place order in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Max Plenke decided to get really into Counter-Strike.

Recognizing that he was about to spend a lot of time stuck in his apartment, Plenke, a branded content editor, realized that there was probably no better time than now for him to jump back into one of the most competitive online shooters after nearly two decades of not playing. Over the past two months, he’s logged over 200 hours.

“There’s something weirdly comforting about it,” he tells me. “I can’t think about how desperately bad things are when there are teenagers who are about to ruin me.”

In early April, Lia Russell, a Bay Area labor reporter, dusted off the PS4 she had bought with her dad two years ago and started exploring a fading Wild West in Red Dead Redemption 2.

“If there’s a time in my life where I can justifiably sit on my butt and play games, it’s now,” Russell…