After a year of both personal and professional turmoil, 2020 was going to be the year that I turned the tide. I decided that as much as I was traveling in 2019, I was going to do even more in 2020. Not only that, but I was going to do more in general: I was looking forward to making more time for myself. meet up in bars and restaurants with friends, and I was even planning to throw a house party or two. Sadly, as we’ve all learned, 2020 was not the year none of us expected, and nearly all of my plans were put on hold.
We know the story of 2020 all too well, but with travel, such a key part of how I planned to heal from a 2019 that, quite frankly, left me emotionally upset, I was left. to myself. Thankfully, while 2020 has been an often terrible year, it delivered a ton of awesome games that provided an escape. As I played through the different adventures that the year has brought us, I realized that I was experiencing so many destinations that I love through the real world in the virtual world.
Don’t get me wrong: visiting Japan in a video game doesn’t even hold a candle to experience the wonders of this country in real life, but when a lot of my gaming time has been devoted to digital recreations of this country I couldn’t help but feel warm and fuzzy. My actual experience with Japan is limited to Tokyo, so I loved exploring the places I visited a few months ago with Persona 5 Royal. Not only is this game one of my favorite RPGs of all time, but Shibuya and the other important areas of Tokyo are so prominently displayed that they almost feel like characters themselves. I was able to explore Japan more thanks to Yakuza: Like a Dragon, which showcases other parts of Tokyo and the surrounding area, while Ghost of Tsushima gave me another round-trip ticket (plus a time machine) in arguably the most beautiful game I’ve ever seen. play.
But it didn’t stop in Japan. The Last of Us Part II allowed me to venture across the country to various familiar places in Seattle, my favorite city in the Pacific Northwest. Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales let me visit another city that I miss dearly, Manhattan, although being able to look across the Brooklyn Bridge without being able to go was a bit of a tease. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 allowed me to visit very vague interpretations of many cities around the world, although I admit it was more of a warm blanket of nostalgia that was reminiscent of simpler, more normal times. than anything else.
Wall Market definitely has its issues, but it was a nice change of scenery from my house
Even the fantastic places I could immerse myself in turned into mini vacations; say whatever you want about Cyberpunk 2077, but Night City is a big, colorful place to get lost. The same could be said of worlds like Midgar and Golden Isle in Final Fantasy VII Remake and Immortals Fenyx Rising respectively; I know these aren’t based on actual locations, but they were worlds I could fall into without much effort.
Oddly enough, I didn’t spend a lot of time with the game that might have been the best way to deal with a lack of travel: Microsoft Flight Simulator. Not only would this experience allow me to visit any place on the planet with photorealistic visuals, but also the joys of the journey itself, with seeing the gates of my most familiar airports. You’d think it would almost serve as an unexpectedly heartwarming reminder of the more mundane moments of the trips I was hoping to take, but to be honest, ever since I moved my main workstation to my gaming PC at home , it was so hard to force me. to sit in front of my computer longer than necessary for the working day. I will revisit Microsoft Flight Simulator when it comes to Xbox or when I can work in our office again, whichever comes first.
Probably not a good idea in real life 2020, but in video game 2020 it was awesome!
Even other times in the games seemed to have been different this year; hearing the roar of the entire crowd in EA Sports UFC 4 or Madden NFL 21 was just plain enjoyable. Or the feeling of ordering a massive crowd of music festivals in Fuser. Even something like island hopping and running in Le Touryst seemed unusual in 2020, but somehow heartwarming.
Of course, one of the best parts of the trip is seeing the friends and family that you don’t live by. This year’s experiences have allowed me to spend quality time remotely with them. Outside of a Zoom trivia group that I joined in the early months of the pandemic, games like Fall Guys and Overwatch (yeah, I know it’s not a 2020 game, but I’m still playing it. !) Gave me fun excuses to catch up. friends that I can’t see otherwise this year, but no game sums up the concept of traveling to visit friends better than Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Striking at the right time, Animal Crossing: New Horizons allowed me to visit friends’ virtual homes to not only hang out with them, but also receive inspiration for my own island. While multiplayer is arguably the worst component of Animal Crossing: New Horizons in terms of playability and convenience, it was exactly what I needed.
I still desperately hope to be able to travel in 2021 – I miss my family and friends, on top of the sheer wonder of getting lost in an unknown city. But as I reflect on the gaming experiences offered by the developers throughout 2020, many of them have brought similar experiences that I missed in my real life for most of the year. For that, I am more than grateful to the creators of these experiences.