During these trying times, I find myself turning to video games to pass time, destress and have fun. I love video games for the unique way they are able to hold my attention and make me feel more present in the narrative they’re telling or in the tasks and challenges they present. When our schedules and sense of normalcy are disrupted as they are now, some games can even provide a sense of routine and a place to relax.
I have been playing games for most of my life, but I do remember a time when it was new to me. I have gone through the trials and tribulations of an under-powered laptop being my only avenue for accessing games as well. These are real barriers to entry for some, and these barriers certainly stunted my ability to explore the medium for some time.
So, I have compiled a short list of games to appeal to those of us who are new to or unfamiliar with gaming and might like to start now that quarantine has opened more time. These games will be easy for most laptops to run, easy to learn and most of all, fun to play.
Portal has frequently been heralded as a great game for beginners because of the way it eases players into the gameplay and gently ramps up the difficulty each level. Portal is a puzzle game, and though I’m generally not a fan of the genre, Portal was able to make puzzle-solving fun and exciting with its first-person-shooter-like gameplay and its hilariously snarky villain. Portal is available on Steam for $9.99.
Stardew Valley is a farming and life simulator game with beautiful pixel graphics which make it easy to run on most systems — it’s even available on mobile! This game is excellent for anyone who wants to relax and game in small bursts. Its gameplay is surprisingly engaging, and there’s much more to it than farming. Players can raise livestock, mine, fish, craft and build relationships with the unique and charming townsfolk. Stardew Valley is available on Steam for $14.99.
The Sims (3 or 4!)
The Sims is another life simulator, and while it doesn’t have the same variety of gameplay mechanics as Stardew Valley, players get to create and manage an entire household of characters. You may play as a benevolent overlord, making sure your Sims get to school or work on time and helping them build relationships, or you can see how much havoc you can wreak upon the city’s inhabitants. It’s wildly entertaining and nearly infinitely re-playable. The Sims 3 is available on Steam and Origin for $19.99. The Sims 4 is available on Origin for $39.99. There is a considerable amount of extra downloadable content available for both iterations of this series, which adds extra clothing options and gameplay features. They can get pricey, but I really enjoy the game even without all the extras.
It would be remiss of me not to mention Minecraft in this list. It is one of the best-selling video games of all time and is popular among children and adults alike. Minecraft is a sandbox game, meaning its gameplay encourages the player to roam the world and play the way they like. Its iconic, blocky graphics make it easy to run on most systems and provide a certain charm. For people who have never played, its freeform gameplay might be somewhat overwhelming. Minecraft is best played with friends, especially ones who are more familiar with the game, or with the help of a beginner’s guide to explain some of the game’s more subtle mechanics. Minecraft is available on almost anything you can play games on. The Java edition is available on the Minecraft website for $26.95.