Virtual gaming during the pandemic rises in popularity


Daniel Shin, Editor-In-Chief

Removing the prospects of in-person interactions, the COVID-19 pandemic ushered in an era of virtual connectivity through the rise in popularity of social media apps and video conferencing platforms. Now with students in SIS back at school, virtual meetings have served a purpose other than for online education: gaming.


Mainstream games, including Bingo, Crazy Eights, and chess, have made a comeback. While most of these games can be played through an online website at no cost, many have cited that face-to-face interactions—even if it is through a computer screen—add a level of excitement and engagement. 


“During the pandemic, I have played games such as Heads Up and chess over Discord with my friends,” Ryan Jung (10), avid chess player, said. “Using social media platforms has allowed me to more easily communicate with friends and made the overall gameplay more memorable. Although I do not play chess too often, I still see myself playing it in the future.”


Heads Up is a guessing game, in which a player holds up a screen without looking at it, displaying a word that the audience must describe. Within a limited amount of time, the player holding up the screen must identify the word displayed on the device.


Another popular choice aside from popular games like Heads Up is League of Legends, a multiplayer game in which teams of five engage in battle with each individual controlling personalized characters. Usually, League of Legends involves more than two players, making it perfect for large groups of people looking to engage in an immersive video game.


“Many new people began playing League of Legends during the pandemic,” Kevin Kim (10), game enthusiast, said. “I continued to play the game to socialize with friends during quarantine. I spend an average of around five hours a week playing Discord with friends, so I regularly use video conferencing apps for purposes other than online learning.”


Though League of Legends gained traction among students at SIS even before the pandemic, more students have begun playing the game, increasing the popularity of HSSC-sponsored Esport tournaments. On Oct. 11, 2021, SIS participated in the first-ever International School Esports League (ISEL), in which high school students played League of Legends through Discord with other schools. 


“I mainly use Discord to play League of Legends, Valorant, or other games since many other people have the application downloaded as well,” Nathan Kim (12), President of the E-sports club, said. “Using Discord is simply easier and less tedious than Zoom.”


Faculty members at SIS have also used social media apps and video conferencing platforms to connect with friends and play games. Whereas Discord is a popular app among students, Zoom and Google Meet remain popular choices for teachers.


“One-time last year, when we were all virtual, we [teachers] got together and did an online escape room on Zoom, which was really fun,” Emily McClintock, avid board game enthusiast, said. “Sometimes with my friends back home or with those here, I do play video games, such as Animal Crossing and Mario Kart.”


Despite virtual games continuing to be the popular choice of entertainment among SIS students and faculty amidst the ongoing pandemic, many have reported that in-person gaming is still more preferable. As such, some teachers have begun to participate in weekly board game activities rather than virtual games.


“Playing is much better in person,” Ms. McClintock said. “Lately, teachers have been playing Lords of Waterdeep as well as Wingspan. Those are the two main games that we play. Usually, we play these games every other week on Fridays”


Nevertheless, the popularity of video games that can be played online has continued to grow, and the E-sports club aims to increase the variety of games to encourage more students to partake in virtual gaming events.


“I think students will continue to use social media platforms like Discord and Zoom in the future since many have gotten used to gaming on those apps,” Ryan said. “Also, I think part of the reason virtual gaming has become so popular is that the activity allows students to not only re-connect with friends but also to enjoy a well-deserved break from school.”