At this point saying 2020 was a rough year is like saying sandpaper is bad for drying your hands. It's a bit of an understatement. Living in California we had Covid (and all the supply line issues/hoarding that caused), some of the worst fires in our state (it's fun to go to bed wondering if you are going to be woken up by an evacuation order), and the impending fear of Murder Hornets getting tired of terrorizing Washington and moving down south, not to mention personal plans that were cancelled including a vacation to Japan with my girlfriend. This year has required major adjustments for most people including myself, and while overall if I had to review 2020 I would give it a fairly bad score, there were some bright spots, namely video games.
A bit of background, I graduated in May of 2018. I was fairly lucky, and got a job fairly quickly in the Bay Area, which meant I spent close to 2 hours in traffic every day. Factor in usual 9-10 hour days, making dinner and normal chores and errands, that really didn't leave much time for free time. My hobbies shifted to things that could be picked up and done in small chunks like reading and TV. In this regard, the Switch was a god-send letting me get some gaming in quickly at my lunch or even in bed. I was able to get through some classic Final Fantasies, and Dragon Quest 11S. During this time, my PS4 slowly kept accumulating dust. Games were getting longer and longer, and I was having less and less time. On the off chance, I did pick up a PS4 game, I didn't enjoy it because I was just rushing through it knowing time was limited.
Towards the end of 2019, we started hearing rumors and news of the next gen console. My excitement could not be lower. My launch PS4 was seeing less and less use, and when it was used, the games didn't grab me the way they used to. There were bright spots like God of War and Spider-man, but even big games like Red Dead Redemption 2 left me unimpressed when the first one was one of my favorite games of all time. I knew I would never get to touch 100 hour games like Persona 5. I had my Switch and while I knew there would be games on the next gen consoles I would miss out on, I accepted that I would never get the time to play them (let alone beat them).
Then Covid hit. I had receieved a new job in February and living in the Bay Area, they moved to working from home. They also required people take Fridays off, so I now had 3 day weekends for the forseeable future. I also cut out those Bay Area commutes and waking up early to get ready for work. I had my entire evenings in front of me. This caused me to do something I had wanted to do for years. I bought Persona 5.
Well I bought Persona 5 Royal. The game came out right around the time the Bay Area began working from home, and the rest of my county shut down. Not only did I have more free time, but there was nothing else to do but video games. I figured this game would be my 2020 game, and take me a majority of the year to get through. Yes, I wouldn't play many games this year, but I would play a game I had wanted to play for years and was considered one of the best turn-based RPGs ever.
Anyway I beat the game in about a month. The game completely and utterly absorbed me. I loved the characters, the plot the gameplay, the music, everything. And not being able to really go outside combined with multiple 3-day weekends meant I could focus on this game and just forget about the world ending outside. While this obviously is not as good an experience of actually going to Japan, running around fictional Tokyo was a fun way to take my mind off my failed vacation.
After that, I just steam-rolled through games. FF7 Remake was beaten in about two weeks (previously worried how I would beat it at all), then I played through the Trails in the Sky Trilogy, and Trails of Cold Steel and Trails from Zero. Beat a playthrough of Fire Emblem Three Houses, Resident Evil 3, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, Ghosts of Tsushima, and the Last of Us 2, not to mention a decent amount of Animal Crossing and a current playthrough of Xenoblade Chronicles. With each game I beat, I got more and more excited for upcoming games and next-gen. I started watching all the showcases live and let my excitement grow. I ended up getting extremely lucky and got my preorder in for the PS5 and on November 12 I woke up early to go to my local Best Buy and pick up my console. While I contemplated cancelling my order up until the release day, I knew I had made the right choice once I booted up Astro's Playroom.
Seeing all the references to all the games I had played since the original Playstation days solidified that love of games that had been growing all through 2020. Thinking back to the first time I played and loved Metal Gear, and Infamous and countless others, and knowing I was going to have so many more of those experiences with this new console was a high point in a rough year. I was able to Platinum that game as well as Miles Morales and I am currently really enjoying AC Valhalla, and on track to 100% it, which is the first AC game I have played in years after hearing how long Origins and Oddyssey were.
Will the world go back to normal at some point? Probably. And even if it doesn't things starting a family will definitely cut into some of that gaming time. At this time next year, will my PS5 be gathering dust due to not enough free time to playthrough any 40+ hour games? Maybe, but even if it does I will always remember the feeling games of 2020 gave me. They took me back to when I was kid and had nothing to do but play through video games after school and on weekends. It probably won't last, but it is one hell of a sendoff.