With most of the world on lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, video games are seeing a boost in popularity even beyond what they had already established in previous years. So seeing as musicians have been using video games as a way to stay sane on the road and in their downtime at home for decades, it’s no surprise that the two industries have seen a huge amount of crossover recently.
From artists using Twitch as a platform to share their music and gaming sessions to Animal Crossing: New Horizons taking over everything on the internet that wasn’t occupied by Tiger King, the presence of bands sharing their gaming habits has never been stronger. For someone like Jeremiah Fraites of The Lumineers — who’s made video games like Escape from Tarkov and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds such a large part of his life that he’s now partnered with Razer, a major gaming hardware company — the medium has long served a valuable purpose beyond just down-time entertainment.
“When we were out on tour for months at a time, I found playing games to be a great way to decompress after long days of music and a fun way to spend a couple of hours in the hotel room,” Fraites said. “Going from 10,000 screaming fans to the silence of a hotel room can be quite strange and odd, so being able to find a buffer between that with gaming has made touring for me so much more enjoyable.”
Since no one’s been able to take their favorite games with them on the road for some time, here’s what some of our favorite artists have been playing while in quarantine for the last several weeks.
Summary: The adorable — almost Tim Burton-esque — Hollow Knight takes gamers on an adventure through the puzzling land of Hallownest. But don’t let its cutesy visuals fool you, as one of the best Metroidvanias in recent history contains no shortage of difficult combat, platforming, and puzzles.
“I haven’t had a lot of time for recreational things like video games. I’ve been quite busy learning how to be a decent preschool teacher for my son. When I do get an hour here and there to jump into a virtual universe, I’m not in the Animal Crossing world like pretty much everyone I know is, I dive into the mesmerizing and gorgeously moody Hollow Knight on the Switch. It’s got everything I love about gaming. It’s challenging, beautiful to live in, mysterious, and really compels me to keep searching to uncover more. The art is incredible and the music is haunting. It’s basically a Metroid-style game where it’s less about story and more about discovery. It’s very meditative which I feel is healthy for someone like me, especially in this day and age. I can’t go outside, but I can unravel more and more of the ruins of this ancient and once populated underground dwelling that appears to have its own history and rules and exists in this game only to be found. It’s really soothing, maddening, and basically fun. Did I mention that you control a pretty sweet looking beetle? No? Well, you control a pretty sweet looking beetle. There, I mentioned it. Give it a whirl and enjoy all its cute creeps.” — Brian Aubert, Silversun Pickups
Final Fantasy VII Remake
Summary: One of the most iconic games of all time is back with sleek new graphics, gameplay, and even some major tweaks to the story. Fans of role-playing games have been waiting for years to join Cloud, Barret, Tifa, and Aerith on their journey again, so it’s no surprise to see a wide variety of musicians breaking out their Buster Swords again.
“I’ve been enjoying [Final Fantasy VII Remake] because it’s the game that made me fall in love with Japanese role-playing games and then subsequently Japanese culture. It felt like playing the game again for the first time. I also did a marathon 35-hour stream to raise money for our crew who can’t work due to quarantine with our Twitch community.” — Matt West, Neck Deep
“For me, Final Fantasy VII was a pivotal moment in my childhood. It introduced me to a completely new world — like most people — in the RPG universe. It’s a staple in video games for my generation, and I can’t remember how many times I’ve played it. That game came out in 1997, and now it’s 2020 and the fans have finally got the remake we’ve been begging for. It took me 5 days to get through it, and it was worth every minute of waiting. The nostalgia, the look, everything that I imagined those characters to be in 1997, every building, every nuance all lived up to what it was in my head as a child, and that feeling is ineffable.” — Bradley Walden, Emarosa
Summary: Speaking of titles with high expectations, the recent remake of Resident Evil 3 brings one of the most memorable antagonists in video game history back into the spotlight. The return of Nemesis in high definition certainly provided a thrilling roller coaster ride through the ruins of Raccoon City for those in search of an action-packed scare during the quarantine. Plus, the T-virus in any Resident Evil game makes COVID-19 look positively friendly by comparison.
“Resident Evil 3 had huge boots to fill, and I think it delivered. There is nothing harder to improve upon than nostalgia. I often remember songs to be better than they actually were because of the bias of nostalgia. Racoon City is still just a sci-fi neo-noir work of art, and I loved it.” — Outsider
“It’s hard to take something as classic as the original Resident Evil series and do it justice with a remake, but I think they knocked it out of the park. The nostalgia is still there — and there are certain aspects that feel familiar — but the graphics and the gameplay have been updated in all the right ways. I love the horror genre, but I tend to move on quickly if I don’t feel unsettled or creeped out fairly quickly. Resident Evil 3 wastes no time making you feel uneasy as hell. It’s a perfect blend of action and puzzles too. “ — Matt Noveskey, Blue October
“The Resident Evil 3 remake has been keeping me up late at night. The graphics are stunning, and I love how they kept the spirit of the original gameplay alive — and the Nemesis monster is just as relentless as it was 20 years ago. Make sure you have a lot of green herbs handy.” — M. Falcore, The Birthday Massacre
“When I got home from tour, I kept asking to borrow my roommate’s Switch to play Mario Kart. As things began to escalate and I realized we might be here for a while, I decided to get one of my own. Sometime last year I began playing Resident Evil 4 on my other roommate’s PS2 but didn’t get too far. I downloaded it for the Switch and was instantly hooked. I’ve beat it twice and all the extra games. I’m not a gamer at all. This is the first game I’ve ever even played all the way through. I like it because it’s challenging enough to keep me interested while still being fun and accessible for someone like myself who I wouldn’t consider to be very talented at gaming. It’s also been nice to play as a character making strides to defeat an evil unknown virus and actually be able to do something about it.” — Kevin Patrick Sullivan, Field Medic