Covid-19 special

Gaming apps get a boost during lockdown

Payel Majumdar Upreti | Updated on April 10, 2020

Driving away blues: As the nationwide lockdown came into force, families and friends reached out online to reconnect over games and fun   -  ISTOCK.COM

People are turning to the Internet to reach out to family and friends across continents to beat the blues

The kids were made to take their afternoon naps so that they wouldn’t be cranky later in the day. Everyone else hurried up with their office work and home chores. “We tailored our entire day to work this out,” says Delhi-based lawyer Ruchika Batra.

Then, at 7.30pm IST, and 3pm London time, everyone in the family was ready, glass in hand. They switched their phones on and opened the recently downloaded Tambola-Indian Bingo app. “At first, our parents were a bit unsure about whether they would play. But we coaxed them into it, and once they started winning, their enthusiasm knew no bounds!”

The extended Batra family decided to have one big virtual party on the first Sunday of April to try and forget — for an evening — the difficult times they were all facing. They raised a toast, played tambola and ended up shaking a leg.

“This would have been impossible to coordinate during regular times, but now everyone is locked up at home. Elders living alone have lost out on their regular social interactions, and may end up being lonely and morose, so this was a good way of getting them involved,” she says.

The Covid-19 pandemic has turned lives asunder — cancelling travel and any form of socialising, and enforcing social distancing. Families and friends have now turned to the internet to reach out to each other across continents.

Many are logging on to popular online games. China-based Tencent Holdings Co. Ltd., which partially owns multiplayer online video games such as Call of Duty, PUBG mobile, League of Legends and Fortnite, reported more than a million followers after the Covid-19 outbreak, resulting in a brief period where their stocks rose even as businesses nosedived elsewhere.

The online gaming community has a new legion of users who publish their gaming sessions on social media platforms such as YouTube and Facebook to millions of views.

There are a host of other apps for those not into games. An app called House Party has cashed in on the demand for online communication, recording more than a million downloads in March. The app allows video calls among four people, while playing games such as trivia quizzes and other in-app games. People can choose to ‘lock’ their room in the middle of a session, or keep doors open to let friends and others online join the session. Security concerns were raised after some users complained of their Netflix and PayPal accounts getting hacked. House Party has described the allegations as a “paid smear campaign”, announcing a one-million-dollar bounty to anyone who could prove that the site’s security had been compromised. Zoom, another platform used extensively for conferences and long-distance parties, has also been inundated with hacking concerns and data breaches.

Delhi-based professional Ridhi Jain, however, is a long-time user of the app and continues to log on to it. “I used this to play games with my family as well as sign into regular meetings with my team, attend online zumba and yoga classes, and even participate in cook-a-thons with my friends during the Covid-19 period. My entire life is basically on Zoom now. Since I know everyone is home, and we can get in touch whenever we want to, I have even spoken to friends I hadn’t talked to for really a long time. In a weird sense this has made me feel closer to a lot more of my friends.”

The lockdown across the country (and in many other parts of the world) following the spread of the novel coronavirus has also given a boost to online poker playing portals. Many professional poker players, who would fly across the world to participate in tournaments, find themselves suddenly without a source of income. In these times, when gatherings are a strict no-no anywhere in the world, online poker has found many takers.

“Business is slow for everybody right now, but what matters is that we keep our spirits up, and don’t let the slump get to us,” says an entrepreneur who has been hosting regular poker sessions online and does not wish to be identified.

Online dating might have taken a hit with a ban on meet-ups, but there are platforms that allow couples — and others — to watch a film together. Jaipur student Roshan Dadhich has been watching films with his partner — albeit from their respective homes.

“My girlfriend and I end up watching movies together every other night, thanks to apps such as Watch2Gether. She left town after college closed, and this way we feel like we still get to do things together as a couple, and makes this (separation) easier to bear.”

Everyone has been zooming in on novel ways in a bid to connect to their loved ones, and give a semblance of normalcy to trying times.

The Batras, certainly, are not going to let a virus-driven lockdown come in the way of partying. Their next big virtual party is going to involve virtual dancing on Skype. Internet willing.



Published on April 10, 2020

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