The pandemic has changed pretty much everything we do these days. When this all started for us just shy of a year ago, we never imagined that we could get used to the “new normal.”
And yet here we are. Almost a full year into quarantines and contact tracing and we don’t blink an eye at making sure our mask matches our outfit and taking our temperature religiously. It’s just what we do. They were right — much to our dismay, it’s all become normal.
With talks of COVID relief bills stalled, at least for the moment, as the Senate conducts the impeachment trial, the question we’re all asking is, “Now what?” How long does the new normal last and more importantly, what happens to our economy in the meantime?
According to projections by researchers out of the University of Southern California, COVID-19 is likely to inflict losses as high as $4.8 trillion from March 2020 to February 2022. That’s about a 23% hit.
Of course some economists speculate that’s a pessimistic number. But even the best case scenarios predict somewhere around $3.2 trillion, or a 14.8% drop.
I don’t even know how to fathom that kind of money.
The pandemic has been a nightmare for so many industries that it is hard to imagine what it looks like to come out of this thing intact, much less making a profit.
Enter video games.
That’s right. The video game industry, popular and lucrative before the worldwide shut down, has managed to increase 37% year-over-year to the tune of $3.3 billion, according to NPD Group, a market research firm. And the World Economic Forum concluded in September 2020 that $29.4 billion worth of video games were sold in the United States alone. That’s a 23% increase from 2019. Nintendo reported profits of $1.9 billion in the second quarter of 2020 — five times what it made in that same period of 2019.
Of course, ask any educator who has been trying to keep kids engaged over Zoom meetings and Google Meets for the past year and he or she would probably tell you that that number isn’t shocking at all. At least during face-to-face instruction you can discipline a kid for playing games on their phone during class. When their classes are literally on the same devices they use for gaming, there just really isn’t a whole lot you can do.
It isn’t just kids, though, that have taken to video games during shutdowns, quarantines and isolation. Classic video game consoles like Atari and the original NES are making a comeback because apparently, everyone loves the ’80s.
The video game world is even tapping into the fitness realm with full body exercise-inducing video games that require players to run, jump, and do burpees in order to defeat monsters and win gold.
Crises bring out the innovators.
And these same innovators may be the key to saving one of our most cherished cultural institutions — the movie theater.
I think we’ve all had a moment since March 2020 where we have longingly thought about our last trip to the movie theater. We’ve all had the pang of regret. If I’d known then that it was going to be the last time, I would have splurged for a double-
header; seen two movies instead of one; refiled that popcorn bucket.
But movie theaters across the country — and the world — have taken a beating due to the pandemic. Many have been shuttered indefinitely. But there’s one company in South Korea who refuses to give in. The cinema chain CGV may have a lesson for some of its U.S. counterparts in how to stay alive during a global pandemic.
Instead of depending on renting out theaters to private parties for individual viewings, the South Korean cinema chain began to rent their spaces to gamers who want the ultimate game play experience.
The cost before 6 p.m. is around $90 for a two-hour session for up to four people. After 6 p.m. that price rises to $135. The players bring their own consoles, games and controllers but the cinema can provide food options for hungry gamers.
It’s not bringing in the same money a sold-out movie would, but it’s creatively allowing the chain to keep its head above water. A theater group based out of Memphis has also starting renting out screens to gamers. Perhaps the idea is catching on.
We’re all looking forward to the day when the new normal isn’t normal at all. But until that time, innovation is going to be the name of the game. And for theaters, which haven’t seen any action for almost a year, video games may be just the life raft they need.
Cortney Stewart is a 2003 graduate of Lecanto High School. She has bachelor’s degrees in political science and international affairs, a master’s degree in intercultural studies and is currently working on her Ph.D. in international conflict management. She most recently spent two years teaching and training students, teachers and government officials in Baghdad, Iraq. Email her at email@example.com.