There are many elements of life in lockdown that will likely stand out in my memory, once the benefit of retrospect is available.
Living at home again, and the odd quasi-erasure of status it entailed; bonding very deeply with a scruffy ragdoll cat; watching every Star Wars movie with my family; relishing the freedom to jog on empty Cambridge streets; bankrupting ourselves with takeout.
Yet the thing that’s tied everything else together has been a return to the good/bad old days of playing games with friends from school. Nightly sessions in threes and fours have seen us dabble across genres.
Shanties and buried treasure in Sea of Thieves, flailing failures and the growing chance of success in Rocket League and a brief, depressing dip into World War Z all played their part. Call of Duty: Warzone, though, became a shared obsession, and offered a desperately-needed routine.
The battle royale format has captured my attention before, principally through Apex Legends, but the phenom that is Fortnite had bounced off me, its building mechanics tiresome and twitchy.
Warzone, though, is built on the foundation of Call of Duty’s familiar gunplay, sending signals to long-unused reflexes I developed as a teenager playing Black Ops into the wee hours.
I’m increasingly suspicious that a battle royale game you’ll enjoy is just a battle royale game you might be good at, hence Warzone’s real estate in my head.
The same is true for my friends, demonstrably, and we’ve spent countless hours chasing wins and almost always dying in ignominy. Of course, those hours aren’t actually countless by any stretch – they’re tracked to the second in menus, letting me know that I’ve played well over five days’ worth.
In that time I’ve won on 23 occasions, each a micro-story of daring and luck blended together with a dash of skill. From weaponless landings and long periods in hiding to armed-up massacres, they’ve come in all shapes and sizes, and each has breathed fresh life into us, as we frayed while awaiting another rare victory.
That time, though, has also been spent shooting the shit and chatting shite in a way that has been frankly essential. Ribbing each other and sharing disbelief over our government and others’ sheer gall and incompetence. Zoom might have made a killing out of correspondence but Xbox Live party chat has been our medium of choice.
It’s been a salve and a tonic, effectively, and it’s curious to get a dose of that feeling of living through history in a self-reflective way. I’m conscious that in some years’ time I may not remember the wins themselves, but that the time spent “together” in their pursuit will have been mythologised. It’s a thought that makes me happy.