As I type this, I’m sitting in my study, a room I’ve come to spend roughly 60 hours a week sitting in. Previously, I’d have spent a maximum of 15 or 20 odd hours here, playing games or watching videos on my PC after work or on the weekend while my daughter is asleep. Now, this room has become my life as I’ve begun to work from home full time. Not allowed to go beyond a 5km radius of my house for months now, I’ve learnt the sights of my suburb ten times over. I’ve never been big on digital tourism, but this isolation and pandemic have sold me on it in a way that nothing else possibly could have.
Recently, I wrote about how I wished AAA developers weren’t so obsessed with giant open worlds, but each passing day is making me appreciate them more and more, much like David does. Sure, I still hate the repetitive activities that come with them, but being able to explore an environment means so much more to me now. Just wandering around the world, meandering from place to place for no reason beyond seeing the sights. It’s something I love to do in real life, travelling to new locations and seeing what I can find (although a two year old has made that nigh on impossible). Now more than ever is a time where I could do with a change or scenery, a small escape to disconnect from the stress of the world and unwind, but without the option, I’ve turned to digital tourism to assuage my desires.
I initially turned to Microsoft Flight Simulator, but while flying the world is amazing, it doesn’t allow for the slower moments that I love. I can’t simply stop and stare at the sights or marvel at vistas. It gave me freedom of location, but was too restricting on freedom of movement. So I turned to other open world games, trying to find the ones that really hit the note I wanted.
Next was Ghost of Tsushima, which I praised for its amazing world and scenery in my review. Here I had beautiful vistas to to stop and stare at, and lovely, varied environments to explore, but the threat of the Mongels and Bandits was a little too omnipresent to allow for true disconnection when I wanted it.
I jumped from game to game, with services like Game Pass and the myriad games I’ve reviewed in the past combining with my own purchases to give me hundreds of different worlds to explore. Super Mario Odyssey was a surprisingly great fit, allowing me to explore the different worlds and landscape and largely disconnect and explore with too much in the way of harrying nor ever present threats. Another great option I loved was Breath of the Wild. The word had a bit more threat to it that could cause issues at times, but so much of the world is solitary and quiet that I could just wander and disconnect, as long as I avoided enemies.
Finally, I found my perfect escapes in the form of Assassin’s Creed Origins and Odyssey. Both had massive worlds, both were set in locations I wasn’t personally familiar with and filled with sights I’d never seen that directly correlated with real world locations, and best yet, both have the option to purchase a Discovery Mode DLC that gave me exactly what I wanted. Combat, story and stress were eliminated entirely, instead I was presented with massive, interesting worlds to explore and a series of curated tours and historical sites to explore. I could just wander around, see the sites I wanted to see and not worry about wildlife attacking me on sight or bounty hunters coming for my head. My exploration itch was scratched in a way it hadn’t been in months and I felt more at ease than I had in ages. It was like I was able to travel and see the sights once again.
At the end of the day, simply exploring game worlds won’t make everyone feel more at ease, but it’s helping me in a way that I didn’t expect it would. Digital Tourism has always been something I’ve looked at and not understood, but COVID has made me appreciate it in a way that I never thought I would.