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Bored Games: Our lockdown fun includes retro and brand-new video games, plus analog entertainment

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Animal Crossing: New Horizons Nintendo

Be they digital or tabletop, games can help stretch the imagination, spark strategic inspiration, bring joy, and encourage human interaction. While some of us are traveling to pastel islands in search of peaches, others are finding comfort in games from our youth.

Something we’ve learned this week: Playing a cat-themed board game is a slippery slope to getting a real-life cat. Who knew?

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Animal Crossing: New Horizons Nintendo

Shelby Lano, Layout Editor

What are you playing?

Animal Crossing: New Horizons!

What type of game is it?

It’s a social simulation.

What's the general premise?

Basically you're perpetually in debt... but like in a fun way? You're brought to an island where you build and expand your new home, landscape, decorate, pay off loans, and plot homes for neighbors who you'll do favors for. You can travel to other islands either to farm for resources or just to visit your IRL friends and see their virtual homes. Wholesome!!!!!

What do you love about it?

Everything? I love that it's time-based and designed as a game you play at least a little every day. Or if you're an insatiable monster like me you can spend a good 14 hours at a time playing. I always have something to work toward and a reward to look forward to. It sounds dramatic to say that it gives me a sense of purpose and accomplishment during these trying times... but sometimes it really feels that way. 

What do you get out of playing it?

I'm a visual person, so being able to decorate and customize so many aspects of my island is really fun. I always maintain that limitations allow limitless possibilities—being able to see how many different creative concepts people have for their one little island is inspiring in a way.

Would you recommend it?

Yes. 100%. Start playing, come visit me, and I'll hook you up with some resources. 

Assassin's Creed: Syndicate

Assassin's Creed: Syndicate Ubisoft

Jessica Armbruster, Arts Editor

What are you playing?

Assassin’s Creed Syndicate.

What type of game is it?

It’s an open-world video game with lots of quests, mini-games, and stuff to unlock.

What's the general premise?

Basically, you play twin assassins Jacob and Evie Frye, siblings trying to clean up the crime-ridden streets of Victorian-era London by… making their own gang. Along the way you meet people like Alexander Graham Bell, Florence Nightingale, Charles Dickens, Karl Marx, and Queen Victoria. There’s also a bonus game where you join forces with Winston Churchill during World War I.

What do you love about it?

Open-world games are fun because you can play however you want to in that moment. Do you feel like racing carriages for money? How about joining an underground fight club? Want to try to score big on a train heist? Go flower hunting in graveyards, raid a crooked pier, or stop by pubs in search of beers to add to your collection. You can do any combination of those things and be entertained. 

What do you get out of playing it? 

It’s relaxing to explore late-1800s England, whether you’re unlocking different outfits to wear, taking in the views from atop Big Ben, or freeing exploited child laborers. There are tons of little things to discover, like “Shaun’s Tasting Notes,” a collection of brew reviews. Here’s his take on the Leaping Fox Lager: “A big, bold flavour of stomach acid finishes with notes of someone else's bubblegum and a smattering of pencil shavings.”

Would you recommend it?

Yes, it’s super fun. My only caveat is that there doesn’t seem to be a way to change the general gameplay difficulty, and the one setting is kinda on the easier side. 

Mario Kart 8

Mario Kart 8 Nintendo

Emily Cassel, Editor-in-Chief

What are you playing?

Mario Kart 8.

What type of game is it?

It's the Nintendo go-kart racing game I've loved since the GameBoy era—now available on the Switch I panic-bought in March when outside life was canceled for the foreseeable future!

What's the general premise?

Go fast, avoid obstacles, throw junk at the competition, come in first. 

What do you love about it?

Winning.

What do you get out of playing it?

There's a certain amount of escapism in it, also it's just a nice way to kill some time. I think looking back at my television pick (Adventure Time) and this, you can draw a lot of parallels in the media I'm consuming right now: cartoonish, colorful, fun, loud, arguably made for children, something I already loved in the Before Time. 

(That said, I also did just binge-watch all of Waco, so.)

Would you recommend it?

Yeah! Add me on Switch!

Neo-pets

Neo-pets

Susan Du, Staff Writer

What are you playing?

Neopets.

What type of game is it?

A late-20th-century virtual pet universe with mini flash games that was originally developed by Scientologists.

What's the general premise?

It's like raising Tamagotchis. For me, the point is to earn enough neopoints, the in-game currency, via the stock market, battledome, and a small retail shop I run to buy and read all the books in Neopia.

What do you love about it?

I've been playing this game on and off since I was 9. So, nearly 20 years.

What do you get out of playing it?

It's completely mindless, like a tranquilizer.

Would you recommend it?

In good conscience? No.

Warning: May lead to real-life cats.

Warning: May lead to real-life cats. Cat-opoly

Bridgette Reinsmoen, Copy Editor

What are you playing?

Cat-opoly.


What type of game is it?

It's a cat-themed Monopoly-knockoff board game purchased from an antique store—the type of pastime one might be pressed into by a cat-obsessed child who eats off a Garfield plate and insists on bedtime stories featuring felines every night "until we get a real cat."


What's the general premise?

Cat-opoly is played exactly like Monopoly but with different vocabulary, so it retains all of the never-ending tedium and crass, soul-crushing capitalism of the original. But the kitty theme puts a bizarre twist on things. The properties players acquire are breeds of cats, houses are replaced with litter boxes, and hotels have become... fish skeletons(?). Why rent would be owed to the owner of a cat is never explained. Perhaps we're mini-Joe Exotics, charging fees to visit our feline menageries. But elsewhere it seems that the players are the cats; for example, instead of going to jail you might fall in water. Coherence was apparently not the goal here.


What do you love about it?

Well, it does at least also feature the best thing about Monopoly: the detailed little metal game pieces. Here they're a ball of yarn, a mouse, a sardine can, etc. Also, the property cards come with feline facts on the back. Here's one we learned: "The giraffe, camel, and cat are the only animals that walk by moving both their left feet, then both their right feet." Hmm.


What do you get out of playing it?

I get a short reprieve from my kid bugging me about adopting a pet. For other people, I'm not sure, but possibly an ego boost? The company that made Cat-opoly, Late for the Sky, offers a personalized version of the board game. The website shows a bunch based on families, colleges, various fandoms, and, of course, brands.


Would you recommend it?

Nope. I'm gonna cave and get the kid a cat.