The current situation with the COVID-19 outbreak, coupled with all the general stresses of the modern world, make this time, for many of us, the most stressful of our lives. There is rampant uncertainty about how long it will take for us to return to normalcy — possibly up to 18 months from now when a vaccine may be able to hit the market — and the impact it is having on the economy, particularly the service industry, is massive and the total impact is still unknown.
In a world where our typical escapes are shut down — from sporting events to movie theaters to amusement parks to just about any other place where gatherings take place — finding an escape leads most of us to the virtual world. Video games can help fill that void, whether it’s a sports game that can try and replace the lack of real games action to watch, an RPG that offers a fantasy world to escape to, or a co-op game that offers a sense of community right now when that is hard to find.
There are tons of options out there, but I’d like to make a personal recommendation for those seeking a calming escape that, importantly for those of us that don’t game often under normal circumstances, doesn’t require a lot of play to get marginally good at. I’m talking about the world of virtual fishing, specifically Fishing Sim World: Pro Tour, a game that I have come to love as someone who has always enjoyed the idea and effort of fishing but has never been very good at it (or lived in places that it is easily accessible).
There is a career mode in the game where you can compete in bass and carp fishing competitions, but I prefer the quick play, where you select a lake, hop on your boat, and fish. Just driving your boat around the lake is incredibly soothing in and of itself, and once you find a spot you’d like to fish (using your little fish finder), the act of actually fishing isn’t terribly difficult but requires a significant amount of patience and touch, much like actual fishing.
You can catch all manner of fish, from bass to trout to walleye to gar to salmon, and each fights you a little differently — bass are, by far, the trickiest because they run, dive, and jump, forcing you to really work the line tension to keep them on the hook. The two biggest tips I can give is trying to make sure you set the hook properly (a good, firm yank on the right joystick) and really working the D-pad up and down to adjust the line tension to keep from letting your line break as you hold down the left trigger to reel them in (and sometimes have to let off completely when they run).
There is an oddly satisfying sense of accomplishment you get whenever you haul in a big fish or a species you haven’t caught before. You can get really into the game and upgrade your equipment and dial in different reeling styles to attract different fish, but for those just looking for something to kill an hour that they can get lost in, catch some fish, and putter around a lake, you can also do that by hitting the lake with your standard gear and letting ‘er rip.
Video game fishing won’t make everything alright and won’t completely stop the feeling of existential dread and helplessness, either for yourself or society as a whole, but it can at least take it away for a brief period because once you get a fish on the hook your only thought will be how to get the damn thing to the boat. Right now, that’s all we can ask for.