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Gamers’ Guide to Isolation: working but playing

Welcome back to the Gamers’ Guide to Isolation, a short series here at Later Levels to help you get through this current period of isolation. Here in the UK, we’ve now been inside for over three weeks – but there are still plenty of video games to play to keep us occupied.

On Monday we looked at releases to make you feel like you’re outside even though you’re indoors. If you’re in the mood for stretching your digital legs and hiking through mountains, walking through forests or going for bike-rides, check out the titles suggested by my lovely blogger-friends in this post. Later this week we’ll be discussing games to make you feel as though you’re with friends even when you’re on your own, but first: what have we got lined up for today?

Many people across the country are supposed to be working from home right now, and it’s important to remember to take breaks the same as you would do if you were in the office. If you’re looking for something you take your mind off of that spreadsheet for a few moments – or keep you awake while you’re listening in on that three-hour-conference call you really weren’t looking forward to – here are some games you can play while working (and nobody need know).

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Suggested by The Gaming Diaries

“I struggled with this category as I’m not working from home and was trying to imagine something that would fit in nicely. Then I realised if you just have a little bit of time in between work or a little bit of a quiet period, a game on the Switch could be the perfect remedy. A that is so good in little sessions right now is Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Ok, so I know a lot of people are spending all their time in this but I’m playing it slow and steady. I drop by and do a little fishing, or I go hunt for fossils or I catch some bugs. I look at what I can buy and I collect materials. I haven’t got the Able Sisters yet and don’t even have Nook’s shop built as I still need some of one of the types of wood. However, this has been the perfect game for little bursts for me. There is always something you could do from planting some flowers to clearing some weeds. Taking the risk of shaking a tree to see if Bells or items fall out (and quite often having an unfortunate encounter with some wasps). It’s such a nice relaxing game and it gives you options for picking it up and putting it down. You can do a lot in a short space of time so in between working would be possible and there’s nothing that needs done right away so if you end up getting an urgent work call you aren’t going to struggle.”

Civilization IV

Suggested by Quietschisto from RNG

“All variations of Solitaire. Rumour has it this game was invented by a French Noble during the French Revolution while he was waiting to be executed. If that’s not the perfect fit to describe the current situation, then I don’t know what is.

“You could also sink some hours into taking over the world in Sid Meier’s Civilization, if that’s more to your liking. For me, the best one in the series is Civilization IV because it offers the most freedom in organising your civilisation, and allowed for some crazy political combinations. Plus, in the German version, the technologies’ flavour texts are read by Thomas Fritsch, one of my favourite voice actors. The drawback? You might miss all of your meetings because you wanted to play just… one… more… turn…”


Suggested by Luke from Hundstrasse

“Despite working from home a bit (even before this whole… thing) I’m generally pretty good and don’t game on work time. So my entry here is one that I’ve always wanted, and should really try, playing over a working day. DEFCON is a tense nuclear-war strategy game presented via a cold war-room style vector graphics interface. It has a chilling edge as you watch the devastation caused by the missiles raining down in dispassionate numbers. It’s also a game with a few pretty cool game modes including diplomacy where all the superpowers start off aligned and it’s essentially a game of chicken until someone snaps and opens fire or forms a breakaway faction. The reason I picked it however is that it has a dedicated work-mode; a single eight-hour nuclear conflict that plays out real-time with a handy built in ‘hide game screen’ button for when the boss walks past – it’s not a feature I’ve seen in any other game.”

Rollercoaster Tycoon

Suggested by Dan from

“Still an incredible game after 20 years, yes it has been that long! Hours will evaporate before your very eyes. I fired it up to ‘test’ the other day at 21:00, and by 03:00 the following morning I was sure it was time to stop and go to sleep. I regret nothing. Best of all, this will run on damn near any hardware these days.”

The Longing

Suggested by Solarayo from Ace Asunder

“For the record in case my boss is reading, I’ve been putting in 110% of myself into working from home the 90% of the time I can do that… honest. Okay. I’ve been trying. It’s hard not to get sidetracked and distracted by all the things that aren’t work when you’re comfortably at home. Would the boss really notice if you played a video game for a bit? If it’s The Longing that answer is probably no! Studio Seufz’s indie adventure waiting game seems designed for this purpose. Send your lonely Shade to walk to a random part of his cave complex while you endure yet another conference call with your cranky colleagues… sounds legit!”

The Longing (again)

Suggested by Kim from Later Levels

The Longing takes place over 400 days in real time so there’s no need to rush. The clock continues ticking down while you’re away from the game so you can pop back every now and again while you’re working – but don’t worry, there are different ways to tackle it and you can speed up the clock if you wish! Although this isn’t the happiest title out there, it’s a unique experience. Most of the endings are quite dark but they remind you how important it is that we look after each other, especially now.”

Viva Piñata

Suggested by Dale from UnCapt

“Viva Piñata has recently re-entered my life as a game that’s been on in the background. Well, mostly it is distracting me from my work! It is surprisingly slow-paced and leaving the game to play out on its own for a moment can work in your favour. Of course, the real benefit to the game is the lack of stress-inducing mechanics; it’s a relaxing experience watching your colourful and papery pals live in your garden. Both the combination of the music and the colours are enough to make the most stressful workloads seem redundant.”

Don’t worry: we won’t tell anyone you’re playing video games while you’re meant to be working! If you have any further suggestions please leave them in the comments below, and come back on Friday for titles which will make you feel as though you’re hanging out with friends while you’re alone in isolation. Take care, everybody!

Kim View All

Video game lover, Later Levels blogger and SpecialEffect volunteer. Big fan of wannabe pirates and fine leather jackets.

21 thoughts on “Gamers’ Guide to Isolation: working but playing Leave a comment

  1. Hahaha.

    Although… as a people leader; I am conflicted by the fact this post exists. 😉

    More seriously though, good stuff. Civilisation is a really good suggestion for this type of thing too!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Haha, if my employees told me they were playing video games while working from home, honestly, I’d give them some recommendations 🙂
      As long as the job gets done, they can do whatever they want to.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Under normal circumstances, I’d be the same I think. But there are two factors that make me against this, one in general and one quite specific to the situation we’re in as a planet right now.
        1) The type of work we do doesn’t really ‘end’. Not really. Not unless we manage to somehow spend our entire CAPEX allocation for the quarter which (until recently) wasn’t really likely to happen. But even when it does, there is still plenty of OPEXable work to be done. So it’s a matter of efficiency and project completion speed moreso than a finite piece of work.

        But if it was just that? And the sprint velocity of the team wasn’t really slowing down to account for it? Then allllll gooood. I might even join ’em.


        2) We work for a Telco. Which is by far not the most heavily impacted industry through all this… But still; roaming traffic has dropped by 99%. Foot traffic to our retail stores; non-existent. Online orders for new devices dropped significantly too as everyone enters a defensive financial position.

        On top of that; everyone is now working at home after a programme of work spanning the last couple of years to colocate sprint teams as much as humanly possible. There is a perception (and honestly? Probably a reality) that having everyone at home now is causing productivity drops as it is, behavioural things completely aside.

        These things combined are leading ever closer to the position of the company wanting to go for another round of redundancies.

        Anything that might even ever so slightly tip the top table in that direction therefore has to be considered very seriously.

        Still- for all that; everyone’s mental health matters and I think the company is making good efforts to take care of this as much as they can at the moment. In some ways, I’ve been able to talk to more of my team, more frequently, and in more detail than I ever could at work. It’s been a really interesting dynamic.

        Liked by 1 person

        • What you say makes complete sense, and I understand where you’re coming from. My company is in a totally different situation, therefore different rules apply 🙂

          We’re only a small business, and we don’t sell wares, but manage propterty (not quite the right term, but I don’t know how to exactly describe it in English). So most of our work is done over the phone, and as long as our clients are happy (which cannot be measured in sales or shipping rates), the buildings don’t fall apart and the people are informed about their properties’ financial status, everything’s well.

          Our work, too, never really is finished, but there are occasional dry spells or slow days. How people spend their “involuntary free time” is up to them.

          But as you say, all of this is only okay if the results are not impacted negatively. Personally, I try to separate work and free time as much as possible.


  2. If The Longing is on here twice, that means it must be twice as good as the other games, right? I’m looking forward to trying it out!


    • It won’t be something that everyone enjoys but it’s definitely one of the most unique gaming experiences I’ve ever had. I really started to feel for the little Shade in the game and I’m glad I chose to help him escape!


  3. Seriously, don’t tell my boss about this… 😂

    I haven’t played any of the other games on this list besides The Longing. They sound like they would be so worth looking into if Mt. Backlog wasn’t so freaking tall already.

    Thanks again for including me! 😁

    Liked by 2 people

    • If you’re still in the mood for slower games after The Longing, they might suit you right now! I can recommend Viva Piñata if you need something bright and colourful after exploring caverns for so long.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. As an extreme introvert/misift I feel like I’ve been training for something like this my whole life. Isolation is nothing — in fact, I really wish I could live alone 24/7. But I should be grateful, because a lot of people are in really lousy situations right now.

    Good recommendations as well. If anyone happened to get the new expanded/director’s cut/whatever Persona 5 Royal last week, now’s a great time to get into it. You can live a completely new life as a student fighting dream shadow monsters in an alternate reality. Getting immersed in a long RPG like that might help take someone’s mind off of the plague going around.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Immersing ourselves in an alternate reality sounds like just what many of us need right now. I’ve not played Persona 5 myself, but I’ve watched some streams and it looks fun. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Once I’m done with the parts of work that necessitate long periods of uninterrupted focus (aka no game playing!) and left with the parts of work that are mainly respond to sporadic emails to problem solve / troubleshoot / emergency firefight as stuff is burning down, I’m finding traditional turn-based roguelikes a perfect fit.

    Stuff like Tales of Maj’Eyal, Angband, Nethack, Unreal World, Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup, and all the other variants out there. Most of them are free and are usually small sized games that can play in windowed mode and not take over the entire screen when one is supposed to be working and on call. They’re deep and varied enough with their procedural generation to hold attention. Best of all, they are auto-pausing if you don’t touch a key, and they can be instantly quit with a keypress combination like Ctrl+S or Ctrl+Q or something, so that when the fire happens, you can drop the game instantly to focus and everything will have saved by itself, to be restarted in a slow period.

    I am thinking interactive fiction along the lines of Choice of Games stuff might be another option, basically a computer-aided text-based book that asks you to make choices at intervals. Also can be drop and go with instant saving.

    For people with work that is less sporadically intense and more gradual, another option might be *gasp* idle games. The better quality ones like Idle Champions of the Forgotten Realms, Crusaders of the Lost Idols, etc. Leave it running and flip over to do focused work for X period of time. Tab to the idle game to do stuff as a reward, run out of things to do and nothing for it but to work again, rinse and repeat. Browser games with a time-enforced turn limit like Fallen London and Kingdom of Loathing might also synergize well. (It’s work, I’m allowed to use the word ‘synergize’!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I haven’t played Fallen London in years… but your comment brought the memories back and yes, that’s a great choice. I’m kind of tempted to jump back into it myself now!

      I’m finding that having a game to turn to during those ‘dowtime’ periods between fires has been really useful for staying upbeat. When you’re in the office, you’d turn to a colleague and have a chat; and now, I’m using that time to actually get some titles completed. 😉


  6. This has been my life for over the last year. My office closed down and we were all switched to work from home. I’ll usually go for something not very fast paced that I can casually play while at least attempting to keep my productivity numbers to a satisfactory level. This helped last summer when I was spending about 8 hours a day finding Korok seeds in Breath of the Wild. 😁

    Liked by 1 person

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