Given that the majority of Aussies are confined to quarters by varying degrees of quarantine thanks to Chop Fluey, I thought it prudent to pick out some interesting ways to fill in the hours. Video games are not quite a hobby in the traditional sense but they are a pastime and they will make you use the old noodle at the same time as warding off boredom and the mental malaise of inactivity. If you are sick of sleeping 17 hours a day, drinking heavily just for something to do or staring out the window daydreaming about real outdoor activities then these moderately-priced games might, at the very least, fill in some time without breaking your budget.
THE FISHERMAN: FISHING PLANET
As weird as the concept of video game fishing sounds this title is really pretty authentic; as far as simulations go it actually scratches the same itch as real-life angling.
You begin with a limited range of gear at a small pond in Texas where you are then run through various tutorial scenarios on how to assemble rods, choose tackle and handle the various boats available in the game.
From that point, it is up to you to improve your character and fishing prowess by gaining experience points and in-game cash via doing missions and catching heavier and more elusive fish.
The missions amount to catching different types of fish in the various lakes and rivers with specific gear setups unless specifically activated these tasks stay in the background so the player is constantly supplied with unexpected, dopamine triggering rewards for his progress.
There are also online tournaments for those with a competitive streak, these are your standard weekly and daily events with restrictions and modifiers on what type of gear you can use, which keeps things interesting.
A bewildering array of in-game collectable gear is available; the number of rods, reels, lures and baits creates thousands of possible combinations. Clicking through this virtual store is almost as mesmerising as walking the aisles of your local fishing shop drooling over your dream rig.
There are dozens of species of fish to chase, including trophy specimens and special legendary catches, all with realistic behaviour in visually appealing environments situated across the globe.
Sick of Trout fishing in Colorado? Go stalking the weird denizens of the Florida Everglades, or drop a line into a canal in Holland after Zander and Perch.
There is a free to play version of this game simply called Fishing Planet, however, it is a pretty horrible grind to progress if you are not prepared to sink some real money into gear and tackle, the pricing model for virtual currency is also pretty expensive, you could spend thousands of dollars if you really had to have everything.
I would recommend buying The Fisherman outright as it contains all of the content and updates found in the free version, plus some extras; I got my digital copy for about $35:00 on sale, for the amount of fun I’ve had with the game it is a dead-set bargain.
Steep came out in 2016, as a result, you can usually find the game and its myriad extra content packs on sale in the various digital stores.
As far as sports games go this is a doozy! Set in visually breathtaking alpine environments spread across France, the USA and Japan, Steep is a pretty hardcore representation of the world of extreme winter sports.
There are hundreds of events to try split among different disciplines such as skiing, snowboarding, paragliding and base jumping.
The world is gorgeous to look at and it is hard not become lost in the majesty of this scaled-down version of the Alps. The lighting system is fantastic, barrelling down a steep ravine in the dark with only your head-mounted torch lighting the way is a genuinely stressful experience.
There are career events to begin with, which unlock harder and more technical runs and greater access to challenging areas of the map as you complete them. On top of this are some entertaining fantasy story sections to play through in which you are guided by the voices of the mountain spirits or various human characters to discover the secrets of the slopes.
The other appealing aspect of Steep is that you can take off and freestyle anywhere on the map if you feel like it. Creating your own runs and challenges is a blast and can chew up hours of your time.
As you get further into it the game it becomes more difficult. Each race or challenge plays out like a type of puzzle where quick reflexes and memorising the safest route through obstacles are key. Luckily Steep reloads almost instantly if you screw up a run, so the frustration is kept to a minimum.
There is a tonne of content in the base game and if you invest in all the expansion packs you are taken into the world of professional winter sports with tie-ins to the X Games and winter Olympics; there are also some really goofy extra story missions to play which take the action to absurd extremes in which you track down and defeat a series of zany bosses.
Aside from the competitions, there are outfits to collect and dress up your avatar, new snowboards, skis, wingsuit designs and parachutes to try out and online multiplayer, which adds a whole new level of engagement.
You really can get lost in Steep, several times I have found myself up way past my bedtime trying to thread my virtual daredevil through some impossible, sadistic downhill race, it may just be the distraction some of you need.
FORZA HORIZON 3
Now I realise that there is a newer, highly acclaimed entry in the Forza Horizon series of driving games but number three is a sentimental favourite since it is set on Australia’s east coast and features several stylised zones based on the Gold Coast, outback desert, Victorian high country and the Byron Bay hinterland.
You start out as a rookie racing driver in the retinue of the travelling Horizon festival, a combination of The Big Day Out and Summernats, and work your way up the ranks purchasing new cars, paint jobs and under-the-hood doodads as you go.
Car customisation and online connectivity are the main hooks of the game and switching from single player to online racing are almost seamless, with the multiplayer being the usual cluster fuck of crashes and mayhem familiar to any virtual racing fan.
The open-world is really pretty and the soundtrack is outstanding with a number of in-game radio stations to choose from, It is especially cool to be driving through some gorgeous vista and have one of your favourite songs come on.
The selection of cars is amazing as usual, of particular note are the classic Aussie cars, so you can burn through the landscape in your favourite old Holdens and Fords and use the famous graphics suite in Horizon to dress them up in vintage racing liveries or custom designs.
Of course, there are thousands of little tasks for the player to perform besides racing, there are classic cars stashed away in rural sheds which you find and send back to the garage for restoration, hidden jumps, speed camera time attack runs, drift zones and more.
With two hefty expansion packs themed on the Hot Wheels world and snow racing in the Australian Alps, Forza Horizon 3 is chock full of stuff to do, you may even find yourself wanting to stay home and play it when the Kung Flu quarantine is over.