On the cover: Illustration by David Alvarado. For more of Alvarado’s work, go to hello-david.com.

My earliest memory of playing games involves cards. In a cabin in the woods, my grandma Dorothy taught me war (the easiest and most endless game), then gin, cribbage, and most importantly, solitaire. How wild, I thought as a four-year-old, to have a game you can play all by yourself! I was, at the time, an only child, and my only friend was my small black cat, Doodle. Having games to play alone suddenly opened up a whole world of entertainment that filled the void when my cat was sick and tired of our tea parties.

During the first week of quarantine I found myself playing solitaire again, a fitting metaphor for the weeks and months of alone time we were all about to endure. But then I taught a friend to play gin. Other friends added me on an app where we could play cribbage against each other. Then there was the explosion of remote Jackbox games, virtual Dungeon and Dragons campaigns, Zoom trivia—games, it seemed, were allowing me to connect with people more than I ever had before.

Cut to a recent Reader Zoom meeting. Before getting down to business, we check in on each other. What has everyone been up to in these times? Taryn, for one, can’t stop playing Animal Crossing. Nicole has fallen deep into the world of Second Life (and she’s killed her Sims family, well, we’ll just say more than once). Salem is trying to understand the video-game culture a young friend is into, but honestly is more interested in board games from the 80s. Kerry is finally getting a chance to nerd out with the minds behind Otherworld Theatre. Leor is digging into the local musicians who soundtrack the games we play. When we keep defining the “new normal” all day every day, it seems games are the one thing that will always connect us.

As for me, while my grandma Dorothy is no longer with us, I did just days ago attempt a virtual game night with my family. No, Ma, you have to do Google Meet first! Dad, look at your phone, type the answer on your phone! Maddy, you’re frozen! Lil, you have to refresh! Maybe I’ll stick to solitaire after all.   v