Tonight I took the opportunity to play a video game with a friend I don’t see much of anymore. As we’ve grown up our schedules have gotten more hectic, his social calendar filling up, and my evening work hours all preventing us from actually spending time together. It’s something I miss, and tonight was a really good return to more consistent times.

We were playing Stellaris, a game I’ve talked about before, a large-scale, real time galactic empire building game where you have to manage internal and external politics, juggle random and unexpected crises, and try to survive in a hostile universe all at the same time. Unlike some of my friends I play a lot of single-player games. Whether that’s a reflection on some personal isolationism or just that my schedule is so chaotic, I’ll leave to the peanut gallery.

I’d never played Stellaris in multiplayer before, and true to form my buddy and I spent a long time planning, designing, and making sure our respective species, attitudes, and intended play styles would compliment one another. It’s always been this way with us, even when playing first-person shooters – a lot of planning and strategy even before we launch the game.

There are one or two friends who, due to distance, I largely only interact through games. I am incredibly thankful and lucky that we’ve been able to enjoy gaming and game experiences, some of which may eventually make their way into my fiction series, and I genuinely treasure the time I’m able to spend having fun with them that way.

With my buddy tonight, we used to see each other 3-4 times a week, largely because we moved in the same social circle and helped run the theatre group together. Now that I’ve stepped back from both, I really haven’t seen him much, aside from the occasional working lunch when we’re able to get away from our respective offices.

Tonight it was great to play a game with him again, and to continue that friendship we’ve built over the past decade. After a long lull it feels like some things are approaching normalcy again, or at least that the “new normal” is starting to improve.