Coronavirus in Context is a weekly newsletter where we bring you facts that matter about the COVID-19 pandemic and the technology trying to stop its spread. You can subscribe here.

Hola Earthlings,

A few months back, when our beards were shorter and our fuses were longer, we collectively took solace in Netflix‘s “Tiger King” and Nintendo’s Animal Crossings: New Horizons. Remember that? Those were simpler times.

We identified with the tigers in their cages – not only were they locked up, but somehow the damn tigers ended up being extras in a show with the word “Tiger” in its name. It seemed weird at the time.

Yet when the pandemic hit that’s exactly how we felt: like secondary characters in a show that should have been about us. Instead, it’s been about Elon, Donald, and Boris.

Thankfully, Animal Crossings gave us exactly what we needed to cope with that. It let us experience the pure joy of bounded freedom. You see, Tom Nook’s dictatorship is absolute. So long as you abide by his rules and submit to his power you may sip at the teats of liberty for as long as you like.

For awhile, it helped us walk the line between captivity and the desire to be free, but things have changed. For better or worse the world is opening back up. Parts of the US and Europe have completely re-opened and others are mostly open with social-distancing restrictions in place.

Honestly, I’m both worried and relieved. The WHO hasn’t given the all-clear and we don’t have a vaccine yet. I worry we’re risking a second, worse wave. But I’m also feeling the same urge to “return” as the people angrily protesting the governments trying to save them from themselves.

In trying times like this, when I’m not sure what to do, I turn to the one source I know will bring me solace: video games and Netflix. But for act three of the COVID-19 pandemic “Tiger King” and AC just won’t do.

I’m watching “Billy on the Street,” a show where Billy Eichner runs around New York getting in people’s faces, hugging strangers, and constantly standing way too close to people. After a few hours of this, I’m ready to stand in line at the grocery store again (with my mask on, socially distancing of course).

And I’ve been playing the crap out of Final Fantasy VII: Remake. It’s a familiar classic remade with gorgeous visuals and an expanded story about fighting power and defying corporate control. We’re all about to find out what the global economy looks like post-pandemic, so it seems almost prescient to me.

Later this week I plan on checking out Maneater. It’s been described as GTA, but you’re a shark. The trailer looks awesome. And, honestly, I can think of no better allegory for our impending release into the wild for economic reasons as opposed to medical ones.

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By the numbers

Last week we looked at the number of patients with COVID-19 versus the number considered to be in critical condition for the top five countries by infection.

This week let’s take a break and check out some numbers from the video gaming industry according to Forbes.

  • $1.5 Billion: number of dollars the industry made in April (a 73% increase over last year)
  • 13.4 million: number of copies Animal Crossings: New Horizons sold in its first six weeks
  • 12.3 million: number of peak concurrent viewers during a Travis Scott performance in Fortnite last month (28 million total)

Tweet of the week

What to read

I like big blunts and I cannot lie, If you take hydroxychloroquine you might die, that’s why Canada says we should just get high…


We know, we know… there are a million articles out there on how to stay sane at home: what yoga moves to do, what sourdough bread to bake, how to pick up a phone and actually call someone… so we’re adding to the noise!

In this section, one of our writers will share one weird internet thing they’ve been obsessing over while in lockdown. This week’s comes from TNW’s own Napier Lopez!

When I first started started riding e-bikes around Brooklyn, I knew I’d have to invest in a good lock. During my research, I came across the LockPickingLawyer’s YouTube channel, which consists of said lawyer picking and occasionally brute-forcing his way through all kinds of locks.

The good news: it helped me separate the good locks from the bad ones. The bad news: it completely destroyed my confidence in any lock being impenetrable.

I can’t help but marvel at the way this particularly-skilled lawyer works his way through heavy-duty locks in seconds, sometimes not even using proper lock picking tools. He has a sequence of videos where he opens locks with a piece of a Red Bull can, for instance. In one video, he opens a safe with a coat hanger. And in one egregious example, he disables an AR-15 gun lock using a LEGO figurine.

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I can’t completely explain why the videos (there are over a thousand of them!) are so addictive. Maybe it’s the LockPickingLawyer’s soothing voice. Maybe it’s the absurdity of expensive security devices being bypassed in 10 seconds. Maybe it fulfills some childhood fantasy of being a spy. Either way, this channel is one more thing keeping me entertained during this crisis.

Don’t believe everything you read on social media. Stay healthy and take care of each other,


Read next: Sony patents AI soundtrack generator that adapts game music to your emotions

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Foto’s van andré hazes imitator rené van beeten.