It’s Official: Women Leaders Dealt With Covid Better

VICE / Simon Childs

Countries with women leaders suffered half as many COVID deaths on average compared to countries with male leaders, academics have found.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have received praise for their countries’ response to coronavirus, while US President Donald Trump has been criticised. But even with the best and worst outliers removed, statistical analysis of 194 countries by the University of Liverpool still showed that women leaders performed better.

Professor Supriya Garikipati said: “Our results clearly indicate that women leaders reacted more quickly and decisively in the face of potential fatalities. In almost all cases, they locked down earlier than male leaders in similar circumstances.

“While this may have longer-term economic implications, it has certainly helped these countries to save lives, as evidenced by the significantly lower number of deaths in these countries.”

With only 19 countries out of 194 led by women, researchers created “nearest neighbour” countries based on a number of factors, such as GDP, population, population age, health expenditure, equality and openness to travel. So Leo Varadkar’s Ireland was compared to Jacinda Ardern’s New Zealand; Sheikh Hasina’s Bangladesh was compared to Pakistan, led by Arif Alvi; and Ana Brnabić’s Serbia was compared to Israel, led by Benjamin Netanyahu.

Professor Garikipati said: “Nearest neighbour analysis clearly confirms that when women-led countries are compared to countries similar to them along a range of characteristics, they have performed better, experiencing fewer cases as well as fewer deaths.”

Researchers found that women leaders tended to lock their countries down earlier. Rather than an example of gender stereotypes around risk aversion, the researchers argue that women leaders were willing to risk their economies to preserve human life.

The researchers argue that “having a clear, empathetic and decisive communication style made a significant difference to immediate outcomes of the COVID pandemic in women-led countries”.

Professor Garkipati said: “Our findings show that COVID outcomes are systematically and significantly better in countries led by women and, to some extent, this may be explained by the proactive policy responses they adopted. Even accounting for institutional context and other controls, being female-led has provided countries with an advantage in the current crisis.”

The authors hope that the paper will serve as a “starting point” in the debate about how national leaders affected the pandemic.

Want to travel overseas? This website shows where you’re allowed to go during the pandemic

CNBC / Monica Buchanan Pitrelli

Travel planning has changed — and not in a good way. In addition to booking a flight and hotel, travelers are faced with questions that were unthinkable just six months ago.

Where can I go? Do I need a negative Covid-19 test result to enter? Must I quarantine upon arrival?

If I’m allowed in, should I go? Are Covid-19 infections on the rise? Will the holiday be what I want — or will shops, restaurants and beaches be closed?

Cutting through the chaos
A new website answers all but one of these questions (whether you should go is on you).

Launched in May, Covid Controls was developed by a team who met while working at the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research & Technology (SMART), a research center created in 2007 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in partnership with the National Research Foundation of Singapore.

“We were a team conducting research at the intersection of big data, design and travel,” said Mohit Shah, who along with three colleagues launched the website four months after leaving SMART.

“We created it because we saw there was no comprehensive Covid-19 dashboard specifically geared toward travelers,” he said, “especially at a time when the situation is changing so rapidly.”

What the site can tell you

Covid Controls tracks travel restrictions and Covid-19 data from around the world to provide “everything a foreign visitor needs to know” before traveling, said Shah.

Information is presented in color-coded maps, and countries can be clicked or searched by name to determine which places are allowing tourists (and which are banning them), whether airports are open, and whether documentation and medical testing are required to enter.

Covid Controls is a dashboard to locate Covid-19 travel information for countries across the globe.

Lockdown details, if any, are also provided, allowing travelers to check whether curfews are in effect and if restaurants, bars, shops and tourist attractions are open — with or without restrictions.

The Covid-19 data is particularly helpful to understand the extent of a country’s current outbreak. Travelers can review new daily cases, the number of people presently sick, containment statistics and outbreak trends, the latter being Shah’s favorite part of the site.

“It shows where the curve is flattening, growing or declining,” he said.

Data can be found for each of the 50 states of the United States, Canada’s 13 provinces and territories, Russia’s eight federal districts, and Australia’s six states plus two major territories.

At the bottom of each destination page, a list of sources is available, followed by links to recent media coverage of the area. For example, you can see that while the Dominican Republic is open to tourists, the Miami Herald reported that hospitals there reached capacity with Covid-19 patients about two weeks ago, which may affect your decision to travel there.

The website added a new feature this week. Users can now indicate where they live (or have recently traveled) to see which countries they can visit.

“This way you’ll be able to visualize, for example as an American resident, exactly which countries you are allowed, allowed with restrictions, or completely prohibited,” said Shah.

The designation of some countries as “partially allowed” is based on how welcoming the government is to tourists. Factors for that determination include: the number of entry points, limits on tourist activities (such as closed regions or attractions) and quarantine and entrance requirements (such as medical tests, tracing apps, insurance or other documents).

What the site can’t tell you

Not every country is covered. Information for some small nations, such as Bermuda and Vatican City, aren’t included on the site (yet), though countries like Monaco and the Marshall Islands are.

Separately, it’s difficult to obtain accurate information from some areas, particularly African countries that are not popular tourist destinations, Shah said.

Some U.S. states and the U.K. do not report recoveries. The team now uses a methodology to estimate that data; if a case is not marked as a death or hospitalization after six weeks, they assume it to be a recovered case. Those assumptions will be clearly marked as estimates, Shah said.

How does the website work?

Covid Controls tracks over 500 official sources, including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, various tourism boards, official foreign travel advisories and local news agencies. It’s updated daily, and information is curated both algorithmically and manually.

Medical data comes from the World Health Organization, The Covid Tracking Project (a volunteer organization launched from The Atlantic) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Users are also instrumental in fine tuning the website, Shah said. When a Singapore-based CNBC editor pointed out that Singapore households can accept up to five guests per household, not 10, Shah sent the newspaper article that his team relied on for that information.

“We will update this right away,” he said (which they did). “This is exactly why we have added a chat button on the website. People can quickly point out if something has changed in their country.”

Artist Reimagines ‘Mona Lisa’ as Modern Woman With Tattoos

My Modern Met / Margherita Cole

Portraits commemorate people as well as a moment in time. Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is often considered the archetype of Renaissance portraiture. Similarly, Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer’s Girl With a Pearl Earring is sometimes referred to as the “Mona Lisa of the north.” Even today, these two masterpieces continue to inspire generations of young creatives. Spanish artist Tati Moons reimagines the enigmatic sitters of these paintings as contemporary women in trendy digital portraits.

“I was planning on painting the Mona Lisa just for fun for a few years as I really enjoy doing fan arts, and one day I was kinda bored and I just did it,” Moons tells My Modern Met. Not only did Moons modernize the Mona Lisa‘s wardrobe with a black sleeveless dress, but she also gave her shimmering makeup and an assortment of whimsical tattoos. Beneath Mona Lisa‘s collarbone is typography that reads, “Timeless,” and an illustration of Adam and God’s hands from Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling. Then, on her bare shoulder is an image of a square in a circle and the phrase, “OG Muse.”

“At first I wasn’t planning on publishing it and keeping it to myself like many other artworks, (I knew some people could find it disrespectful for the tattoos and so on) but I don’t know why I went ahead and posted it,” Moons tells us. “It got a pretty good response regardless and people motivated me to paint the Girl With a Pearl Earring, and by now I have plans on keeping up with the series!” Just like the Mona Lisa fan art, the artist updated the clothing and hairstyle of the Girl With a Pearl Earring. So, instead of Vermeer’s yellow headdress, this modern version sports a stylish high pony. She also wears sparkling makeup and a tiny heart tattoo underneath her eye.

You can commission your own digital portrait by visiting Moons’ website, and keep up to date with the artist’s latest creations by following her on Instagram.

Similarly, Moons reimagined the Girl With a Pearl Earring with glittery makeup and a high ponytail.

Michelle Obama tells ‘the cold hard truth’ in a searing DNC keynote speech

CNBC / Christina Wilkie

WASHINGTON — Michelle Obama had one message for Americans at Monday night’s Democratic National Convention: “If you think things cannot possibly get worse, trust me, they can; and they will if we don’t make a change in this election.” It was a dire warning, but it captured the essence of a speech marked by a sense of urgency and bleak realism.

The former first lady painted a picture of what she said young people, including her two daughters, see around them in America today.

“They see people shouting in grocery stores, unwilling to wear a mask to keep us all safe,” Obama said in the prerecorded speech. “They see an entitlement that says only certain people belong here, that greed is good, and winning is everything because as long as you come out on top, it doesn’t matter what happens to everyone else.”

“Sadly, this is the America that is on display for the next generation,” she said. “That’s not just disappointing; it’s downright infuriating.”

Obama has long been admired on both sides of the aisle for her ability to deliver inspiring and motivating speeches. To this day, she remains one of the most sought-after campaign surrogates in all of politics.

But if viewers tuned into the Democratic convention Monday expecting to see the same warm, welcoming, “mom-in-chief” version of Michelle Obama they had grown accustomed to during her eight years in the White House, they were in for a wake-up call.

Obama herself seemed to acknowledge this, describing how she reframes one of her best-known phrases, “when they go low, we go high,” when people ask her today how to “go high” in the face of a president like Donald Trump.

“Going high does not mean putting on a smile and saying nice things when confronted by viciousness and cruelty. Going high means taking the harder path. It means scraping and clawing our way to that mountain top,” Obama said.

“Going high means standing fierce against hatred. … And going high means unlocking the shackles of lies and mistrust with the only thing that can truly set us free: the cold hard truth.”

Trump responded to Obama’s speech on Twitter Tuesday morning.

“Somebody please explain to @MichelleObama that Donald J. Trump would not be here, in the beautiful White House, if it weren’t for the job done by your husband, Barack Obama,” the president wrote.

The purpose of this week’s convention is to nominate, and ostensibly celebrate, the party’s presidential ticket of former Vice President Joe Biden and California Sen. Kamala Harris. But Obama didn’t even mention Biden until halfway into her speech.

Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden and vice presidential candidate Senator Kamala Harris are seen at the stage during a campaign event, their first joint appearance since Biden named Harris as his running mate, at Alexis Dupont High School in Wilmington, Delaware, August 12, 2020.
Carlos Barria | Reuters

After praising Biden for his empathy and fortitude, she said: “Now, Joe is not perfect. And he’d be the first to tell you that. But there is no perfect candidate, no perfect president.”

Obama didn’t mention Harris, who is the first Black woman ever nominated to a major party ticket. Obama’s speech was reportedly taped before Biden announced Harris as his running mate on Tuesday.

Obama also warned that voter suppression tactics are already underway. “Right now, folks who know they cannot win fair and square at the ballot box are doing everything they can to stop us from voting. They’re closing down polling places in minority neighborhoods. They’re purging voter rolls. They’re sending people out to intimidate voters, and they’re lying about the security of our ballots,” she said.

Her warning echoed remarks her husband, former President Barack Obama, had made about voter suppression during his recent eulogy for the late civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis of Georgia.

“If we want to keep the possibility of progress alive in our time, if we want to be able to look our children in the eye after this election, we have got to reassert our place in American history,” the former first lady said in the last lines of her speech. “And we have got to do everything we can to elect my friend, Joe Biden, as the next president of the United States.”

Her husband is scheduled to deliver the convention keynote on Wednesday.

We’re Obsessed With Watching the Mega Rich On TV. Why?

VICE / Daisy Jones


During a very early episode of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, cast member Taylor throws a birthday party for her four-year-old daughter. There are grass sculptures, flower arrangements, a band, a bodyguard and a diamond ring for the birthday girl. The haul comes to around $50,000 (£38,152), revealed in text that flashes up at the bottom of the screen with a neat “kerching” sound.

I’m pretty sure my fourth birthday party involved a Tesco caterpillar cake and some felt tip pens. But I didn’t watch that Real Housewives scene with jealousy, or even contempt. My reaction was more complicated than that: a mixture of low-level aspiration, deep fascination, fantasy and mild disgust.

The Real Housewives franchise wasn’t the first to feature an outrageous amount of wealth as a primary character – there were plenty of shows before it, especially in the 2000s. Shows with lip-glossed girls and glistening 4x4s and million dollar weddings. MTV Cribs. Keeping Up with the Kardashians. The Simple Life. The Hills. Rich Kids of Beverly Hills. But this trend didn’t end when Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie faded from public view; we’ve had Below Deck and Made in Chelsea since, and, of course, the mother of them all: Selling Sunset. Our fascination with the mega rich persists.

Selling Sunset – the new season of which is out this month – is particularly unrestrained when it comes to money. The show follows a group of bronzed women in heels who sell luxury houses in the Hollywood Hills. The property prices, which are always in the millions, swish across the screen as the camera pans across jacuzzis and tennis courts and complicated fireplaces. Their interpersonal dramas, of which there are many, exist against a backdrop of high-end cocktail parties and chef-made salads. But why do we continue to return to this kind of wealth-smothered entertainment?

“I can’t explain it, but I think it’s because it’s a life I will never have. They’re like aliens to me,” 23-year-old Dani says of her fascination with Selling Sunset. “I grew up in a typical working class northern household where I’d fantasise about being rich when I was older and having a house with a big TV and a swimming pool. My aspirations have changed as time’s gone on, and I’ve realised money isn’t everything, but there’s still probably a part of me that longs for that stuff. It’s nice to imagine living in these mansions, what that life could feel like.”

I know what Dani means. When I was a kid, families with SMEG fridges and granola in jars were the height of luxury. I’d fantasise about suddenly coming into money, being ejected from the basement flat in Archway that I shared with my mum and into a proper house with a deep ceramic bath and new fluffy towels where we could watch SKY on a flatscreen. This fantasy has dulled and evolved somewhat (I just want to pay off my overdraft), but that doesn’t mean I don’t still dream about one day owning, idk, a Jaguar and two extremely perky tits.

Helen Wood, a professor of Media and Cultural Studies who focuses on reality TV and class, says this type of “aspirational” TV really ramped up in the late 2000s. “Real Housewives started around 2008, which is the same time as the economic downturn,” she says. “There was this moment where we were seeing the uber rich with no bars to what they could do, while the rest of the world was moving into austerity or even experiencing homelessness. You’d think that’s when we wouldn’t want to see it, but actually that’s the moment it became much more interesting to us.”

Wood puts our fascination down to a mixture of fantasy and escapism. “I guess the Kardashians is more about celebrity and aspiration and the idea that anyone could have access to this lifestyle,” she says. “Reality TV still tries to circulate that idea, that this is broadly attainable.”

But our obsession with watching the mega wealthy on TV also arguably isn’t as simple as wanting their expensive handbags and matte faces. You also become invested in the cast’s emotional lives. Taylor might have been spending $50,000 on her daughter’s birthday party, for instance, but she was also surviving an emotionally and physically abusive marriage. Money can buy you material comfort and temporary relief, but beneath the immaculate manicures and sparkling chandeliers are human feelings and human problems, some of which might mirror your own.

“You do sort of forget that these people are so rich after a while,” agrees 25-year-old Aimee, who watches Real Housewives and Selling Sunset religiously. “You might be like, ‘That is ridiculous,’ when one of them takes their private jet to Vegas, but once you’re a few episodes in, you have your favourite and least favourite characters, and you take sides in arguments and care how their lives pan out. I also think it shows how money comes with its own problems. They get trapped in certain lifestyles and loveless marriages, and being that rich can seem quite claustrophobic.”

But alongside simultaneously aspiring and relating to the mega wealthy on TV, there’s often also a heavy dose of judgment too. ‘If I were a millionairess, I would never buy that tacky coffee table with the elephant legs,’ you think to yourself smugly, while clicking “Skip Recap” for the seventh time that day. “Look at them, with their walk-in closets just for shoes. Could never be me,” you say out loud to no one, while scrolling through GoFundMes.

Wood calls this type of “judgy” enjoyment a “tournament of values”.

“People compare their own values to other people’s,” she explains. “That’s mostly what they’re engaged with; trying to prove their own worth in comparison to people on TV.” In other words: it makes us feel better about ourselves to hate-watch people we view as morally inferior, even subconsciously. “We’re quite judgmental,” Wood adds.

Basically, we love watching wealthy people for the same reason we doom-scroll through Instagram. We’re fascinated with other people’s lives. But mainly, really, we’re fascinated with what other people’s lives say about our own. We’re not obsessed with watching mega rich people. We’re obsessed with what mega rich people reveal about us.

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Vanity Fair / Dan Adler, Anthony Breznican, Kenzie Bryant, Michael Calderone, Arimeta Diop, Caleb Ecarma, Joe Hagan, Claire Landsbaum, Chris Smith, Abigail Tracy, and Erin Vanderhoof

In late May, as video of George Floyd’s murder spread across the nation, Americans rallied to the streets in what would become the largest protest movement in decades. The story of those early days is told here by those who rose up, those who bore witness, those who grieved, and those who hope.


How an econ student built the ‘Rich Kids of Instagram’ account, where the offspring of billionaires have to pay up to $2,000 just to be featured

Business Insiders / Hillary Hoffower

Wealthy millennials have to pay up to $2,000 to be featured on RKOI. Peter Powell/Reuters

Infamous Instagram account “Rich Kids of Instagram” (RKOI, since renamed “Rich Kids of the Internet”) had humble beginnings.

In a recent profile for The Times, Jessie Hewitson wrote that James Ison, age 27, started the account in 2012 after posting a single picture that quickly went viral: Zachary Dell, son of billionaire Michael Dell, feasting on a buffet in a private jet.

Ison was an econ university student enamored by the wealthy world, Hewitson wrote, a sharp contrast from his modest childhood upbringing. Soon after he began reposting pictures of the children of millionaires and billionaires, two New Yorkers (who remain anonymous) who were separately doing the same reached out to Ison. The resulting collaboration was the beginning of RKOI, according to Hewitson, where you now have to pay up to $2,000 to be featured.

RKOI currently boasts over 372,000 followers and an endless stream of wealthy young millennials pictured living their lives to the fullest, from driving Bugattis in Switzerland and taking yacht trips to Montenegro to attending the Royal Ascot and splurging on $50,000 watches. Their summers are especially lavish.

It’s become so popular that spin-off accounts began cropping up, such as Rich Kids of Turkey and Rich Russian Kids. Many started as satires, wrote Tom Sykes for The Daily Beast, but nevertheless became a place for the youth to flash their riches.

Despite the wealth that RKOI has brought Ison, Hewitson described him as down-to-earth, someone who forgoes flashy cars and refuses to post tasteless pictures of people surrounded with stacks of cash.

Ison has since befriended some of the rich kids, building trust to help him launch his next venture: RKOI Concierge, which Ison told Hewitson is an “Ask Jeeves for the 0.1%.”

Get Lost in 70 Years of Old IKEA Catalogs

Bloomberg / Marie Patino

As millions of people around the world become intimately familiar with their home decor, the Swedish furniture giant IKEA is offering an online resource to fuel your redecoration reveries: In honor of the the 70th anniversary of the company’s first catalog, IKEA just dropped digital versions of every catalog on its museum website. If your idea of a good time is wandering the labyrinth of your local IKEA showroom, trying out sectionals in a pretend living room, this digital trove of modular furniture makes an excellent and Covid-safe alternative distraction — and a fascinating time capsule of Scandinavian design trends.

As of 2019, IKEA boasts 433 stores across 53 countries, inundating markets around the globe with its distinctive brand of affordable build-it-yourself products. The company has been around since 1943, when founder Ingvar Kamprad launched it as a mail-order business selling matches, postcards and pencils in the Smaland region of Sweden. But the first proper IKEA catalog didn’t come out until 1951, says IKEA Museum archive and collections manager Per-Olof Svensson. On its cover: the iconic MK wing chair. It was discontinued a few years later, but made a retro comeback in the 2013 and 2014 catalogs as STRANDMON.

Wing chairs over the world: At top, the 1951 catalog, featuring the MK chair. The same chair re-emerged to grace the 2013 and 2014 catalogs. Inter IKEA Systems B.V.

The business took off, and fast: Customers could phone or mail in their orders by returning a coupon included in the catalog. Starting in 1958, they could drop by the first IKEA store, in Almhult, Sweden, and go home with the item of their choice. The “supermarket for furniture” concept is part of what made IKEA such a success. But the do-it-yourself assembly wasn’t the original idea. “At first, it was already assembled products,” Svensson says. “But quite early we tried to experiment by taking off the legs from the tables.” The birth of flat packaging can be traced back to an employee who started unmounting the legs of a LOVET table to safely load the piece into a customer’s trunk.

A page from the 1962 catalog shows the LOVET table (bottom, middle picture), which made its first appearance in 1956. Inter IKEA Systems B.V.

The early catalogs are comparatively utilitarian affairs; things don’t get really interesting until the late 1960s and ’70s, when colorful plastics and zany fabrics emerge and photos began displaying the furniture in sample living arrangements that still look inviting today. Check out this space-age living room from 1973.

Couches and chairs of the Impala collection, 1973 catalog. Inter IKEA Systems B.V.

The catalog’s illustrations also serve as a timeline of household technology. The first television shows up on page 88 in 1958, and soon the new devices proliferate and begin to dominate the home; the size of entertainment centers gradually increases, and the orientation of living room couches and armchairs progressively shifts, from facing one another to pointing toward the TV screen.

In 1958, the TV appears, and so does the TV stand. Inter IKEA Systems B.V.

The company opened its first store outside of Scandinavia in 1973, in Spreitenbach, Switzerland. International expansion was a turning point in the company’s branding: Its Swedish roots turned into the foundations of its brand identity, making IKEA an instrument of Swedish soft power. Going global meant “Swedifying” the brand, writes design historian Sara Kristoffersson in her cultural history of the company, Design By IKEA. The company’s iconography and design sensibility ultimately became synonymous with Sweden itself. She recounts a story of a Spanish soccer fan asking, “Why is the Swedish team sponsored by IKEA?” at the Euro 2012 championship: “The Swedish team’s blue and yellow kit clearly triggered associations with IKEA, rather than with the Swedish flag.”

The cover of the 1973 Swedish catalog features the TAJT chair, a foldable futon covered in denim fabric. Apart from being a year of international expansion, ’73 was a big year for denim.

Svensson noted that IKEA was the first furniture brand to start exploring the use of denim in furnishing. Inter IKEA Systems B.V.

In 1979, the iconic BILLY bookcase makes its first appearance. It’s probably the most popular item IKEA ever put out — the company claims that about one unit is sold every five seconds — and has become the base for a never-ending list of IKEA hacks. Need wall dividers for your home office? A dollhouse? A DIY Murphy bed? BILLY’s got you covered, if you’re crafty enough to figure it out.

The now-inescapable BILLY bookshelf makes its debut in the background of the 1979 catalog. Inter IKEA Systems B.V.

IKEA made it to the U.S. in 1985, drawing 150,000 customers to its first store in suburban Philadelphia during opening week, some from as far away as Massachusetts, the New York Times reported. Critics wondered whether Americans would go for smaller European-sized beds, but yuppies couldn’t get enough of the company’s modernist wares, and IKEA’s march across the American landscape began.

Success, however, came at a cost: The company is said to consume 1% of the world’s lumber. To reduce its wood consumption, IKEA dropped its popular shelving system, EXPEDIT, and replaced it with the thinner-walled KALLAX, which first appeared in a catalog in 2015. It looked pretty much the same, but EXPETIT aficionados were still outraged.

Left: The death of EXPEDIT in 2014 was followed closely by the birth of KALLAX in 2015. Inter IKEA Systems B.V.

One thing hasn’t changed: Buyers still bemoan the durability of laminated particle-board furniture. (Ask anyone who has attempted to move a BILLY from one apartment to another without having it disintegrate en route.) But IKEA archivist Svensson, a proud second-generation IKEA staffer, notes that some of the company’s products can live on and on.

Take, for example, all the assorted pots, pans, and IKEA kitchen gear he received as a gift from his parents when he left home in the mid-1980s. “When I moved away from my parents, we had a range called the STARTBOX, where you could get all the things you needed in the kitchen,” he says. “My dad was heavily involved in bringing this to life.”

The now-discontinued STARTBOX — a box of kitchen essentials for young adults — premiered in 1986. Inter IKEA Systems B.V.

Decades later, plenty of his old STARTBOX kitchenware, Svensson says, is still going strong. “So that is close to my heart.”

From Zelda to Grand Theft Auto: 10 of the best game worlds to get lost in

The Guardian / Luke Holland

From befriending dogs and composing haikus to stealing jets, these sprawling video games offer up much-needed escapism.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
After revolutionising 3D games once with 1998’s Ocarina of Time, Nintendo rewrote the rulebook again here, sculpting a colossal world of staggering complexity. It gives you the basic tools you need and then simply sets you loose, leaving you to paraglide from soaring peaks, cook a steak dinner, make a dirigible out of monster guts, befriend a dog, or motorbike through a desert at your leisure.
Nintendo Switch

Born to Hyrule … Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Photograph: Nintendo

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
This dark adult fantasy – think Game of Thrones with more monsters and marginally less sex – presents a huge canvas of forests, cities, archipelagos and vineyards, and stuffs it to bursting with things to do. Follow the story, explore, hunt monsters, or drink, brawl and play cards – as Geralt of Rivia, it’s up to you.
PC and consoles

Red Dead Redemption 2
Only a developer with the sheer resources of Grand Theft Auto developers Rockstar could build a world this massive, yet stuff every nook and cranny with such an obsessive level of detail. Become a train-robbing outlaw or a Robin Hood-esque folk hero, or simply while away your hours wandering its beautiful, dirty and desolate interpretation of the wild west.
PC and consoles

Ghost of Tsushima
Taking an impressionistic approach when realising the titular Japanese island, this game turns the 13th-century Mongol invasion into a dazzlingly colourful visual spectacle. Songbirds, foxes or petals on the wind will gently guide you to points of interest, including quiet spots where you can compose haiku, making this one of the prettiest, most soothing virtual worlds it’s possible to experience.
PlayStation 4

Khan – you dig it? … Ghost of Tsushima.

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
More than 90 sq miles of stunningly realised ancient Greece await you, as you are hurled into the middle of the Peloponnesian war. If that sounds a bit stressful, the game’s educational Discovery Tour mode – a combat-less guided trip around its diligently reproduced sites and monuments – means you can relax and take it all in, and maybe even learn something.
PC and consoles

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Now a rather distinguished nine years old, Bethesda’s wildly successful high-fantasy romp isn’t quite the beauty it once was, but is yet to be bettered in terms of instilling a palpable sense of place. A chilly, brutal and literary world of dragons, dungeons and magic that takes hundreds of hours to fully explore.
PC and consoles

Divinity: Original Sin II
Larian Studios’ defiantly old-school role-player may frustrate, baffle and infuriate you with its refusal to hold your hand – or even, quite often, to be remotely fair at all. Those who persevere will discover the sprawling, top-down world of Rivellon to be full of wit, charm, personality, and dozens of hours’ worth of endlessly rewarding exploration.
PC and consoles

Grand Theft Auto V
It would be remiss not to give Rockstar a second entry on this list, as its hyperbolised US state of San Andreas remains one of gaming’s most varied sandboxes. Its central tale of three criminals remains superb, but is secondary to simply being there, going to see a movie or indulging in a gentle round of golf. Or, this being GTA, you could just steal a jet and blow something up. Different strokes.
PC and consoles

Kingdom Come: Deliverance
It may not be the biggest world here, and it certainly isn’t the bonniest, but Warhorse’s historically accurate 15th-century Bohemia is one of the most immersive. You play a peasant – not a knight, or wizard, but a blacksmith’s son called Henry – whose home is razed by war, with barely any idea, at the beginning at least, how to even swing a sword.
PC and consoles

Bohemian like you … Kingdom Come: Deliverance. Photograph: Koch Media

No Man’s Sky
Hello Games’s technical marvel of space exploration procedurally creates its 18 quintillion – yes, that’s right – planets on the fly, meaning any you encounter, and the plants and animals thereon, have likely never been seen before, and never will be again. Then, you take off and fly to another one, with nary a loading screen to speak of. Occasionally gobsmacking to look at, and unimaginably vast.
PC and consoles