THE TIME OF THE GAMER. #PlayApartTogether

In an unprecedented move, the Game Industry has united to promote the messages of WHO in a fight against Covid 19. The virus that has brought the entire globe to a shuddering standstill. They have come together under the banner of #PlayApartTogether, a campaign to unite us all while keeping us safely apart while we play our favourite games against opponents who may be in different countries. Go internet!

 One thing is certain, there are more people playing online video games and committing themselves to online sporting tournaments than ever before. This area of sport, online gaming, has been a growing area for decades, drawing in audiences of millions across the world looking to spectate and get involved.

This proves two wonderful facts about human nature: one, that humans are naturally inclined to competition and two,  that even in times of isolation and social distancing we will find a way to play together.

THE UNITED

Eighteen game industry leaders in the interactive entertainment space have launched #PlayApartTogether, encouraging their vast network of users to follow the WHO’s health guidelines which include: physical distancing, hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette and other powerful preventive actions people can take to fight Covid-19.

By bringing special events, exclusives, activities, rewards and inspiration to some of the most popular games in the world, #PlayApartTogether aims to help users adopt best practices for the sake of their own health, their families and their communities. By incorporating Covid -19 self-protection messages into games, the industry is telling the world: “Wherever you are, whatever game you play, you can make a difference.”

The list of gaming busineses joining the programme include:

Activision Blizzard, Kabam, Snap Games, Amazon Appstore , Maysalward, Twitch, Big Fish Games, Playtika, Unity, Dirtybit, Pocket Gems, Wooga, Glu Mobile, Riot Games, YouTube Gaming, Jam City, SciPlay and Zynga.

Said, Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick, “It’s never been more critical to ensure people stay safely connected to one another. Games are the perfect platform because they connect people through the lens of joy, purpose and meaning. We are proud to participate in such a worthwhile and necessary initiative.”

KEEPING THE SPORTING SPIRIT ACTIVE

The gaming industry has seen a massive rise in popularity across all age groups during the Covid-19 Lockdown. This spike is largely thanks to millions of people around the globe facing the challenges of dealing with isolation and confinement. An immediate means of communicating and making new friends online and engaging in an activity has meant an opportunity to socialise, keep in contact and have fun in a safe manner.

Interestingly, while sporting games have always been popular, especially those that allow friends to work together in a team. It is the social games that involve interaction across multiple elements that have proven to be the most popular. Games featuring free-roam landscapes and the ability to take on challenges with friends and family have seen a massive spike in popularity on what was already a leading game genre.

This ties into the Self Determination Theory that suggests that people have three psychological needs to be mentally healthy. We need to have autonomy and feel that we have choices and can act freely according to our values and be free to pursue meaningful goals. We need to feel competent, effective and capable of meeting the challenges in our lives and overcoming problems. Finally, we need relatedness, where we feel connected to others who understand us.

According to Anette Staloy who is the Vice President of business and marketing for Dirtybit, (125 million downloads) the mission of the entire gaming industry is to let people create memorable moments together. Aligned with this, her company’s focus has always been on creating social game experiences.

“Our players all over the world have been sharing heart-warming stories about how much it means to them to be able to connect with and keep in touch with friends and family through our Fun Run games,” she says, “We appreciate the opportunity to take part in the #PlayApartTogether initiative, to help encourage people to follow the guidance of the WHO and local health authorities.”

GAMING IS SPORT

Although gaming is still associated with leisure time, this may change soon. There are millions of professional gamers out there who apply just as many hours into the perfection of their skills as any basketball player, fencer or kickboxer. In fact, millennials, who were the first proper gaming generation have demonstrated that gaming encourages cognitive development, systematic problem solving, creative thinking, strategic execution and team building.

It is not uncommon that the chosen games reflect the interests and passions of those playing them. Football players are likely to enjoy many hours a week/day playing FIFA, martial artists may be seen battering the controllers on games like Mortal Kombat or the latest Tekken. Meanwhile problem solving games- be them on consoles, phones or tablet devices- are always popular with sporting activities that require flexible and strategic minds.

Anyone doubting the credulity of online gaming as “sport” should remember that every single sport started out originally as a group of people just having fun. Football, possibly one of the most popular global sports began with two groups of people kicking around a ball. Afterall it is the popularity of an activity that determines its success as a sport and there is no denying that with billions of players around the world, online gaming in whatever form is compelling as a sporting activity. It is also one that can bring millions of people together without getting them within six feet of each other.

ARE E-SPORTS SAVING OUR SANITY?

Not only affecting sporting people, confinement and restrictions on our activity is making everyone feel like a prisoner in their own homes. The current situation has put us all under the strain of how to maintain our mental health and e-gaming has provided an opportunity to keep our minds active and occupied.

Between the two, physical health is an easier thing to maintain than mental health. Half an hour a day exercising will have tremendous benefits for the body which can have an exponential effect on how you feel about yourself. It takes effort and routine, but it can still be set into a specific time of each day. The mental and psychological issues associated with what is basically low-key solitary confinement is something that needs to be addressed but not just through a token warning.

Having looked at all the options, it appears that online gaming, in whatever its forms, may provide an opportunity for people to keep their minds active without actually having to consider it being “important and healthy”. No child has ever enjoyed playing a sport because it was “good for them”- they did it because they found it fun. It helped them create bonds with friends who understood them and kept their minds active and focussed. This doesn’t change when you become an adult and for us to stay healthy, we need to be able to have fun with our friends and make new ones.

 Nicolo Laurent, the chief executive of Riot Games takes the above further and says that physical distance should not mean social distancing. In fact, the current situation may provide the opportunity for the next top gamers to be discovered.

“For Rioters,” he says, referring to the millions of fans of Riot Games, “Playing games is more than just a game; it’s a meaningful life pursuit. And now, for the billions of players around the world, playing games could help the pursuit of saving lives. Let’s beat this COVID-19 boss battle together.”

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