You’d have to be living under a boulder (or just come back from a meditation retreat à la Jared Leto) to not know that the world is a really weird place right now. We’re scared of going outside and if we do, we have to literally avoid everyone. Oh, and people are fighting over toilet paper. However, the latest news from The World Health Organisation (WHO) is even more bizarre. Because they are encouraging people to play video games, through an initiative they call #PlayApartTogether.
What’s weird about this is that WHO released a statement in September 2018 identifying “gaming addiction” as a mental disorder. Although they stated that this disorder “only affects a small proportion” of gamers, they went on to recommend all those who partake in gaming “should be alert to the amount of time they spend on gaming activities.” This decision by WHO was considered controversial and, in my opinion, only added to the stereotype that all gamers are lazy bums who are wasting their lives.
Flash forward to 2020, and WHO and our government are reporting that the best way to beat this virus is to stay at home. We are also being told that we shouldn’t be seeing anyone outside of our own households, which is leading to a lot of people feeling lonely without their usual interactions with friends and family. This is where #PlayApartTogether comes in. On the 29th of March, Ray Chambers – the WHO ambassador for Global Strategy – tweeted about the “PlayApartTogether” initiative, which was later retweeted by the WHO’s director, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) March 28, 2020
#PlayApartTogether sees 18 game industry leaders teaming up with WHO to encourage people to stay at home and connect with their friends via online gaming. Companies that involved are:
- Riot Games
- Activision Blizzard
- Snap Games
- Amazon Appstore
- Big Fish Games
- Pocket Gems
- Glu Mobile
- YouTube Gaming
- Jam City
The list is obviously missing big players such as Sony, Nintendo and UbiSoft. Apart from Activison and Riot Games, the other devs lean more towards mobile and online gaming. Mobile games are more accessible, as most people have a phone but not all have a console. Staying connected is the main focus of #PlayApartTogether, and these companies offer gamers all over an opportunity to accomplish this.
We’re joining @WHO and game studios around the world to #PlayApartTogether to flatten the curve of COVID-19. Games are a unique way to stay connected with friends and family, even if we can't be together physically. pic.twitter.com/MorVdfHc9H
— Riot Games (@riotgames) March 28, 2020
So what will these companies be doing as part of the initiative? Riot Games is offering middle and high school students free game design lesson plans, Unity educational program will include live sessions and virtual coding classes whilst Zynga will release a free BMW Z04 in “CSR Racing 2” if their players are able to complete 250 million races in the next two weeks.
Gamers, it is now our time to shine. Stay at home and PLAY VIDEO GAMES! For more information about what each company is offering, search the hashtag “PlayApartTogether” on your favourite search engine and on Twitter.