WHO and the games industry team up to help stop the spread of the coronavirus

Sam Desatoff, Monday, March 30th, 2020 9:56 pm

As the world continues to brace itself against the coronavirus, medical professionals urge self-quarantine and social distancing practices as a means to “flatten the curve” of viral transmission in highly-impacted regions of the globe. To that end, the World Health Organization and many games industry representatives have teamed up to promote #PlayApartTogether, an initiative aimed at encouraging gaming as a means to disseminate safe guidelines and hygiene practices.

“Today, the World Health Organization will enlist the global gaming industry to reach millions with important messages to help prevent the spread of Covid-19,” Ray Chambers, US ambassador to the WHO, said in a statement. “The games sector will launch #PlayApartTogether, an initiative to inform and encourage their vast network of users to follow the WHO’s important health guidelines-including physical distancing, hand hygiene and other powerful preventive actions to slow the spread of COVID-19. Through this unifying hashtag, companies will encourage conversation within their games and on social media.

“I thank the games industry for stepping up to help bring an end to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Chambers continued. “We hope this campaign to #PlayApartTogether encourages even more people to stay safe and healthy while they help flatten the curve and save lives.”

To promote the initiative, many publishers plan on offering special in-game events, activities, and rewards throughout the duration. The goal, according to the announcement, is to promote best health practices by incorporating such messages into games.

A number of high-profile industry organizations have shown solidarity for the initiative, including Activision Blizzard, Riot Games, Zynga, Kabam, Twitch, Unity, YouTube Gaming, and more.

“Our mission at Zynga has always been to connect the world through games, and it has taken on a new dimension as we face this global crisis,” Bernard Kim, president of publishing at Zynga, said in a statement. “We are honored to support the important work of the World Health Organization and provide our players with a support system during this period of physical distancing. The #PlayApartTogether initiative activates positivity and community that can help us commit to the urgent task at hand.”

For Glu’s part, the team will be hosting multiplel events across several of its titles: Covet Fashion, Design Home, Diner DASH Adventures, Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, and MLB Tap Sports Baseball 2020 will all see new events and health-forward messaging.

“We are actively encouraging players to follow WHO guidance and that of local health authorities for the health and safety of their families and communities,” a Glu spokesperson told GameDaily. “Glu is activating through greater in-game rewards, push notifications and in-game messages communicating guidelines, social contests and more.”

The #PlayApartTogether campaign is antithetical to the WHO’s diagnosis of gaming disorder in 2018. At the time, researcher Dr. Kelli Dunlap of iThrive Games said that there exists a precedent for a disorder regarding gaming addiction, but the industry lacks any real control groups to study it.

“There are some researchers who say there’s not enough research to define gaming disorder as its own entity,” Dr. Dunlap said. “The research just isn’t there yet. We need more research so we can know what we’re looking for. The other side is basically saying, ‘It’s good enough where it is. There are people who are hurting, and if we have a disorder in place, one, it gives us a research target, and two, we can actually help the people who need help.’”

Now, though, WHO is promoting gaming as a means to stem the spread of the coronavirus, which could be considered ironic from a certain point of view. Regardless, gaming has seen a sharp rise in recent weeks as people quarantine themselves indoors against the virus. It seems smart to reach out to this demographic if it means that officials can better educate the population about the best safety practices.

Sam, the Editor-in-Chief of GameDaily.biz, is a former freelance game reporter. He's been seen at IGN, PCGamesN, PCGamer, Unwinnable, and many more. When not writing about games, he is most likely taking care of his two dogs or pretending to know a lot about artisan coffee. Get in touch with Sam by emailing him at sdesatoff@rektglobal.com or follow him on Twitter.

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