The World Health Organization and almost every national government has encouraged everyone in non-essential roles to stay at home. With millions of people in self-isolation there is a real need to ensure these people have something to do. Netflix has started reducing their streaming quality to ensure the system can cope with demand, but what else can you do when isolated at home?
Games. Take a look at the launch announcement for the #PlayApartTogether movement. Leading brands from the gaming industry, such as Riot Games and Blizzard Entertainment have joined with the World Health Organization to encourage people to play games when in quarantine or isolation.
Not only are games fun and a great way to pass all those hours at home, but many games are also social so you can avoid many of the distressing problems that isolation can create just by playing a game and talking to other gamers.
It’s not just Riot and Blizzard that are seeing an enormous wave of gamers logging in, you cannot buy a Nintendo Switch in the US right now unless you are prepared to pay double the usual price on eBay. Amazon, Walmart, GameStop, Target, and Best Buy are all completely out of stock. Nintendo is rushing to get more consoles to market.
It is the social aspect of gaming that really makes it so valuable during this global crisis. People forced to stay home alone can see their mental health deteriorate quickly. Many are anxious about their employment or family anyway so to add the complete isolation on top of an already worrying situation can sometimes just be too much.
There is a great opportunity for the many healthcare and wellness apps to also build visibility. Many of these apps have been growing in popularity anyway, but their value right now cannot be underestimated. Combine some new games for regular social contact and an app like Calm, to help with meditation and sleep, and it looks like the app store could be the best new friend for millions of people.
Many who are new to gaming or have not played any games for years might not realize just how social they are today. Many modern gamers play mainly for social interactions. Games where you explore virtual worlds, such as League of Legends, World of Warcraft or Runescape, can feature many thousands of people inside the game simultaneously and you can socialize with them. In fact, at a time when it is becoming difficult to socialize in the real world, gaming is offering perhaps the best alternative.
We should also be aware that many of those isolated will be elderly members of society. Many of these people will be familiar with communication tools like Skype and Zoom because family members have shown them how to use them to stay in touch, but there is likely to be a disproportionate number of elderly people who are uncomfortable with these tools.
The New York Times recently published a story featuring some great examples of friends and family helping their relatives to get connected and this is a lesson for all of us right now – if you have technology and social media skills then can you offer some time to help someone who is less comfortable with these tools?
We are all facing this challenge in different ways, but one of the most basic requirements for all humans is that we are social. If we can use games during this difficult time to ensure that we can keep on interacting with other people then these games will be much more valuable than just a pastime – they will be lifesavers.