‘Game Saves’, Save the World

Photo by Charles Eugene on Unsplash

author: @aestranger

Reading time: 7 minutes

‘Game Saves’, Save the World

A gamer’s view on gaming helping save the world

If you’re reading this right now (04/2020), then you’re probably like me, working from home and struggling during the COVID-19 lockdown. If you’re reading this later, then hopefully we’ve come through this with a new understanding of what can happen and how we need to work together to get through it all.

And likely one way that we will get through it is by using games to keep in touch socially and to keep ourselves mentally healthy. Millions of people are currently searching for ways that allow them to practice social distancing and entertain themselves while keeping social interaction and connections alive. And with that search we’ve all turned to games as the way to do this.

As some of you may know, I’m a big proponent of the benefits of gaming. I’ve discussed on my blog a few times how gaming can be valuable. Some examples are of VR and Mental health, gaming as a therapeutic tool, how gaming helps with anxiety issues, fighting cancer and helping those with autism.

And since the world is embracing gaming, I’d like to look at some of the things that are happening to make this a reality and also the benefits of gaming. For those that like TL;DR’s:

  1. The WHO initiative: #PlayApartTogether
    • The WHO is working together with the videogame industry to help promote the fight against COVID-19.
  2. Gaming Industry Support
    • How you can support the fight against COVID-19 by playing games and how game developers are supporting medical staff and their staff during this time.
  3. Benefits of gaming
    • Examples of how gaming beats isolation, helps social interaction and other examples of personal proof and historical proof that gaming has helped in times of hardship.

#Playtogether – Gaming together

#Playtogether is an initiative from the WHO and a handful of companies from the videogame industry. The hashtag is to promote social distancing by organizing online gaming events for all of us who are at home, working or otherwise.

The companies participating range from Activision Blizzard, to Zynga, to Riot Games, and even include streaming and video platforms like Twitch and Youtube. Some larger game’s companies who develop the biggest AAA blockbusters are missing from the list. But this may have to do more with the fact that many of them do not have online mobile offerings.

This initiative may come as surprise to some of you, considering that a year or so ago the WHO stated that gaming will be added to their list of mental health disorders. Though this isn’t a reversal, there still is a danger that without proper guidelines, certain gaming practices can be detrimental to individuals. However, it is a positive step forward in that the organization realizes that there are very real benefits to healthy gaming practices.

This statement from Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard, really encompasses what gaming is all about and the benefits we can reap from it: “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.”

So even in times when we’re told to keep our distance, technology and culture do allow us to come together for good causes and the wellbeing of ourselves and others.

 

Gaming Support

The gaming industry as a whole is coming together to show support for worthwhile causes in a variety of ways. One way is for companies to show their support for their employees, who are all working from home and to offer them creative and healthy outlets that still utilize their skills. The prime example of this is the Stay Safe! Jam, where companies like Bethesda, Ubisoft, Crytek, Wargaming or Devolver will offer prizes to participants of the Jam. Game developers from everywhere can take part and show off their creativity.

If you want to help game developers and show your support to those who are battling COVID-19, then Humble Bundle is also selling a bundle of some fantastic games that you can play. The proceeds go will straight to organizations who need funding during this period, and it will help equip those that fighting COVID-19 for us.

Even smaller and niche charities such as GDQ or Games Done Quick are helping to support humanitarian organizations that bring medical aid to those in less developed nations around the world. This is certainly a worthwhile cause, as not all of us on this planet are as fortunate as others.

Benefits of gaming

There are clear external benefits to gaming, such as helping those in need. But there is also a very internal and intrinsic benefit to gaming. As a gamer myself, and as someone who has been a gamer for many years, across many countries, and who has at points suffered from isolation and loneliness, gaming has been an unparalleled lifeline.

Isolation and loneliness is a very real problem for many of us, especially now. Not all of us are lucky enough to be with someone important while we’re in lockdown. The main issue with isolation is that in the long run it is damaging towards our mental health. As humans, we’re social creatures, we need to interact with others to remain healthy. So in a time where we are keeping our distance, we need to have an outlet, like online gaming, that helps us to keep in touch and get together with family, friends, and so on.

Online gaming is excellent at combatting isolation, you’re actively interacting with others, you can speak with them, laugh, cry, make new memories and create lasting social bonds. I can certainly attest to this being true and that it very much works.

Interacting socially online is only one side of the coin. The other side is the ability to escape from the world. Though escapism isn’t always the right answer, in a world where the media has become predominantly negative in its tone, rather than promoting positivism, escapism might be the medicine we need. Being able to escape from such a dour world to something fun, engaging and challenging can help your mind cope with that reality. It allows you to discuss more mentally favourable topics, such as how you beat that puzzle or boss, rather than being reminded of a death toll. (sorry)

There a few examples of times in history when we as a species utilized story, games, play and escapism to deal with such adverse situations. This article discusses how individuals in the 14th Century indulged in a bit of narrative escapism to better deal with the plague that was ravaging Europe at the time.

Jane McGonigal in her book Reality is Broken (2012) even discusses how the Lydian civilization survived drought and famine by collectively playing games: “Games made life bearable. Games gave a starving population a feeling of power in a powerless situation, a sense of structure in a chaotic environment.”

Though these examples don’t contain the aspect of social distancing that we now need to enforce, they do prove the effect that games can have as a social tool. And thanks to the existence of the internet we can benefit from this social tool and keep our distance to stay safe.

I personally have been able to maintain friendships across several years using games and online gaming as a social interaction tool. All it requires to be effective is a change of mindset from going outside to the idea that you can still ‘go-out’ for a drink in an online world. It is as simple as each of you having a drink, wherever you are, and then going on an adventure together in a virtual space. And trust me, the experience is as rewarding as if it were in the real world.

Final Thoughts

I find it surprising that it takes such effort and a monumental event for us as a species and civilization to change our outlook on certain aspects of our world and culture. Rather than accepting expert knowledge, we need a disruption in our lives to finally see the benefits of a healthy engagement with gaming. Not to forget the benefits our environment is experiencing during this period.

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I certainly do believe that the activity of gaming is healthier than watching films and series all day on one of the many streaming platforms. At least with games, your brain is actively engaged in an endeavor, you’re keeping your mind agile. That said, do not skimp of your physical health though. Do keep exercising, do an intensive work out every day for 10-30 minutes at least. And if you’re lucky enough to be able to still, go outside for a walk, but do keep a distance of 2m from everyone you come across!

For those of you who need some examples of what games to play during this period, then some of note that are easy to get into without being a lifelong gamer are:

  • Words with Friends
  • Anything from the Blizzard line up: WoW, OW, WC, SC
  • Stardew Valley
  • Divinity: OS 2
  • Table Top Simulator on Steam

Or any other online, cooperative friendly game that suits your tastes.

As a final note, do balance your gaming habits in a healthy manner with the rest of your life please.

And stay in touch with each other, stay home and stay safe! This too shall pass.”

I hope that this piece has given you some food for thought and helped improve your own methods or at least offered a different viewpoint to consider.

Do check out the other posts on æStranger.com, and do leave a comment or contact us if you have some ideas of your own that you wish to discuss or if you would like to see other topics discussed.

Please do Share if you found it helpful and if you know of someone who would it find it helpful as well. 

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