Video games are in during social distancing.

In Times Of Social Distancing, Play More Video Games

During times of social distancing, anxiety can build up. This can create stress and tension which is not good for our well being. As lockdowns have been announced to stem the spread of the coronavirus disease, people are being asked to isolate and stay in place (aka stay home) to help “flatten the curve”. Medical experts agree that this is an important measure to prevent infections as the coronavirus or COVID-19 is highly contagious. Health experts agree that there are certain activities people can do at home to keep them healthy and fit during this time. One of those activities is playing video games.

While playing video games had been vilified in the past as being too violent or an addictive disorder like gambling, some of the stigma against it has been reversed. The WHO has actually endorsed playing video games during this time as a way to cope with social distancing. This is a part of their #PlayApartTogether campaign to promote a way for people to stay connected. To pass the time during lockdowns, people can play video games together in groups that don’t require being in the same location, thanks to the Internet. Network gaming allows multi-user play, so friends and strangers alike can join to play for example Halo.

The campaign is being supported by many in the video gaming industry. This includes big names like Activision Blizzard, Zynga, YouTube Gaming, Unity and the streaming platform Twitch. The program creates special events, exclusives, activities, rewards and inspiration for gamers during a time of crisis.

According to 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.”

This sends a powerful message that also encourages better hygienic practices and preventive measures to take against COVID-19. It could mean many gamers below 30 will get the message much better than from other sources, due to the influence from the gaming industry promoting COVID-19 awareness.

Gaming Options

There are different ways to play video games, and it doesn’t require a game console. Having a game console, like a PlayStation or Xbox, is the best for kids. For everyone else, the Internet offers various ways to play games online. Most gamers, including eSports fanatics, play online games. This includes the popular League of Legends and Fortnite. Some games do require installation as an app on smartphones and tablets. Others have a full installer that can be downloaded to a personal computer, but requires high-end graphics cards. Most can play games using what is called an emulator, that provides a web browser for playing the game and nothing additional.

League of Legends online game.

An emulated game simulates the original environment it was developed for. If you want to play the original Atari version of Missile Command, you would need an emulator which runs an instance of the Atari driver to run from a web browser. Other gamers download an emulator driver that they install locally on their PC and then compile the game’s binary files. It is a much more advanced method that more technically inclined gamers use, but the result is better performance and quality than running it from an emulated web browser.

Example of games you can play from your web browser (BGAMES.com)

Google and Microsoft now provide Gaming-as-a-Service (GaaS) options for those who want to get into cloud gaming. The platforms like Stadia (Google) and xCloud (Microsoft) are still new in 2020, so there maybe some glitches here and there. Stadia has had some problems in its early deployment in late 2019, but the problems are being addressed. Ultimately, performance and quality will depend on your Internet connection since no console is being used and the games are streamed directly from the cloud. For most gamers, having a dedicated PC or console is still the way to go.

Microsoft Xbox One console (Source Microsoft)

For those who just want to play solo, there are a variety of devices for that. The Nintendo GameBoy and Switch are two popular devices. Game apps can also be installed on mobile devices (e.g. smartphones). This is for gamers who just want to pass the time in solitude.

Nintendo Switch (Credit Evan Amos)

Cross-platform play is now a reality after many years of demand. This means games developed by vendors support different gaming platforms (e.g. PC, consoles, mobiles, etc.). Due to the popularity of some games this has become possible with titles like Minecraft and Fortnite. The good thing about cross-platform support is that you can play with other gamers regardless of the type of device and system used. Thus gamers on PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC and smartphone versions can play against one another.

Benefits Of Playing Video Games

Scientific experts now agree that there are some benefits to playing video games. One of the most compelling arguments for gamers is that it helps with cognitive development. It appears to help with memory formation, planning and motor skills. Gamers who have been playing from a young age appear to develop intellect that leads to careers in science and engineering.

According to researcher Simone Kühn (Kurzweil):

“This proves that specific brain regions can be trained by means of video games”

It has also been found to help alleviate anxiety and cope with both physical and emotional pain according to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine and American Pain Society. In times when physical isolation is needed, limited social contact can really take their toll on certain individuals. One way to stay connected is through online gaming. It also doesn’t really matter what video game you play, so long as you are engaged with other users.

Synopsis

In terms of health, it does help with anxiety issues much like any activity. The irony in this is that it is the WHO that is encouraging playing video games, though it classifies video game addiction as a mental health disorder. The idea of promoting video games is not to go into excess, but with moderation it is not harmful. Now we don’t have to follow the WHO’s campaign on this, just play for the fun of it. Since staying home for hours can lead to boredom and thus anxiety, what better way to spend the time than engaging in a favorite activity. For some people it is playing video games.

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