Amidst the backdrop of a global pandemic, corporate advertisements and messaging serve as a near-constant reminder that we are, in fact, living in unprecedented times.
Despite my growing tiredness hearing this line repeated by everyone from Nike to IKEA, it remains accurate. For myself – as well as virtually everyone else on the planet – the spread of COVID-19 has fundamentally reshaped our everyday lives. In the U.S. alone, nearly 17 million have lost their jobs, with governors in all but six states ordering lockdowns and other measures in the hopes of reducing human-to-human contact and slowing the spread of COVID-19.
As we continue to adapt to social distancing guidelines, it may come as no surprise that in-home activities like Netflix are – quite literally – more popular than ever. Alongside this, video game play on platforms like Steam and Xbox Live are also experiencing record-breaking numbers of concurrent players. And while it’s likely that other self-isolation-friendly activities like reading are also on the rise as folks continue to seek out safe forms of in-home entertainment, I believe that video games are playing a unique role amidst this worldwide crisis: gaming allows for folks to connect with one another in shared digital spaces, granting access to meaningful, shared experiences – entirely remotely. For millions across the globe, online gaming is serving as a key platform for socialization, togetherness, and community-building during a time in which shared spaces in real-life are largely inaccessible – not only today, but for the foreseeable future.
So the next time you find yourself checking out a friend’s island in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, building something incredible with pals in Minecraft, or sharing an educational game with a loved one – remember that these shared experiences were made possible thanks to the unique affordances of digital games. As a company, we’ve always believed in the power of gaming as a tool for positive outcomes – but there has perhaps never been a better illustration of the social benefits of the medium than our everyday lives, today.