WHO Walks Back Stance On Video Games, Encourages Gaming During Coronavirus Pandemic

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Two people playing Sony PS4 game console
Two people playing Sony PS4 game console. Photo: JESHOOTS.COM / Unsplash

The World Health Organization (WHO), has recommended playing video games to people around the world as a way to cope with having to stay in their residences to avoid contracting the novel coronavirus. The WHO officially added “gaming disorder” to its list of diseases in 2019.

Ray Chambers, the WHO’s Ambassador for Global Strategy, posted a tweet in support of the gaming industry, which has a worldwide reach, and encouraged everyone to “play apart together” online to help staying indoors and practicing social distancing during the pandemic.

#PlayApartTogether is an initiative launched by a total of 18 game industry leaders that joined forces to promote messages and health guidelines from the WHO such as physical distancing, hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette and other preventive actions against COVID-19.

“By bringing special events, exclusives, activities, rewards and inspiration to some of the most popular games in the world, #PlayApartTogether encourages users to adopt best practices for the sake of their own health and that of their families and communities. By incorporating COVID-19 self-protection messages into games, the industry is telling the world: ‘Wherever you are, whatever game you play, you can make a difference’,” the companies said in a joint statement.

The companies that take part in the program are: Activision Blizzard, Kabam, Snap Games, Amazon Appstore, Maysalward, Twitch, Big Fish Games, Playtika, Unity, Dirtybit, Pocket Gems, Wooga, Glu Mobile, Riot Games, YouTube Gaming, Jam City, SciPlay and Zynga.

“Physical distancing shouldn’t mean social isolation! Let’s stay physically apart – and take other public health steps such as hand hygiene – to help flatten the curve and #PlayApartTogether to help power through this crisis,” Riot Games CEO Nicolo Laurent said in a statement.

In May 2019, the WHO included “gaming disorder” as a new mental health condition in the 11th edition of its International Classification of Diseases. The decision alarmed parents everywhere and was met with mixed reactions, with some psychologists raising doubts about whether gaming disorder was worthy of inclusion in the disease list.

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