Fight COVID-19 by playing video games at home


In 2005, the streets in Stormwind and Ironforge looked different. Usually crowded with activities, now they turned into a sea filled with corpses. The reason was, a virus called Corrupted Blood was rampant. Someone who was infected with the virus would experience damage to the body before it finally exploded.

Corrupted Blood was a virus created by Hakkar, the ruler of the city named Zul'Gurub, to protect himself. People who entered Zul'Gurub had only two choices: to die because of the virus created by Hakkar or live by killing its creator. Damn, Hakkar was hard to beat. So, many of them chose to return to their respective places of origin.

It was from the people who returned from Zul'Gurub that the virus was rampant. It spread so fast to make the World of Warcraft, the world in video games made by Blizzard Entertainment, chaotic.

The situation was protested by gamers. Corrupted Blood, which Blizzard Entertainment accidentally released, was later repaired. The game server was patched and World of Warcraft players returned to play peacefully, have their avatars returned, and get back the items that they had bought or obtained as well.

Fifteen years have passed. The world in the game World of Warcraft remains fine, despite the assumption that this game has been abandoned by many players. However, it is not with the real world. SARS-CoV-2, the virus that caused the COVID-19 outbreak, is rampant.

Strongly recommended

As of March 31, 2020, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University, more than 800 thousand people were infected with SARS-CoV-2 with mortality rates approaching forty thousand. Many countries then apply physical distancing strategies to isolate regions or lockdown to reduce the spread of the virus.

Four out of five people were ordered by their state authorities to isolate themselves. Meanwhile, in India, Malaysia, Italy, and Spain, a lockdown was put in place. Around the world, many mosques, churches, temples, and all places of worship, are temporarily frozen. Even all forms of teaching and learning activities in schools or campuses were also closed.

Home study and #WorkFromHome are encouraged. Zoom, Google Hangouts, Facebook, Slack were busy to support it all. To overcome boredom, Netflix and other online entertainment become a reference. In addition, there are still video games that also become an option.

The importance of video games in the current situation is even supported by the World Health Organization (WHO). In fact, last year, the WHO said that video games could interfere with mental health. Now, it supports #PlayApartTogether, an initiative promoted by game makers and gamers to play together at their respective homes.

Gaming consoles at the Computer Games Museum in Berlin (Hanno Böck)

Ray Chambers, WHO's Ambassador for Global Strategy, as reported by USA Today, stated that video games can "reach millions with important messages to help prevent the spread of COVID-19."

In line with Chambers, Amanda Taggart, Head of Communications at Unity Technologies, the company that created the basic video game engine or code used by nearly fifty percent of the world's games (Angry Birds 2, Call of Duty: Mobile, Mario Kart Tour, Untitled Goose Game, Disco Elysium, Wasteland 3), mentioned:

"We are in a truly unique and challenging time, one where coronavirus (COVID-19) is impacting every citizen, country, and culture worldwide. We're learning from governments that the most important tool we have to help reduce the global death toll from COVID-19 is physical distancing."

Of course, video games are one tool to expedite the movement. In fact, as reported by Mashable, the Polish government released the Grarantanna website that provided various video game servers, such as Minecraft, as a lure so that young people there wanted to stay at home for a while.

According to Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard, the company behind Call of Duty to Crash Bandicoot: "Games are the perfect platform because they connect people through the lens of joy."

Activision Blizzard at Gamescom 2013 (Dinosaur918)

In "Remain Calm. Be Kind." Effects on Relaxing Video Games on Aggressive and Prosocial Behavior, Jodi L. Whitaker also stated that playing video games kept people in a good mood. And because video games made moods improve, positive attitudes were easily transmitted.

In a situation like now, it is certainly important to maintain a positive mind.

The number of gamers increases

On the advice of WHO and the government, coupled with boredom at home, the number of people playing video games automatically increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Steam, for example, a video game distribution service, experienced a surge in users to touch the record. On one day in March 2020, there were 22.67 million Steam users who played video games. On average, there were around 18.4 million Steam users every day in March, up about thirteen percent from last January or twenty percent when compared to the number of users in the same month a year ago.

The Steam client in October 2019

Twitch, a video service that broadcasts people playing video games, is flooded by users. When coronavirus invaded, Twitch users increased thirty-one percent. And according to Mike Vorhaus, CEO of Vorhaus Advisors, a startup and video game consulting firm, the number of money gamers spent on buying virtual goods in video games increased by forty percent.

"Definitely consumers are playing more games, spending more time playing existing games and trying new games," said Vorhaus, reported CNET.

Interestingly, video gamers are not only for ordinary people. After IndyCar and Formula 1 failed to be held, many real racers turned to a game called rFactor. According to the Nasdaq report, IndyCar and Formula 1 broadcasts were even watched by more than half a million people directly via YouTube.

Getting a surge in gamers due to the COVID-19 pandemic is clearly encouraging news for video game companies. But can joy be translated as profit?

Get ready for the worst

At a time when the aviation, hotel, and service industries are collapsing, the video game industry is getting an excessive supply of users. Unfortunately, SARS-CoV-2 also has a negative effect. Because the crowd was not allowed, many video game events had to be canceled. One of them is the Game Developers Conference (GDC), which was supposed to be held in March 2020.

A nearly empty flight from Beijing to Los Angeles during the pandemic (MX. Granger)

Matthew Gault, in his writing in Time, said that GDC was indeed not as big as other video game events, call it E3, which was also canceled, but it was among the most important, especially for independent video game makers. At GDC, creators seek mutual attention and make various agreements so that the video games they create can be successful.

"For a lot of [independent developers], this is the one event they go to," said Rami Ismail, founder of the Vlambeer game studio. "This might be career ending."

For large game studios, coronavirus might not destroy them. However, for studios like Vlambeer, the loss of GDC means also the loss of the opportunity to capitalize on the video game they have been working on.

Of course, GDC is not only on its own duty as a distributor of game developers and markets. There is Arcanocon in Australia, ChinaJoy in China, G-Star in South Korea, Fastaval in Denmark, Games Convention in Germany, and IgroMir in Russia. Unfortunately, all the celebrations of the video game industry are in danger of being canceled due to COVID-19.

Bad luck does not only happen because of the cancellation of video game events. In China, many manufacturing plants are forced to close or limit production capacity due to COVID-19. In this regard, Sony insisted PlayStation 4 production would be disrupted, and the availability of PS4 units on the market was increasingly limited.

Sony PlayStation 4 Pro console

Nintendo, with its Nintendo Switch, also suffered a similar fate. Nintendo Switch availability in April is predicted to be disrupted, especially for units sold in the US market. Unfortunately, the US market accounted for forty-three percent of the total sales value of consoles made by Nintendo.

Finally, what threatens the video game industry due to COVID-19 is its own network infrastructure. With many users access at the same time, it is not impossible that many video game servers have broken down.

PlayStation Network has experienced it. Jim Ryan, the boss of Sony Interactive Entertainment, acknowledged that PlayStation Network speeds were "a bit slower" than normal days.

If a company as big as Sony has problems, sooner or later, the network of other video game developers will suffer a similar fate.