With video games playing a key role in helping people cope with the sudden and forced isolation brought about by the COVID-19 outbreak, it appears that the gaming industry has found an unlikely new ally in the World Health Organization (WHO).

The global health agency has partnered with several industry leaders to launch #PlayApartTogether, a campaign that leverages video games’ global reach and influence to promote healthy physical distancing, hand hygiene, and other preventive habits to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease.

18 leading companies in the gaming industry are participating in the campaign, ranging from publishers such as Riot Games and Activision Blizzard, to streaming platforms like Twitch and YouTube. 

Through #PlayApartTogether, these companies will help communicate WHO health guidelines and COVID-19 self-protection best practices by incorporating special and exclusive events, activities, and rewards into the world’s most popular games.

“It’s never been more critical to ensure people stay safely connected to one another,” said Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick. “Games are the perfect platform because they connect people through the lens of joy, purpose and meaning.”

Riot Games echoed the sentiment, emphasizing that “physical distancing shouldn’t mean social isolation!”

“For Rioters, playing games is more than just a game; it’s a meaningful life pursuit,” CEO Nicolo Laurent explained. “And now, for the billions of players around the world, playing games could help the pursuit of saving lives. Let’s beat this COVID-19 boss battle together.”

Aside from its crucial role in the ongoing fight against COVID-19, the #PlayApartTogether campaign is a notable milestone for the relationship between WHO and the gaming industry. 

Last year, the organization drew flak from the global gaming community for branding video game addiction as a mental health disorder. While WHO was referring only to extreme cases of addiction, their claim helped perpetuate the unfair stigma against video games.

But now that gaming has emerged as an effective means to stay uplifted and connected amid widespread area lockdowns and home quarantine initiatives, WHO is finally turning their attention toward gaming’s often unrecognized merits.

“During this challenging time, I applaud the ingenuity of partners from all sectors who are stepping up to assist in efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic,” wrote WHO Ambassador for Global Strategy Ray Chambers in a Facebook statement

“I thank the games industry for stepping up to help bring an end to the COVID-19 pandemic. We hope this campaign to #PlayApartTogether encourages even more people to stay safe and healthy while they help flatten the curve and save lives.”

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