Home / Tech / The WHO is recommending video games as an effective way to stop the spread of COVID-19, one year after adding 'gaming disorder' to its list of addictive behaviors

The WHO is recommending video games as an effective way to stop the spread of COVID-19, one year after adding 'gaming disorder' to its list of addictive behaviors

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  • Video game makers have banded together to promote gaming as a healthy means of physical distancing and social connection amid the coronavirus pandemic.
  • The WHO is seemingly supportive of the idea, despite designating video game addiction a mental health disorder.
  • The organization added “Gaming disorder” as a classification in May 2019 alongside others related to addictive behavior, such as gambling.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Millions of people are searching for social distancing-friendly activities to stay entertained during home quarantines.

As part of a campaign dubbed #PlayApartTogether, 18 video game companies including live-streaming giant Twitch and Activision Blizzard are banding together to encourage players to resort to video games as a means to maintain physical distance while still connecting socially with others, as Insider’s Palmer Haasch reported.

“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,” said Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick in a press release.

As part of the campaign, companies are using guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO) to highlight gaming’s inherent capacity for physical distancing. And the World Health Organization is supportive of the idea, despite its previous designation of video game addiction as an official mental health disorder in May 2019.

The organization added “Gaming disorder” as a classification alongside others related to addictive behaviors such as gambling. The technical description of “Gaming disorder” includes such indicators as “increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities.”

Despite the classification, which goes into effect in January 2022, WHO ambassador for global strategy Ray Chambers said in a statement that he hopes the gaming industry can “reach millions with important messages to help prevent the spread of COVID-19,” according to USA Today. Chambers said game companies will encourage players to maintain distance from others as well as practice good hygiene, like handwashing. He also tweeted a post from the #PlayApartTogether campaign on March 28 in apparent support.

As USA Today notes, video gaming isn’t only a means of distraction during the current pandemic. Many games in the market, such as Nintendo Switch, allow players to connect and play with others online in a time when meeting friends for in-person gatherings isn’t allowed.

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