WHO and game companies launch #PlayApartTogether to promote physical distancing


The World Health Organization (WHO) and the video game industry have teamed up on #PlayApartTogether, a promotional campaign that encourages healthy physical distancing by bringing special events, exclusives, activities, rewards, and inspiration to some of the most popular games in the world.

Some of the industry’s biggest and most powerful companies — from Activision Blizzard to Zynga — are participating, with billions of users represented

That signals a big mainstream moment for games, which have become even more popular as people are isolated in their homes without the chance to engage in physical entertainment. And it’s also a turnaround for the WHO, which last year branded “gaming disorder” as an illness that can be clinically treated. That move was greeted with dismay by game companies, but prompted a lot of discussion about addiction.

Ray Chambers, United States Ambassador to the WHO, said in a statement that, during the challenging time of the coronavirus, he applauds the “ingenuity of partners from all sectors who are stepping up to assist in efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The WHO is enlisting the global gaming industry to reach millions with important messages to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The games sector will launch #PlayApartTogether, an initiative to inform and encourage the vast network of users to follow the WHO’s important health guidelines, including physical distancing, hand hygiene, and other powerful preventive actions to slow the spread of COVID-19.

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Through this unifying hashtag, companies will encourage conversation within their games and on social media. Chambers added, “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.”

In a statement, Bernard Kim, president of publishing at Zynga, said his company’s mission of connecting the world through games has taken on a new dimension during the global crisis. He said Zynga is honored to support WHO’s work and provide “our players with a support system during this period of physical distancing. The #PlayApartTogether initiative activates positivity and community that can help us commit to the urgent task at hand.”

The participants include 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.

Above: #PlayApartTogether will promote playing games while physically apart.

Image Credit: WHO

Here are comments from each company:

  • Activision Blizzard – Bobby Kotick, CEO. “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.”
  • Big Fish Games — Jeff Karp, managing director. “There has perhaps never been a more pivotal time than present, for solidarity around a cause, such as the one facing us now with COVID-19. Together, with our global community of games publishers and the technical guidance of the World Health Organization, we hope to reach millions of players across our titles with the #PlayApartTogether campaign. Through games like Cooking Craze, Gummy Drop, Decurse and Fairway Solitaire, we can share WHO’s important message of safety while letting our community know that they are not alone. We are all in this together, even if we are apart.”
  • Dirtybit — Anette Staloy, vice president of business and marketing. “Our mission is to let people create memorable moments together, and our focus has always been on creating social game experiences. Our players all over the world have been sharing heartwarming stories about how much it means to them to be able to connect with and keep in touch with friends and family through our Fun Run games. We appreciate the opportunity to take part in the #PlayApartTogether initiative, to help encourage people to follow the guidance of the WHO and local health authorities.”
  • Glu Mobile — Nick Earl, CEO. “Games have the power to not only entertain people, but bring them together in difficult times. We are proud to join arms with the games industry to support the World Health Organization as we encourage a global community of players to #PlayApartTogether. Across multiple games in Glu’s portfolio, we are actively encouraging players to follow WHO guidance and that of local health authorities for the health and safety of their families and communities.”
  • Jam City — Chris DeWolfe, CEO. “Jam City knows that many are turning to games for stress relief and a little joy during these perilous times. As a game company with tens of millions of players, we call on everyone to #PlayApartTogether to flatten the curve and put an end to COVID-19.”
  • Kabam — Tim Fields, CEO. “At Kabam we entertain the world. And the role of entertainers is never more important than in hard times. Kabam supports the #PlayApartTogether initiative; by following the wise guidance of the World Health Organization we can ease the burden on healthcare professionals and save lives. What better time to catch up on some of your favorite games or try some new ones? You can be a hero by playing with your friends, together but apart.”
  • Maysalward — Nour Khrais, CEO. “Everyone must do their part to fight this pandemic and reduce its spread. Staying home is an important way to protect ourselves and society from its danger. At Maysalward we are committed to fighting the spread with our, therefore, we are joining #PlayApartTogether and launching new games with more online gameplay capabilities. Stay Home, Stay Safe.”
  • Playtika — Robert Antokol, CEO. “At Playtika, we believe that play is an integral part of life, even in the toughest of times. We are proud to promote messages by the World Health Organisation and to join this coalition of games industry leaders to support the #PlayApartTogether campaign. As part of this important response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Playtika is fully committed to helping people worldwide stay safe and feel connected.”
  • Pocket Gems — Ben Liu, CEO. “Games can provide needed entertainment while fostering connection. In these challenging times, Pocket Gems is supporting the #PlayApartTogether campaign together with our fellow developers to amplify key messages from the WHO. We hope players enjoy some added content and bonuses in our mobile games like Episode and War Dragons, while also getting important reminders from the World Health Organization.”
  • Riot Games — Nicolo Laurent, CEO. “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. For Rioters, playing games is more than just a game; it’s a meaningful life pursuit. 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.”
  • SciPlay — Josh Wilson, CEO. “Here at SciPlay, we’re all driven by the joy our games bring to the global community. In these challenging times, we must all come together to fight the virus and flatten the curve of transmission. One of our core values is #playTOGETHER, which is ingrained into every action that we take in order to serve our players. We are honored that we can evolve this core value into the #PlayApartTogether initiative, which we believe in so strongly, and magnify live-saving messages from the World Health Organization. So, let’s all #PlayApartTogether to stay healthy, both mentally and physically!”
  • Snap — Will Wu, head of Snap Games. “It’s so important that young people take staying at home seriously — they have a key role to play in helping stop the spread. Snap Games has always been a way for Snapchatters to connect and play with their friends even when far apart, so we’re game to support the #PlayApartTogether initiative. We’re committed to helping Snapchatters stay home by offering new games to play and creative tools that raise awareness for our community to protect themselves, their loved ones, and the greater public.”
  • Twitch — Michael Aragon, senior vice president of content. “Games are a huge part of what brings the Twitch community together each day. The #PlayApartTogether initiative is a reminder that even while it’s crucial we keep our distance from one another, we can keep enjoying the games we love and stay connected with people online. We’re pleased to share key messages from the WHO alongside other members of the initiative to continue providing a place where people can come together, play games, and create community.”
  • Unity Technologies — John Riccitiello, CEO. “At Unity, we believe the world is a better place with more game creators and game players in it. Whether you’re playing your favorite game with friends on the internet or learning how to make your first game with some of our now-free all-access coding initiatives, #PlayApartTogether can galvanize players to protect themselves and their families. We look forward to working with the global games industry to do our part as global citizens to flatten the curve.”
  • YouTube — Ryan Wyatt, global head of gaming. “For 15 years, YouTube has been a community where people do things alone but together through #withme videos — but it’s more important now than ever to #StayHome and #PlayApartTogether. Some of the most impactful moments on YouTube have been creators virtually engaging with fans and other gaming creators halfway around the world via livestreams. Gamers know how to come together, even when we’re apart, so let’s be safe during this time and do our part as an industry to flatten the curve.”

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