Social distancing is an important practice right now. Without it, the spread of COVID-19 would be much more pronounced. So, naturally, governments are doing what they can to encourage people to actually distance themselves socially.
While social media campaigns are all well and good, there is one area where you can really reach a large group of people: gaming. That’s, presumably, why the British government has started putting social distancing messages into video games like Dirt 2.0 and Candy Crush Saga.
It just goes to show how powerful a tool gaming can be for imparting information.
Clearly video games are a great method for imparting your message to people easily. The new banners in Dirt 2.0 will probably remind plenty of people to stay at home. If anyone who plays Candy Crush actually leaves the house normally those messages might help too.
Without wanting to seem, alarmist, they also do cause a slight niggling concern at the back of my head. At a time of crisis like this, getting a message out is important. There is a slight concern of course that these sorts of platforms could easily be turned to propaganda without much work.
Then again, perhaps not. It seems likely that the companies who own the games would have to agree to any messages put in the game. While getting them to agree with social distancing messages might be easy, straight government propaganda seems like it’d be a much harder sell.
While there are a few potential concerns, they’re almost certainly minor ones. Getting the message about social distancing to the whole of the UK is a worthy cause. If that means plastering the message all over video games then so be it.
Having said that, if someone is inside playing video games anyway is the message wasted? I suppose the argument could be made that this might stop people from planning to go out later. No matter how you look at it, this new method for government messaging has some pretty interesting implications.
Let’s just hope we don’t start seeing political party advertisements in video games during the next election cycle.