covid-19 Technology

How the gaming community is benefitting from social distancing

Ready, set, go It’s business time for gamers as we work to flatten the curve

Ready, set, go It’s business time for gamers as we work to flatten the curve  

Video games in the time of Coronavirus: Multi-players, fitness experiences, gamified learning, and more; here’s why the gaming community is benefitting from social distancing.

Movie theatres and sports grounds might be experiencing restrictions but a small number of groups have benefited from the ongoing social distancing, and one of them is gamers. Yes, being stuck at home does have its perks.

Social media allows interaction to a certain point. You can rarely go beyond double-tapping for a like, popping in a comment or dropping a DM, but social gaming offers new types of communication. One is not just playing a game and streaming the progress live; there are active live chats for commentary and multi-player options.

Another bright side: no longer do you have to go out to buy a game disc (a reality which ended almost a decade ago), you can just install the game from the comfort of your couch.

Into the void...

Cosplayer Sameer Bundela is in lockdown in the U.S., having represented India at Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo 2020. Unable to explore the tourist sites, he has been indulging in a fair bit of gaming until the travel bans and social distancing restrictions lift, so that he may return home to Mumbai. “I have been able to discover games, especially on mobile, which I would not have been able to otherwise! Gaming is also a great heart-lightener as I can play with my friends back home. I’ve played multiplayer games like Call Of Duty: Warzone and Teamfight Tactics but I always find my way back to Dota.”

A screenshot from FIFA 2020

A screenshot from FIFA 2020   | Photo Credit: Electronic Arts

Developed by Electronic Arts, FIFA has seen more gaming sessions across India — given going outside in groups is discouraged. The game franchise is one of the biggest in the industry with annual releases since 1993, selling more than 350 million copies worldwide. FIFA falls into the sports simulation category of gaming, with trademark technologies such as Human Intelligence and True Player Motion. Sri Krishna Charan, a self-proclaimed FIFA addict living in Chennai, has been working from home, too. He says, “Since I live alone, it’s all I’ve been doing to beat the stress. Plus it’s a great way to connect with friends overseas. We’ve all been bingeing on FIFA 20 as well as Call Of Duty mobile battle royales.”

While he is not sure how long this shutdown will last, he still loves a good in-person live game-a-thon. “However, if social distancing is the way to go for a few months, then remotely playing together is the only option.”

Screenshot of a multiplayer mode of League Of Legends

Screenshot of a multiplayer mode of League Of Legends  

Former gaming journalist Gagan Gupta, in Mumbai, has been gaming his whole life and has been working from home for the last year, so he sheds some light on what is trending in this industry. “MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role playing games) like World Of Warcraft and Final Fantasy are actually on the lower-end in terms of popularity in India, as of the past few years. I’m seeing a lot of MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) games — like League Of Legends and Dota — as well as PUBG trending now,” he points out, “There are other popular games like Overwatch. I obviously play with my friends so I’ve been playing Destiny 2 (a free-to-play online-only multiplayer first-person shooter) and Doom Eternal (a first-person shooter).” Gagan adds that he does not stream his gaming sessions at all.

Love for live

According to Amazon-owned gaming streaming platform Twitch, there are just over 100 active Twitch streamers in the country. In the light of social distancing, the platform has seen a surge in views over the past couple of weeks globally. The idea with Twitch is that people follow their favourite let’s-players live-broadcast their progress in video games. Though the service is free, there are additional features such as subscriptions to each let’s-player costs around ₹375.

A screenshot of Twitch TV, the app for televisions

A screenshot of Twitch TV, the app for televisions  

Data from Twitch Tracker shows that just between March 1 and March 15, there was a boost of 2,18,500 live viewers across channels and 14,500 active live channels, around the world. And, of course, on weekends, there are 16% more viewers than on weekdays; for them there are 17% more streams to choose from on Twitch.

For the younglings
  • Of course, students at home from school will not have access to Twitch but they do have their own gaming experiences, but all to gamify learning and well-being.
  • STEPapp by Eduisfun Technologies is an educational gaming app launched recently. The company had approached the Tamil Nadu State government to launch this app in government schools so to help children learn maths and sciences concepts faster.
  • Family favourite Animal Crossing is widely popular among families who want to steer away from the usual tropes of video games. On March 20, Nintendo-exclusive Animal Crossing: New Horizons was released and Delhi-based Leena Gupta says her two children, aged 8 and 11, were long awaiting for the release. “While working from home, I have to understand that video games are not their babysitter but a supplementary recreation to their existing at-home school syllabus while also helping them improve reflexes.”
  • During the social distancing, Nintendo’s Ring Fit Adventure sold out internationally, too. The exercising action-RPG, popular across all ages, has a fitness-focussed experience in which there are two physical components: the Ring-Con, a flexible, hard-plastic ring held by the player and which one Joy-Con slots into, and a Leg Strap, a piece of fabric affixed to the user's leg that holds the other Joy-Con.

Plus, in the first 20 days of March, Twitch had already observed 671 million hours of livestream gaming while the average hours per month is around 750 million.

Why have let’s players become such a big deal now? A form of passive gaming for viewers who vicariously live through the moves made by the let’s-player, they also become a way to connect with a gamer. Some of the big let’s-players right now, locally and internationally, include TheRadBrad, Ninja, Indian Gamer and, of course, PewDiePie. “Watching someone is a skill-based experience. You watch to pick up on tips and to understand their choices, and it is a great entertainer, just like live sports,” explains Gagan.

Twitch is quite aware of the boost; in a March 17 blog post titled ‘How to use Twitch to support charities responding to COVID-19’, the company has listed out ways for gamers to link up with charities — such as Italian Red Cross, Save The Children, Direct Relief — which are active on the platform. They have also detailed a list of Best Practices for charity streams.

Whatever the (stereotypical) image of a gamer that comes to mind, one cannot refute that they have mastered social distancing long before many of us could. Want to join this gaming revolution? We recommend Minecraft (of course), The Walking Dead, Firewatch, Mario Party, Monument Valley, Pokemon Go and Sayonara: Wild Hearts.

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Printable version | Mar 28, 2020 5:44:23 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/technology/muli-players-fitness-experiences-gamified-learning-and-more-heres-why-the-gaming-community-is-benefitting-from-social-distancing/article31143959.ece

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