Videogames, a refuge in times of coronavirus


Although the Spanish League was suspended, an Andalusian derby was played before an audience worthy of the great stadiums. On March 15, two professional players from Betis and Sevilla faced each other in the FIFA20 video game, before the gaze of 60,000 Internet users.

The game, which excited the fans of these two great clubs in southern Spain, is a reflection of the success of online video games, in a context in which confinement and social distancing are imposed to fight against the spread of the new coronavirus.

When more than a third of the world’s population is under more or less strict conditions of confinement, video games serve to pass the time and are a – legal – way of escaping from confinement.

“It allows me to feel less depressed due to being locked up in a confined space for so long,” says Yang An, who had to spend two weeks in her forties upon her return to Shanghai.

According to her, she spent up to eight hours a day in front of her Nintendo Switch console.

On March 15, it was the attacker Borja Iglesias who, on the console, gave Betis the victory (6-5) against Sevilla, controlled by Sergio Reguilón, Sevilla defender.

The game started at the same time that the actual meeting was scheduled at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán stadium. Some 60,000 people followed the event, broadcast live on the Twitch platform.

Dessert cherry in this mix between real and virtual, it was Iglesias himself who scored the winning goal for Betis.

“We do this for fun, for you to take advantage of at home, as long as this epidemic is still possible,” said Twitch.

The match was so successful that, this weekend, an online mini-tournament was organized with a charitable objective in which players from 19 of the 20 clubs in the Spanish league faced each other.

Given the success of video games, access providers do everything possible to make their networks resist.

US telecommunications group Verizon recently reported that, within a week, traffic on their systems had increased 75% due to online gaming.

Video game companies and platforms have also mobilized to deal with the large number of “gamers”.

Publisher Rockstar Games, known for the game Red Dead Redemption, promised that its range of games would continue, despite the fact that its employees had to work from home.

Gamer communities “could somehow recreate the common, empty space a bit now” because of the coronavirus, estimates Christian McCrea, a professor of video games at the Royal Institute of Technology in Melbourne.

This expert cites Pokemon Go as an example, a global phenomenon in 2016 when millions of people went on the hunt for virtual creatures around the world. Its publisher has just announced that it will modify the game to make it more compatible so that it can be played without leaving home.

– Impact on children –

“Globally, the impact will be felt above all in children, who will stay at home for months with parents who no longer work,” he told AFP. “Games will be at the center of their free time.”

But video games have always been criticized for their harmful effects on health, especially on the eyes, and also for the psychological consequences they can cause and social isolation.

In 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) recognized video game addiction as a mental illness.

China launched a sensitization campaign in this regard targeting young people who spent too much time with such games.