In normal circumstances, public health agencies advise people who play a lot of video games to get outside and socialize, but then these aren't normal circumstances. To slow the spread of COVID-19, the UK government's Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is working with the some country's biggest video game developers to tell gamers to stay inside. The next time you play a game like Candy Crush Saga or Dirt Rally 2.0, you're likely to see the messaging.
The most notable contribution comes from Activision Blizzard's King subsidiary, which will feature the government's "Stay at Home, Save Lives" ads within its mobile games, including inside of Candy Crush Saga. The company has also donated 230 "digital poster" advertising spaces across London for the agency to use for public health messaging. These are spaces King would have used to promote its games.
If you a fan of Dirt Rally 2.0, you can already see Stay At Home posters inside the popular racing game (see the screenshot above). The timing is fortuitous since Dirt Rally 2.0 is one of this month's free PlayStation Plus games. Codemasters, the game's developer, says it's exploring how to add similar messaging to its other titles, as well as making them visible to players in US and other parts of Europe.
Last but not least, you'll also see Stay At Home advisories on the loading screens of games from Rebellion, the developer of the Sniper Elite franchise. The studio has also offered to print the messages within comic books it publishes.
The government says it sees video games as a "creative, targeted and immediate" tool to get an essential and life-saving message across to people, and is asking other developers to come forward and help in a similar way. With approximately 37 million people in the country playing video games in one way or another, there is also something to be said about the scale of the initiative. Moreover, other countries are likely to benefit from the ads since most games have global audiences.