U.K. Video Gaming Industry Sets "Play & Talk" Weekend to Tackle Loneliness

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More than 50 businesses, including Electronic Arts, Ubisoft and Sega, are supporting the initiative.

The U.K. video games industry has designated June 20 and June 21 as "Play & Talk" weekend to combat loneliness amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

A survey from Britain's Office of National Statistics (ONS) showed that more than 30 percent of people in the U.K. have felt lonely during the pandemic lockdown. The figure rises to nearly 51 percent among people aged 16-24. 

The Play & Talk weekend wants to help reduce feelings of isolation by getting people to spend time and chat with friends or family online.

"We've seen people around the world turn to video games to socialize and have fun with friends and family during the pandemic," said Jo Twist, CEO of The Association for U.K. Interactive Entertainment (Ukie). "It’s when we’re in these friendly and relaxed environments that we feel most at ease opening up, and right now there’s no better or safer way for people to do that than in video games."

Play & Talk is supported by more than 50 video game businesses, including Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, Sega, 2K and Wargaming. 

To support the initiative, askaboutgames, a joint venture between the Video Standards Council Rating Board and games Ukie, has put together practical tips on how to take part in the Play & Talk weekend, including suggestions for family-friendly games people can play together. 

The basic idea is to find one hour of time together with family or friends on Saturday or Sunday, choose a game to play together and talk to each other via in-game chat, social media or the phone.

"Video games have given many of us a form of escapism in lockdown and brought many people together as they connect online," said Caroline Dinenage, Minister of State for Digital and Culture in Britain's Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. "So this weekend, as part of our Let's Talk Loneliness campaign, I encourage people to pick your game of choice, play with family and friends but also take time to talk about how you are feeling and faring. We have to take a variety of approaches to tackle loneliness, and I am delighted that the video games sector is on board supporting our important work in this area."

The U.K. gaming sector previously launched the Games for Carers initiative, which made thousands of video games available for free to healthcare workers to thank them for their work during the pandemic.