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How online video gaming could be helping people through COVID-19 lockdown

More people could be turning to video gaming online as a way of coping with COVID-19 lockdown.

It has been suggested that, to combat the isolation created by the pandemic, playing games online could be a way for people to socialise with friends or family, and keep entertained.

Figures have shown a remarkable rise in the number of gamers using Steam – an online video gaming platform – since the Government imposed lockdown in March.

Within just four weeks of lockdown being introduced, the number of users who had logged into Steam rose by 50 per cent - from 16 million to 24 million.

Simon Grey, a Lecturer in Computer Science at the University of Hull, specialises in games, graphics and physical simulation.

He said: “It’s been suggested that some online gamers can cope with lockdown better, because they are more accustomed to socialising over the internet.

“What I think is more interesting is the increase in people using online gaming platforms, such as Steam, rather than just existing players gaming more.

“There is some evidence that more people are turning to games during COVID-19 lockdown – that could be a way of socialising with friends and family, or simply to pass time while we are spending more time indoors.”

The video game industry is the largest in the entertainment sector, generating more revenue than all other industries combined – including film and music.

Some of the world’s biggest online games have seen a significant rise since March.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, a multiplayer shooter game, saw an increase of 360,000 players during March, while battle arena game Dota 2 received 120,000 new players.

Online games which replicate physical board games have also seen a large rise in popularity since COVID-19 lockdown.

Tabletop Simulator – a digital platform which allows users to play virtual copies of real board games over the internet – saw an increase in use of over 350 per cent during March.

This suggests that digital games are being used to replace equivalent activities that are not possible under lockdown.

Mr Grey did warn of the negative effects which can be caused by online gaming.

He said: “As always, there are risks that too much gaming online could have negative effects - in particular if gaming interferes with having a regular routine, and particularly with sleep.

“Keeping a regular routine is important for our mental health – and the data shows that many game players regulate this, with spikes of increase activity at the weekend, and less activity during the week.

“This suggests that whilst game playing has increased players are still maintaining a schedule similar to a normal working week.”

Mr Grey also highlighted the benefits of broadband speed in Hull for students and other gamers: "Online gaming requires increasingly fast broadband speeds, and Hull was ranked highest for broadband for gamers. Additionally, thanks to direct links via fibre to the JANET, a high-speed network for the UK research and education community, students in our teaching labs benefit from reliable high speed network connections."

The University of Hull has offered successful Masters and Undergraduate courses in Computer Science for Games Development, supplying programmers to the games industry for over 15 years and more recently courses in Game Design.

It is extremely well regarded, with deep-rooted networks of alumni working in the games industry.

Find out more information on the undergraduate degree and Masters degree.

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