The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has teamed up with a number of video games companies – including the makers of the hugely popular Candy Crush Saga – in a bid to encourage young people to stay at home.
Following an agreement with the department and games publisher King, see players of the mobile puzzle app will now be sporadically presented with the message "Stay At Home, Save Lives".
The company will also include the government message in its other games, including other popular titles such as Farm Heroes. King has also given over 230 of its digital advertising spaces across London for use by public-health campaigns.
UK developer Codemasters, meanwhile, is displaying images of "Stay At Home" posters in is DiRT Rally 2.0 game. Oxford-based Rebellion will include the message on the opening landing page of all of its games, as well as potentially linking out from the messages to the relevant government and NHS webpages.
DCMS said the “geotargeting” technology being used to embed the public-health campaign will be a particularly effective tool in disseminating its message to young people, who it said “spend more time playing video games than the rest of the population”.
“[This] is why in-game messaging represents a creative, targeted, and immediate way to help reinforce the government’s 'stay home, protect the NHS, save lives message', to gamers,” it added.
About 37 million people in the UK – equating to 56% of the overall population – play video games, according to the department. Additionally, there are close to 2,300 companies making games, and any firm interested in embedding in-game messaging into its products is encouraged to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Giving evidence last year to a parliamentary select committee, King indicated that there are 270 million players of Candy Crush Saga around the world. Around nine million of these spend more than three hours a day playing the game, it added.
Digital secretary Oliver Dowden said: “It is absolutely vital that we all follow the simple government advice to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives. I’m delighted to see the UK’s brilliant video games industry stepping up to strongly reinforce this message to gamers across the UK.”