With in-class instruction on hold and students at home for the foreseeable future, part of the state's attempt to curb the spread of the new coronavirus, children have more flexibility during the day.
Students are turning to video games in their downtime, so much so that online gaming services such as Xbox Live, PlayStation Network and Steam have temporarily adjusted their download speeds to reduce strain on the internet and accommodate the sizable amount of users online.
Ann Hand, CEO of Super League Gaming, said a part of Super League’s digital network called Minehut — an online community for people who play Minecraft together — has seen a 400% increase in players connecting to their servers.
“Right now, gaming is better as a type of preferred entertainment than television,” Hands said. “It’s three times the size of the global movie box office.”
Gaming is interactive and inherently social, Hand said, which is why it's popular. She said playing video games helps children develop deep strategy and critical thinking skills, which can assist them in future coding and engineering careers.
Video games are becoming more common as millennials are introducing Gen Zers to gaming. Hand recalls growing out of playing video games, but times have changed because gaming has been around long enough that it has become a common past time.
GameStop has also seen increased business during the coronavirus pandemic, despite the company announcing that it will permanently close 300 stores this year in an effort to “de-densify.” GameStop stores have remained open during the coronavirus pandemic, and only time will tell if they decide to close down like a number of other business have across the country.
Krissi Raines, a Mental Health First Aid instructor, said that kids are trying to process what's going on in the world and playing video games is "like an escape for them."
"I think everybody’s looking for normalcy and trying to make sense of things," she said.
While Raines acknowledges that anything can be good in balance and moderation, including video games, she advises parents to monitor their children's gaming like they would any other screen time.
She noted that monitoring could ease their child's transition back to traditional school, because they might be reluctant to go back if they had been playing video games for several hours a day while at home during the school closures.