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With traditional end-of-year school celebrations cancelled due to COVID-19 quarantines, Japanese students have hosted digital graduation parties on Minecraft. We explore the insights behind this and why, in unstable times, online communities are playing an important role in keeping up morale and maintaining social connections.

Many schools across Japan have closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak and some may not reopen until after the spring break. For children, this means missing the traditional end-of-year graduation ceremony. Not wanting to skip such a key event, a group of elementary students created their own digital ceremony in Minecraft, building a graduation hall equipped with a stage and audience seats.

tweet of the game, posted by one child’s father, received more than 85,000 likes and people responded with positive comments about gaming's ability to bring levity and creativity to tricky situations. Indeed, while often perceived as being asocial, digital platforms are playing a pivotal role in helping young people forge connections and maintain mental health during the pandemic.

Games are playing a pivotal role in helping young people maintain mental health during the pandemic
chuttersnap (2016) ©

The gaming industry has long come under fire for its supposedly negative social effects. However, 50% of teen Fortnite players say the game has helped them learn teamwork skills, and 40% claim it’s improved their communication skills. Beyond this, many players find solace in games that help them release stress or engage in light-hearted escapism. The relaxing Toripon involves taking pictures of virtual birds, while Untitled Goose Game went viral for its absurd and highly meme-able premise, providing a sense of catharsis. With over half (55%) of gamers saying they play to relieve stress and unwind, online gaming communities may be essential for social support during times of global unrest.

Polina Norina is a senior behavioural analyst at Canvas8. She has a background in editorial project management and copywriting, and has previously worked on New York Times bestsellers in trade publishing and international comms projects for companies like Airbus. Outside of work, you can find her learning new languages, reading non-fiction, or discovering new design innovations.


26 Mar 20
2 min read

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