Jagex: Why the games industry’s CSR focus must be maintained post-pandemic

Kelvin Plomer is Senior Director of Player Experience at Jagex. He has cross-studio responsibility for improving the player experience, duty of care, player support, anti-cheating, online safety and he heads
up Jagex’s charitable giving strategy.

2020 did much to accelerate the adoption of gaming as a popular pastime among new audiences around the world, something which we saw in RuneScape and Old School RuneScape as well. With the pandemic and associated lockdowns limiting outdoor activities for months at a time, video games became the best form of escapism, giving people the chance to jump into new worlds for the very first time. Case in point, 62 per cent of UK adults played computer games during the pandemic, according to Ofcom. 

With life gradually returning to a new normal, the conversation has moved on to how the industry will keep hold of both its new and returning players. People will likely be playing games less when other activities become available, though it’s unlikely that they will be throwing away their new PC or games console even when everything opens up again. Strategies will vary from company to company but, on a macro level, the fact that video games provided positive escapism and support, and a way for people to meet old and new friends in online communities over the last 12 months is a huge opportunity for the industry at large. 

This ties into another area at which gaming has excelled in the last year, rallying to offer support – in the form of fundraising and delivering gateways to wellbeing help – during the pandemic. Games for Heroes gave UK health workers free access to video games, and the Play Apart Together campaign, supported by the World Health Organisation and a host of game studios, brought ways to raise much needed funds for charities, as well as support the public at large.  Here at Jagex we donated £204,000 to three mental health charities to support their work during lockdown, and over £445,000 across the whole year.

“…collectively we will continue to show the world what a force for good the video games industry can be”

It is important to recognise that these are not just gestures. The gaming space’s dedication to CSR and mental health specifically is an excellent example of the industry’s maturity and is an important part of demonstrating this to audiences still on the fence or stuck on old perceptions of games as a whole. This means continuing its commitment to both the large fundraising projects, and the smaller, personal level initiatives to continue to protect players and their mental health – something we have been doing in earnest at Jagex since 2017. 

Working more publicly and more closely with charities and initiatives beyond fundraising is an excellent way to maximise the amount of good that video game companies can do for their players. At Jagex we work hand-in-hand with our charity partners to amplify their messages of support and education to our communities, both in-game and externally – also contributing our time and resource to enable them to be even more effective in the essential work they do. The sheer depth and breadth of talent across disciplines within the games industry can be instrumental in amplifying important messages for other organisations. Even with the lightest of contributions. 

And this relationship should be symbiotic. Exchanging the skills of the employees at gaming companies for a greater understanding and new perspectives on important issues delivered by experts in those areas is key. A good example is elevating the focus on diversity and inclusion, both in gaming communities and within organisations. Another is the focus on mental health, an area that, as an interactive medium, gaming is uniquely positioned to tackle. 

To that end, we are happy to announce that Jagex will continue our support of mental health with CPSL Mind and Rise Above the Disorder, and also, for the next two years, we will partner with Blueprint for All to promote diversity and inclusion, within our games, within our company and within our local community. We hope that other video game companies will continue their commitments to their CSR initiatives beyond the pandemic and that collectively we will continue to show the world what a force for good the video games industry can be. 

About Seth Barton

Seth Barton is the editor of MCV – which covers every aspect of the industry: development, publishing, marketing and much more. Before that Seth toiled in games retail at Electronics Boutique, studied film at university, published console and PC games for the BBC, and spent many years working in tech journalism. Living in South East London, he divides his little free time between board games, video games, beer and family. You can find him tweeting @sethbarton1.

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