Even though the COVID-19 pandemic has been officially declared over, the long-term effects of the virus continue to impact millions of people worldwide. In an effort to shed light on the debilitating condition known as Long COVID, Saint Elmo’s and the Long COVID Europe patient network have joined forces to launch an innovative campaign using popular single-player video games.
Contrary to common misconceptions, Long COVID can affect anyone, including children and adolescents, not just older individuals or those with preexisting health conditions. However, the lack of awareness about this condition has made it difficult for people to relate to the hardships faced by Long COVID patients. To address this issue and raise awareness, the campaign leverages the world’s most popular games.
Long COVID Mode, created by modifying existing video games with symptoms commonly experienced by Long COVID patients, aims to provide players with a simulated experience of living with the condition. The campaign has partnered with renowned modders to develop the Long COVID Mode for three popular games: Elden Ring, Minecraft, and The Witcher 3.
The modifications introduced through Long COVID Mode add an additional layer of difficulty to the gameplay, mirroring the challenges faced by Long COVID patients in their daily lives. The mods introduce symptoms such as fatigue, cognitive dysfunction, exertion intolerance, post-exertional malaise, indigestion, and more. These symptoms translate into in-game status effects that players must navigate while playing.
Some of the in-game symptoms include forced breaks during gameplay, visual impairments, loss of track of time, memory lapses, hindered healing abilities, exhaustion, impaired cognitive function, joint pain, and disrupted rest. By experiencing these challenges in the virtual world, gamers can gain a better understanding of the real-life struggles faced by Long COVID patients.
The choice of games, including Elden Ring, Minecraft, and The Witcher 3, offers diverse experiences to cater to different audiences. Elden Ring, known for its difficulty, aims to showcase the impact of Long COVID on players while attempting to conquer the game’s challenges. Minecraft, with its vast virtual world, provides a realistic depiction of a day in the life of a Long COVID patient. The Witcher 3, renowned for its immersive gameplay, explores the impact of cognitive dysfunction on the protagonist’s journey.
Using gaming as a medium of education allows the campaign to reach a younger audience, who may not be familiar with the complexities of Long COVID. The virtual nature of video games also overcomes physical limitations faced by many patients, enabling the message to be spread globally without leaving their homes.
The collaboration between Saint Elmo’s and the Long COVID Europe patient network aims to bridge the gap in understanding and increase awareness about Long COVID. By connecting the gaming community to the experiences of Long COVID patients, the campaign hopes to foster empathy and support for those living with the condition.
Matthias Harbeck, Chief Creative Officer at Saint Elmo’s, expressed enthusiasm for the campaign, stating, “Like Long COVID, games have no geographical boundaries. Long COVID Mode can be experienced in any corner of the world and replicated for any number of games. It feels like a fantastic medium to create awareness for such a complex and important issue.”
Through the Long COVID Mode campaign, Saint Elmo’s and Long COVID Europe aim to encourage a broader conversation about Long COVID, ensuring that those affected receive the support and understanding they need to navigate the challenges posed by this ongoing health condition.