Loneliness among the elderly in the U.K is on the rise, with a million older people going over a month without speaking to anyone, according to the organization Age UK. And during COVID-19, that sense of isolation has worsened. Yet the virtual worlds of gaming have become places where gamers can build and maintain real-world relationships. “Beyond Generations,” an initiative by Xbox and McCann London, is aimed at bridging that generational divide in families, by showing elderly people the relationship-building potential of today’s games, and by getting younger people to start gaming and connecting with the older people in their lives.
The “Beyond Generations” platform launched with two filmed experiments, airing on Xbox’s YouTube and Twitter channels, each following the story of a different real family. “Mary & Jason” tells the story of Jason and his great-aunt, who live far apart and have never really known each other. “Howard & Dhillon” focuses on a grandfather and grandson who used to be close, but who’ve drifted apart. The experiments document how going on virtual road trips together in Forza, or sailing on virtual ships together in Sea of Thieves, things that are no longer possible for them to do in real life, become an ice-breaker for opening up to each other about their lives and forming a deeper relationship, something sorely missing from ordinary video calls.
Beyond the films, Xbox’s broader mission is to encourage families dealing with loneliness to begin connecting more through gaming.
Recognizing that most elderly people don’t have a gaming console, while younger people often have an old console gathering dust, Xbox wants people to think about “ReBoxing” – a subversion of the category trend of unboxing videos. The aim is to get gamers, who might have recently upgraded to a new console, to consider gifting their old console to an elderly person in their life – the first step in starting to connect with each other.