The modernisation of gaming communities

In May 2021, Electronic Arts and their main title, FIFA 21, honoured the memory of Kiyan Prince. For those not aware of his story, and to be honest, I wasn’t at the time, Kiyan lost his life at 15, trying to stop a school fight. He was a young man with his whole life ahead of him. He was a son, friend, and a promising footballer. He was in the academy of London team, QPR.

Since his death, over 15 years ago, his family, through the Kiyan Prince Foundation, have worked to provide children and young people with the ability to end knife crime and gang culture. They have worked alongside QPR on numerous initiatives focused on education and community.

When talking about esports, community is a key aspect. Whether it is the community of a game, or the impact gaming can have on a community. Working with a community can have a major impact, be it bringing people together or educating people.

What struck me most about the EA collaboration with Kiyan Prince Foundation was the impact it had. By including Kiyan as a character in the game, it led to a discussion on knife crime, the work of the foundation and a fond look back at the short life of Kiyan. In a way it immortalised him.  Instead of watching a documentary on his life, kids can walk in his cyber shoes and take his life on another virtual journey.

The experience also gave his father an indication of how his son would have looked as a fully grown man. Therapeutic and emotional are feelings that I would associate with myself if I was in a similar scenario. The power of technology saw EA build a likeness of Kiyan using imagery of him at 15, blended with imagery of his father at 30. It was a fantastic tribute that honoured Kiyan and simultaneously highlighted the community work the foundation does.

It shows how gaming can highlight social causes. It also showed how important gaming is for causes to spread their message to younger audiences.

 It is fair to say video games has moved beyond kids in an arcade pumping money into machines. Videos are the cornerstone of a generation’s entertainment choices. Xbox and PlayStation are the new social media platforms and communication hubs for kids with gaming at the core. 

With the improvements in internet capabilities, gaming has helped develop social connections. The kid in the basement look, fostered in mainstream publications in the 80’s and 90’s is consigned to the past as the modern child interacts with likeminded individuals, gaining a better sense of their identity in the process.

Screen time will always be a concern for parents; but every generation has its worries. In the 1920’s and 1930s it was comic books, then it was radio in the 1940s and 1950s before televisions became the evil tool of a generation.  Spending time browsing Instagram is a passive experience compared to playing a game of FIFA or Fortnite with a group of friends.

2020 and 2021 has seen a pandemic of a generation and while many have suffered, for some, gaming became a lifeline. Friendships have strengthened, communities have been forged and bonds created all over video games.

With Generation Z firmly rooted online, and in games, it makes sense for brands and social messages to interact with those mediums. This is a generation that knows and understands what they want. Ad blockers are common practice, so for a message to be shared the interaction must be meaningful and be part of the experience, as was the case with Kiyan.  The story of Kiyan but the message of that sad event will live on, through the work of the foundation and his appearance in a video game.