Wargaming has teamed up with veterans nonprofit Stack Up to bring suicide prevention and mental health awareness into World of Warships, an online team shooter but with battleships and destroyers instead of soldiers or other characters.
The partners have put a button inside World of Warships that can immediately link a player to Stack Up’s Overwatch Program, a suicide prevention hotline on the Discord chat service, said Stephen Machuga, founder of Stack Up, in an interview with GamesBeat.
The goal is to make a dent in veteran suicides, which number about 22 a day.
“We’re excited to break new ground,” Machuga said. “This is a revolutionary way to get mental health services to people. Nobody has done that yet.”
World of Warships is a realistic simulation of naval combat in World War II, and more than 40% of the U.S. players say that they are veterans, said Artur Plociennik, regional publishing director of World of Warships, in an interview. “That was not something that we had planned or anticipated when we were designing the initial game,” he said. “But we hear that people like to use it to reconnect with former buddies in the service.”
The service will roll out gradually, with an in-game pop-up notice describing the suicide prevention service. “We’re also extremely happy to have done this and supported our community,” Plociennik said. “This is something that we feel strongly about.”
Machuga said it’s hard to gauge the demand for the suicide prevention service inside the game, but Stack Up has been adding volunteers and managers to deal with the demand.
“We’ll see what the demand is,” Machuga said. “This idea came from Wargaming. This is such a crazy idea. This was so outside the realm of what we normally ask for. It was a complete surprise when the World of Warships team proposed this.”
World of Warships has about 20,000 concurrent players across their regional servers at any given time, and it has 32 million registered. Stack Up can’t handle a huge amount of calls. But it will try. The button is in the game, but so far Wargaming hasn’t been actively promoting it, Plociennik said.
Earlier this year, Wargaming and Stack Up partnered on Operation Lifeboat, a special bundle for sale inside World of Warships where players could purchase in-game packages for $12 or $30. One-hundred percent of the proceeds were donated to Stack Up for its Overwatch program. The goal was to raise $100,000, but players donated $151,286. That money is going toward hiring managers to oversee the Stack Up volunteer hotline.
“If someone is feeling they’re in need of mental health services, they can just push that button and they can immediately be connected to Stack Up,” Machuga said. “We’ve been slowly ramping it up over time. The last time I can remember something like this was back in the days of Everquest, when you could order a pizza from inside the game.”
Machuga said he hopes that people don’t hit the button as a prank, as that could tie up resources that could actually help someone who really needs the counseling. Once Stack Up engages with someone on the hotline, it determines how to get long-term help for the person, Machuga said. Plociennik said that Wargaming found that enabling a veteran to talk just to another volunteer was enormously helpful.