How Brands can enable positive play for our youth in a digital gaming world

By TotallyAwesome’s Psychology Department*

With 86% of youth in Asia-Pacific playing games, gaming has become the dominant media channel for Gen Alpha and Gen Z, and it’s easy to understand why. Games act as a fascinating, magical virtual world for them to indulge in while providing a safe space for them to experiment with their identity and potential capabilities.

Gaming fears of too much screen time, reduced sleep, or reduced quality of time with family & friends, are still prevalent. Yet, online gaming can be very empowering and beneficial for youth. So how can brands encourage positive play and marketing responsibly to youth in a fast-paced digital world?

Positive Online Play

Offline play provides a learning space for youth that is enjoyable and teaches them about the world and themselves. Play is motivating and allows youth to make meaningful connections more easily, retaining information they have learned in this setting more so than something they’ve been taught by rote.

“Positive Online Play” goes a step further by promoting a safe and supportive environment for play to occur, whilst also teaching youth about positive behaviours, themes & actions within the digital world of gaming and play. Online spaces are often not spaces that accommodate youth, so “Positive Online Play” aims to encourage platforms to put youth’s safety as the priority. It ultimately provides Gen Alpha & Gen Z with a positive and safe digital environment to engage in while encouraging the core aspects of play ­­– teamwork, inclusivity, creativity, and self-development.

“Positive Online Play” provides several positive outcomes for our youth from engaging in the digital gaming world:

  • Socialisation
    Gaming and Digital Play provide an opportunity for youth to make new friends and strengthen existing friendships. The Affinity Group Principle is a common phenomenon within gaming, where a group of online players bond through a shared endeavour of digital play, enabling youth to hone their teamwork and cooperation skills. Research suggests that those who play online games socially, significantly reduce symptoms of isolation and loneliness and increase prosocial behaviour and socialisation.
  • Growth
    Digital Play can encourage growth in various cognitive abilities, including multitasking, creativity, coordination, spatial recognition, problem-solving. These are essential for healthy development. While gaming players are often required to retain a lot of information at once enhancing long and short-term memory. Gaming can encourage imagination and help youth to improve their ability to stay focused on a task or desired goal. Growth in their identity and self-concept is also explored through online play, where youth have an opportunity to explore varied identities and develop self-concept through different characters, avatars, worlds, and cultures.
  • Connection
    According to TotallyAwesome’s 2022 Zoomers Digital Insights, 70% of youth in Asia-Pacific enjoy gaming with their parents. Parents who are involved in online gaming with their children have improved family connection and relationships. Engaging with youth in online play helps establishes a positive relationship with gaming and digital play, allowing for mutual and honest discussions on healthy online play habits.

What does this mean for Brands?

Gaming delivered in the right way offers a safe, family-friendly environment for brands to connect with youth that avoids the pitfalls of big tech social media. Brands should prioritise gaming experiences that empower Gen Alpha and Gen Z and encourage critical thinking, confidence-building or community initiatives that reward creativity and self-expression.

A positive play strategy allows brands to take safety and make it a utility, enabling you to be more mindful when marketing to youth. This means aligning your brand with the right experience and game at the right time, maximizing the right values, and investing in the right activation & amplification. Brands that get this youth-first approach right, stand to win with Gen Alpha and Gen Z and build loyalty.

Want to learn how TotallyAwesome and TotallyPlay can help you turn your youth gamers into your consumers in a youth-safe and brand-safe way? Contact us at or for your youth-first marketing plan.


*TotallyAwesome employs a team of qualified psychologists to provide guidance, insights and inform our work to deliver a positive impact for youth in a digital world.

TotallyAwesome Digital Insights 2022: Internet users aged 4-18 with parents; Asia-Pacific, Sample Size: 5,761.

Longman, H., Oconnor, E., & Obst, P. (2009). The effect of social support derived from world of warcraft on negative psychological symptoms. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 12(5), 563–566. doi: 10.1089/cpb.2009.0001

Halbrook, Y. J., O’Donnell, A. T., & Msetfi, R. M. (2019). When and how video games can be good: A review of the positive effects of video games on well-being. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 14(6), 1096–1104. doi: 10.1177/1745691619863807

Livingstone, S. & Pothong, K. (2021). Playful by Design: A Vision of Free Play in a Digital World. Digital Futures Commission (London: 5Rights Foundation).

Longman, H., Oconnor, E., & Obst, P. (2009). The effect of social support derived from world of warcraft on negative psychological symptoms. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 12(5), 563–566. doi: 10.1089/cpb.2009.0001