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Published March 27th 2020

Covid-19 Bulletin #6: Games, Gen-Z, and Grub

Just like last week, and probably next week, it’s been quite a week. Just before we sign off for the weekend, here’s today’s bulletin.

Cabin Feeding: Ramen

In our first attempt at a regular feature, we’re introducing Cabin Feeding. In these sections, we’ll be picking out a culinary topic that’s trending due to Covid-19. Today it’s the soothing stalwart, ramen.

Usually, ramen conversations jump in the first week of January every year (we assume hangovers and empty post-Christmas wallets play a part in this), and then steadily fall, jumping again in August.

This year the trend has been bucked.

In fact, this month has already seen 180k people mention ramen in a social post. If these numbers continue, March will see an increase in ramen chat of around 30% year-on-year.

It’s not hard to figure out why. One of the biggest topics is ‘instant ramen’. It’s super easy to make, lasts a long time, and it’s cheap to buy. You couldn’t really hope for a better suited food when holed up inside for a long time – especially if you’ve only got a basic kitchen.

With people concerned about stockpiling and panic buying, our cooking habits are obviously going to change. For many, that means eschewing the fancy and going hard on the basics. Well, that is except for the 500 people we saw craving ‘real ramen’ this month.

We’ll be keeping an eye out for other foods people are turning too, especially as people spend more time indoors.

In the meantime, here are the ramen flavors people are raving about.

Isolation activities: Board games or video games?

According to Google Trends, people’s interest in board games and video games has jumped up since governments started encouraging the public to stay indoors. We decided to take a closer look at what people were turning to to kill the boredom.

Consoles or board games?

To find out what was getting people talking, we focused on consoles and board games. We analyzed conversations around the ten best-selling board games on Amazon and a list of consoles old and new over the last few months to see how things looked.

Board game discussion has remained pretty steady so far. On the other hand, video game console discussion jumped the week of March 21.

This happened as social distancing measures were implemented in the US. Meanwhile, when looking at daily figures, console discussions peaked on the 24th just as the UK went into lockdown.

What consoles are people playing?

At Brandwatch we’re big fans of games, and we love pulling out old consoles on a rainy day. So we used Consumer Research to look at how mentions of classic consoles (ranging from the Dreamcast to the PS3) compared to 8th generation consoles like the PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.

Studying volumes for each group, we saw just how strong the love is for classic consoles. Even the hugely successful release of the Switch title Animal Crossing on March 20 couldn’t put the 8th gen consoles ahead.

This trend repeated itself when we looked at mentions that indicated intent to purchase, with 18k mentions of the classics and 16k for 8th gen consoles. Some consoles, like the Switch, have been so popular people are struggling to get them.

Time for family

Studying the same time frame, we looked at emotion-driven mentions – specifically joyful ones. Of the mentions that Brandwatch automatically classified as emotion-driven, 20% of classic console ones, and 19% of 8th gen ones, were joyful. In comparison, board games invoked more joy on social media (22%).

Board game mentions also had more family references, beating out console mentions 416k to 118k.

At least 25% of the world are expected to be stuck inside with the same people, or by themselves, for a while now. As they whittle down the obvious ways to pass the time, we’ll keep an eye out for the new ways people try to entertain themselves.

Talking about Generation Z

According to the World Economic Forum, Generation Z are the most active generation online. We wanted to investigate how they are being perceived, and what topics are trending around this generation during the pandemic.

Looking at the Covid-19 dashboard we searched for Generation Z mentions from January 1 to March 25, finding a large portion of the mentions being categorized as ‘sad’.

A lot of this sadness was driven by people upset with Gen Z for not caring about spreading Covid-19, with news documenting spring breakers continuing to party.

According to BuzzSumo, there were 13.1k articles on the topic.

But the biggest topic driving sadness was cancelled exams – a big worry for the generation and their parents. A lot of the 64k mentions showed confusion and concern about how they will progress with their lives.

People were also upset about their cancelled or virtual graduations (21k mentions), while college kids are upset at moving back home because of closed institutions (1.8k).

We also found mental health was a big issue.

When investigating topics around Gen Z and Covid-19, depression was the 10th most-used word. Included in 72k mentions, users came out to say they were worried about their mental state, or were becoming depressed in isolation.

But there have been happy events, too. When K-pop sensations BTS released online Korean lessons, joyful mentions relating to Gen Z and Covid-19 jumped by 94%.

The picture is mixed for Gen-Z. They’ve got it hard on the education front, and the actions of the few are getting them a lot of hate. But they’re also talking proactively about their mental health and finding reasons to be cheerful.

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