Under normal circumstances, Minecraft's Creepers are hissing, phallic beasts that like to chase players and explode when they get close. But the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic means that these are very definitely not normal circumstances for much of the world, and so for the next week or so those creepy green bastards will be delivering a different sort of message to fans: Wash your hands.
Not in the game—Creepers will be as dedicated to blowing you to pieces as they've always been when you're actually playing—but in Minecraft social channels like Twitter and Facebook, you'll see a different side of them. That comes courtesy of Mojang's partnership with the United Nations Development Program and Heart17 "to raise awareness and engage youth to prevent, respond and recover" from the COVID-19 pandemic.
"At Mojang, we find that distributing factual information is incredibly important, as that information will help people make informed decisions, which in turn may save lives," the studio wrote.
"Over the next week or so, we are devoting space in all of our social channels to important health advice derived from the World Health Organization’s recommendations. So if you suddenly come across a Creeper asking you to wash your hands, don’t worry: their agenda has not permanently changed. In the game, they still want nothing more than to get cozy with you and proceed to blow up. But in our social channels, and for the time being, they also want to help put an end to the pandemic."
Wash your hands like you’ve just touched a slime! Take your time, and use alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water. Don’t forget to sanitize your phone + keyboard to kill any nasties that have set up camp there, too! #BlockCovid19 #TomorrowTogether↣ https://t.co/UuhW9TFPQC ↢ pic.twitter.com/m8l3aJOkJoApril 21, 2020
To start, the UNDP's program will focus on the basics of preventing the spread of the disease, through handwashing, social distancing, and staying at home. Later on, the plan is to shift the messaging to efforts to protect and support people who have been hit hardest by the outbreak.
"The only way we can solve global challenges is by working together, in partnership. We are extremely grateful and proud that companies within popular culture, such as H&M Group, instantly decided to act on the ask from UNDP to spread information among young people about the COVID-19 pandemic," Heart17 founders Anna Ryott and Jörgen Andersson said. "There is fear around the world, we know that, what we need to encourage now is hope and solidarity, that is how we will win this."
The UNDP describes Heart17 as "a global initiative that partners with UNDP and global brands within popular culture to help accelerate the UN Sustainable Development Goals with a message of hope, creativity and partnership." Interestingly, while programs like the Minecraft partnership are live, Heart17 itself is not: Its obviously incomplete website says the program has launched earlier than expected "to help support the UNDP in their current fight against the spread of COVID-19."