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Adorable PSA takes on the classroom menace of... chess?

Don’t do drugs chess, kids

Nicole Clark (she/her) is a culture editor at Polygon, and a critic covering internet culture, video games, books, and TV, with work in the NY Times, Vice, and Catapult.

A cell phone is a pretty constant companion for kids at school. It’s a distraction from pesky lectures, a way to talk to friends — and these days, an unstoppable vessel of playing online chess. This year, teens have been so fixated on chess that high school teachers have noticed, and even lamented, the obsession. To that end,, a popular site where millions of people play online chess, has released a PSA on YouTube titled “Chess Is Taking Over Schools,” meant to discourage teens from illicitly playing chess during classtime.

I love this PSA so much. It’s giving “don’t smoke cigarettes.” It’s giving “don’t do the marijuanas, kids,” like D.A.R.E. campaigns that kicked off in the 1980s — and largely failed on a national (and personal, lol) scale. Except this time, the culprit is chess. The strategy-est of strategy games. The forbidden brain teaser. I don’t know whether this PSA will succeed, but I commend for trying. “This is terrible I remember when kids just did drugs,” one YouTube commenter wrote.

The PSA is actually very adorable, in contrast with past campaigns telling students not to indulge in prohibited schooltime activities.

“Recently, more kids have been playing chess than ever at school, but sadly we’ve learned that they may not always be playing chess at the most appropriate times,” says the PSA’s voiceover, accompanied by dramatic B-roll of kids at school playing chess on their iMacs, laptops, and phones. “Chess should never come between you taking your studies seriously, and cooperating with your fellow students and teachers.”

A man dressed as a chess piece, shoving his face against the window pane of a classroom door.
Don’t play chess during class, kids
Image: YouTube/

The video also has plenty of delightful footage of teens rolling their eyes dramatically while putting away their phones. And also, it features an adult man dressed as a giant, green chess piece, illustrating how distracting chess can be by shoving his face up against classroom doors and windows. He is having a super normal chess time.

Don’t play chess on your phone, or you may grow into an adult who LARPs as a chess piece. Or maybe that’s a goal? To each their own. Plus, if you’re talented enough, you might even become an adult who is — mostly jokingly — accused of using anal beads to cheat at chess!