ISLAMABAD - As parents struggle to teach their young children how to follow health guidelines needed to avoid the novel coronavirus, two Pakistani youngsters have come up with a solution.
Thirteen-year-old Nabhan Khan and his brother, 14-year-old Kenan Khan, have designed a video game called Stop the Spread that teaches children to follow World Health Organization recommendations like social distancing, washing hands for 20 seconds, and wearing a mask.
“I learned protection, symptoms, and myths. It’s fun,” 7-year-old Zenia Nabi Malik said after trying it out for the first time.
Another 7-year-old said he enjoyed the game because it had points and levels. “It told me something I never knew, which is that people who are sick can be affected by the virus,” Jibran Murtaza said.
The Khan brothers said the idea came to them when they saw surveys that noted people had difficulty remembering all the information that they gleaned through TV, radio, or social media. They said their game helps people apply the knowledge so that it becomes a habit that is useful for real life.
“It’s really a fulfilling and satisfying feeling when people play our game, learn something new, and enjoy,” said Nabhan.
The brothers have never been formally schooled. Their father, Uzair Khan, said they learn by using the vast amount of information available on the internet or online courses from schools and universities around the globe.
“From basic literacy and numeracy, to design, coding, animation, and simulation, we learn in a self-taught mode by way of experiential learning,” the two brothers said in a video they shared with VOA.
Learn by doing
Experiential learning is a method of learning from first-hand experience, either by working on a project or engaging in an activity, according to Southern New Hampshire University’s website.
“Skills, knowledge, and experience are acquired outside of the traditional academic classroom setting, and may include internships, studies abroad, field trips, field research, and service-learning projects,” according to the website Study.com.
The two started developing the game in February and released it online in April. Game developer Amad Khan, who has the same last name but is not related to the kids, said it was a great effort given their age.
“What makes this game special is that such young kids designed it,” he said.
Ever since the pandemic upended the normal way of life, individuals across the world have looked for ways to pitch in to fight the disease.
Kids take action
Twelve-year-old Israel Smith, from Brookhaven Innovation Academy Charter School in Norcross, Georgia in the United States, designed a game on the subject while delivering information through text bubbles.
In London, a psychology professor at the University of Hertfordshire, Richard Wiseman, joined hands with designer Martin Jacob to build a game to encourage social behavior conducive to fighting the virus.
“It seems to me probably more effective than some of the scary announcements we’re getting because it gets in under the radar, particularly with kids,” Wiseman told the Reuters news agency.
There is even a game called Fauci’s Revenge, named after Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who is leading the fight against the coronavirus in the United States.
A gaming website, Y8.com, has gathered a collection of coronavirus-related games with names such as Silly Ways to Get Infected, Corona Conqueror, and Kill the Virus.
Gaming industry participation
The video gaming industry, sometimes blamed for promoting an unhealthy lifestyle and lack of physical activity, has positioned itself as part of the solution to the coronavirus pandemic and disruption in people’s lives.
Sweden’s Mojang, the maker of global hit Minecraft, has teamed up with the United Nations Development Program to spread the WHO’s messaging to fight the spread of the virus.
Forty video game companies, including Activision Blizzard, Riot Games, and streaming platform Twitch, have joined a campaign called #PlayApartTogether.
“The campaign, supported by the World Health Organization (WHO), disseminates key messages to help slow the spread of COVID-19,” according to a U.N. press release. COVID-19 is the disease caused by the coronavirus.
Microsoft is allowing Xbox players the option to donate to the U.N., crowdfunding site GlobalGiving, or the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Sony has established a $100 million Global Relief Fund to help frontline medics and first responders, educators and students now learning remotely, and the creative community in the entertainment industry.
The industry reaches around 2.5 billion people globally. Since pandemic-linked lockdowns have forced people to stay home, video game sales have soared.
Meanwhile, the Khan brothers say their game is free so that the greatest number of people can benefit from it.