CovidBlox mobile game teaches coronavirus science through play – Goldsmiths University of London

Model showing how part of the Covid-19 virus (pink) sticks to a protein on a human cell (blue) leading to infection © Imperial College London

Goldsmiths, University of London is working with Imperial College London researchers and the UK games industry to develop and release a Tetris-inspired educational game for young people to learn about Covid-19 and the importance of social distancing.

CovidBlox is a free mobile game for young people aged 11-18 to learn about the way the Covid-19 virus invades a human cell and what happens as a consequence.

Through play, users will gain insight into how the Covid-19 virus operates at a molecular level, which helps them understand the importance of social distancing, rather than “just being told what to do”.

CovidBlox – which has been endorsed by the UK games industry trade bodies Ukie and TIGA – also contains positive messaging about medical science and research and its efforts to defeat Covid-19.

This educational game combines the latest scientific knowledge about the structural data on Covid-19 from Imperial College London, led by Professor Mike Sternberg, games development led by pioneering games designer and artist Professor William Latham from Goldsmiths, and Covid-19 science information written by former Editor-in-Chief of New Scientist magazine, Sumit Paul-Choudhury.

The UK games industry is now being approached to support via donations. A further £60,000 is required to fund the rapid development of the CovidBlox education game and provide remote industry mentoring to the development team in the specialisms of games design, art and modelling, in addition to testing and localisation.

Professor Michael J E Sternberg, Director of the Centre for Bioinformatics at Imperial College London, said: “This is an exciting opportunity to integrate our research on protein modelling with the games development expertise at Goldsmiths to develop an engaging educational game that teaches young people about the science of Covid-19 and the importance of social distancing.”

Professor William Latham from Goldsmiths said: “Our mobile education game CovidBlox gives young people familiar Tetris-inspired game-play features such as drag, rotate and swipe to move ”protein shaped ‘jigsaw pieces” around the screen and to then dock them together to make larger patterns which then multiply, thereby “revealing the basic principles of Covid-19 science through game play.”

TIGA CEO Dr Richard Wilson said: “Video games have long been used for educational and training purposes. It is timely to see Goldsmiths and Imperial researchers using games technology to promote the understanding of the coronavirus, medical science and social distancing in a very novel way.”

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