Queen’s researchers helping to develop mobile game to help children feel less anxious about Covid-19

Queen’s researchers are partnering with Game Doctor to develop a mobile game aimed at educating children about Covid-19, with hopes of easing any anxieties they might experience as the country gradually moves out of lockdown.

corona virus under a microscope

The researchers will work with Scottish technology company and project lead, Game Doctor, which has been given a £50,000 grant by Government agency Innovate UK for the app. The team will also work alongside researchers from the University of Glasgow and a health psychologist from the University of Stirling will also support the game design and evaluation stages. It is hoped the app will launch in September as a free download on iOS and Android. 

Aimed at children aged eight to 16, the game will feature drug and vaccine development to teach them about the virus, with analytics measuring the health behaviours of young people.

Dr Lindsay Broadbent, research fellow at the Wellcome-Wolfson Institute for Experimental Medicine and one of the researchers working on the project, said: “'Drawing on the knowledge from our own COVID-19 research to help develop this game is a great opportunity. We want young people to be involved and informed about the current pandemic affecting us all. This game might even inspire a few future scientists!'

Dr Connor Bamford, research fellow at the Wellcome-Wolfson Institute for Experimental Medicine at Queen’s, also working on developing the game, said: “As the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic will remain with us likely for a few years, helping to mitigate concerns and anxieties of children and young adults around COVID-19 in an engaging but scientifically accurate manner should be paramount in our response to dealing with this global issue."

Dr Carla Brown, the founder and director of Game Doctor, said: “We were really very keen to use our expertise to help tackle this horrible pandemic and help with our young people who are feeling quite anxious about it.”

Dr Brown explained that the aim is to let young people feel involved by letting them develop drugs and vaccines in the game “alongside scientists, to give them hope and reassure them that you know this isn’t forever – we are working together to develop a cure.”

She added: “What we’re trying to do is get a game that not only teaches young people about Covid-19, hopefully, it just makes them a bit more positive about adhering to this Government guidance for the next two years.”

Game Doctor also intend to create a drug development simulator, where the players will be developing and working with real drugs that are currently being tested in clinical trials and observing how they reduce the infection.

The game will also explore “children’s attitudes and behaviours towards vaccine development, vaccine use and how that changes during gameplay” and that there would also be “quizzes and stuff throughout the game to see their attitudes towards the whole thing, the whole pandemic as well.”

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