A Glasgow-based technology company is to develop a mobile game aimed at helping children prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Game Doctor has been given a £50,000 grant by Government agency Innovate UK for the app, which will it is hoped 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 health behaviours of young people.
Dr Carla Brown is now working with the company’s stakeholders to make a connection with Public Health Scotland and help push the app.
She told the PA news agency: “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.
“The aim is to basically let teenagers feel involved by letting them develop drugs and vaccines, alongside scientists to give them hope, and reassure them that you know this isn’t forever – we are working together to develop a cure.
“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.”
She added: “What we basically want to do is create almost a drug development simulator so the players will be developing and working with real drugs that are currently being tested in clinical trials, and real vaccines currently being tested in clinical trials, and seeing how they how they reduce the infection.
“Through this game we’re hoping to collect data on students and players’ knowledge on Covid-19 and how that changes during gameplay.
She said the game would also explore “their attitudes and behaviours towards vaccine development, vaccine use and how that changes during gameplay” and there would also be “quizzes and stuff throughout the game to see their attitudes towards the whole thing, the whole pandemic as well”.
I'm just really excited that we're getting to use our expertise for this
Game Doctor was set up by Dr Brown, a University of Glasgow graduate, in 2016 and will now work closely with researchers studying Covid-19 at the institute and Queen’s University Belfast.
A health psychologist from the University of Stirling will also support the game design and evaluation stages ahead of their August 31 deadline.
Dr Brown told PA: “Although we’ve just got £50,000 now I’m working with Stirling Uni to apply for quite a big grant to update the game after it’s released so we can keep adding more drugs and more vaccines.
“We only start writing grants in March for the Covid game itself so I think two months is pretty quick to get funding.
“I’ve been working hard to get people in the public to understand and appreciate the value of games for health education.
“It’s definitely been a journey in that sense.
“I’m just really excited that we’re getting to use our expertise for this because you know we’ve done small games for universities – on obesity – and we’re actually able to pull that all together and do something really good.”