How a Swiss computer game is teaching kids to defeat Covid-19
The Swiss-developed CoronaQuest computer game is helping pupils in Switzerland and abroad protect themselves – and face their fears over the coronavirus.
The educational game, launched by canton Vaud in May for pupils aged 4-16, has been played 342,000 times globally (end of September figures). It now exists in 11 languages.
“I introduced my 5-year-old son to it and we’ve played the first two levels,” said Julien Schekter, head of communication at the canton’s Department of Training, Youth and Culture, who also led the game development team.
Schekter said there was a surge of interest in computer games at the peak of the coronavirus crisis. This led to the development of a number of educational games in which heroes wear masks and socially distance. But as far as he knows, “only this Swiss-made game CoronaQuest adds a psychological aspect”.
This was key for the canton, which rolled out the game as pupils returned to compulsory school on May 11, after an eight-week nationwide lockdown.
“The additional task was to help children cope with their fears [over the virus], a universal concern, and with their anxiety about returning to school. Some kids suffered from isolation, lost relatives, or they experienced family conflicts. Game characters also experience those things. It helps to start a dialogue in a classroom,” Schekter told swissinfo.ch via phone.
Defeat the virus
An online card game aims to defeat the Covid-19 virus. The virus lays out its cards with physical symptoms like “Cough”, “Fever” or “Fatigue” but also attacks with cards named “Fear”, “Loneliness” or “Poverty.”
Players can beat them with “Disinfection”, “Parent”, “Nurse”, “Friend” and other cards.
In a video made by canton Vaud, students and educators gave their reactions to the game:
Children aged 11-12 are already reaching next levels (there are now four, the latest having been added for the start of the autumn term). In these levels not only do the virus threats become more sophisticated, but new helper cards also appear.
These include “Politician” based on Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset, “Journalist” and “Statistician”. Some cards were suggested by young players who sent in drawings.
Keeping immigrant families in mind, the game has been translated into the canton’s ten most spoken languages (French, German, Italian, English, Spanish, Portuguese, Albanian, Croatian, Serbian and Bosnian). But the game has been discovered by users from more than 80 countries.
The 11th language is Romanian, after a group of teachers from Romania got in touch and asked if they could translate the game for their pupils. The Vaud team has added it to the game for free.
“The game was designed to help children and families in canton Vaud, but we are delighted that it can also help around Switzerland and the world,” Schekter said.
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