Campus and Community

COVIDA: A computer game that teaches how to prevent COVID-19 pandemic and to save lives.

The computer game created by GameDev Técnico aims to raise public awareness on new coronavirus prevention.

Game Dev Técnico, a student club at Técnico, created a computer game that aims to raise public awareness on new coronavirus prevention. COVIDA focuses game dynamics on social distancing and consciousness.

The alpha version of COVIDA is launched this Thursday, 30th April, and the game has two subliminal messages: on the one hand, each of us can contribute to prevent the spread of the virus, and on the other hand, social isolation cannot be confused with social stagnation. Bearing this in mind we can win the game.

More than acting solely to ensure their own survival, players should exhibit pro-social behaviours in favor of the population’s survival. COVIDA challenges the player to survive 5 minutes in a virtual world, avoiding as much as possible contracting the virus or exposing other players to it. The game takes place in a virtual world similar to ours: each player controls a person, who starts at home and must satisfy a set of basic needs, namely energy and mental well-being. To this end, players must be able to make decisions that can protect or expose themselves to the virus. If we stay at home, we get bored and we starve to death.

On the other hand, if we leave home to go to the supermarket to buy essential goods, or to socialize with other players, and we do not respect the necessary social distancing, we will not be able to survive 2 minutes. However, the game allows players to reduce this risk through simple actions, such as taking essential goods to other players or preventing hospital overcrowding.

“Preventing the spread of the virus is one of the goals of COVIDA but, like in real life, its spread is inevitable”, explains Diogo Rato, coordinator of GameDev and member of the team that created the game. “In this way, the player will have to maintain social distancing to stop the spread of the virus. If players are suspected to have the virus, they must use a test – a limited number are available per game – and heal themselves at home or in a hospital”, he adds.

Still, there are other important messages that the team wants to pass. “The message we want to pass to each player is that no matter how careful we are, there will always be infected people, hospitalised patients and deaths. But we must be prepared to act in these circumstances”, he adds. “COVIDA is a multiplayer game, so we bring people together virtually around this theme, hoping that players can learn from this game”, adds Diogo Rato.

The idea of creating the game came from the desire of the team members to contribute in some way to this battle. “The team members created a game that aims to raise awareness among civil society about the importance of social distancing and isolation”, says the coordinator of GameDev. “After a few sessions where we discussed our ideas for the game, we decided not to make a game about COVID-19 but rather a game to contribute to the fight against COVID-19”, adds Diogo Rato.

The game has a very wide target audience and aims to reach the less frequent players. “We try to teach children in a way that is familiar to them, and we try to reach eldery population by offering them a different experience”, explains Diogo Rato. The game was developed in Portuguese language and, according to Diogo Rato, “it may facilitate the game distribution to other CPLP countries”. Depending on the interest generated by the game in these first weeks, the team can develop it in other languages.

After the alpha version of the game has been released, the team expects to launch a beta version of COVIDA next week, which can be played on mobile devices (smartphones and tablets).