COVID-19 Game Update: Developing The Environment

COVID-19 Game Update: Developing The Environment

Earlier this year, Dr Carla Bown and the team at Game DR, received an Innovate UK grant to create a Covid-19 game for children and young-people designed to help their understanding of the disease, the pandemic and adhering to current guidelines.

The Scottish Games Network has been following this fascinating use of ‘applied games’ and carrying updates from the team as development of the game has progressed.

The following update was provided by Dr Brown and we’re grateful for the opportunity to share it.

Game Doctor Update – August 2020

The last month of development has focused on setting up the main game environment. In the game, players must use combinations of drugs, vaccine and immune system to defend against virus infection in the lung.


To separate the game from death and disease, we have created an abstract lung environment where cells and tissue are visualized by underworld bunkers and branching.

In the game, players must use combinations of immune system drugs and vaccines to protect against virus invasion. In each turn, the player must try and eliminate all virus particles using the tools they have on offer. The game is inspired by Tower Defense games, Worms and Flockers.

Each drug disrupts a specific component of virus infection, inspired by real-life drugs currently in clinical trials. Vaccine use produces a protective immune response in the game.

Use of drugs and vaccine produce ‘research points’ – our unique game currency. This is used to level up and ‘research’ the drugs and vaccines.

We wanted each drug to have a different personality related to its function. For example the pink drug (inspired by remdesivir) which halts virus multiplication we wanted to feel slightly toxic but powerful.

We are now preparing the current prototype for testing with Scottish schools to assess if the drugs and vaccine functionality works well as a combination. Through educating students on how exactly the virus infects, and giving them a platform to treat it – we hope to reduce anxiety and improve adherence to hygiene and government guidance.

Drugs included in the game are inspired from real drugs currently involved in clinical trials including remdesivir (pink) and engineered ACE2 receptor (green).


To level up drugs and vaccines in the game, players use their research points to further investigate different areas of functionality. For example, for one drug players may choose to improve drug toxicity and concentration, but for another drug they may upgrade its effectiveness. In this environment, our goal is to highlight why vaccine and drug development can take so long, in an attempt to reduce part of the anxiety around this.

To improve attitudes towards COVID-19 vaccine and vaccination in general, we have personified the vaccine and drug characters as powerful and courageous personas. We aim to further develop this aspect of the game in future phases of development.

Game DR Covid-19 Game. Vaccine characters.

We aim to make young people feel more involved with the process during the pandemic. Our goal is to update the game and add new drugs and functions as vaccine research progresses.

Covid-19 Game Team

Team: Dr Carla Brown (designer and producer), Lorna Van der Stighelen (artist), Ant Lewis (developer)

Health psychology consultant: Dr Pamela Rackow (Health Psychologist, University of Stirling)

Scientific consultants: Dr Connor Bamford, Dr Lindsay Broadbent (Queens University Belfast), Prof David Robertson, University of Glasgow, Dr Roger Harrison, University of Manchester

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