Islamabad: As the world is still fighting coronavirus pandemic, the threat of rumours and misinformation is becoming more contagious.
To break the chain of both the spread of the virus and the disinformation, two Pakistani teenagers have come up with an innovative, fact-based and fun way to learn and stay safe during the pandemic. Thirteen-year-old Kenan Khan and his brother, 14-year-old Nabhan Khan, have designed and developed a video game called “Stop the Spread” to help everyone understand how the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations like social distancing, washing hands, and wearing a mask can help save lives.
The game, first released in April and frequently updated with the latest authentic information, is the world’s first multi-platform video game on COVID-19.
Learn, play and stay safe
Kenan said that they started working on the computer game after realising that it was difficult for people to remember all the exhaustive details about the virus on social media, TV and radio. “We decided to design and develop a game that helps both children and adults learn by practicing so that it becomes a habit to easily adjust to the new normal,” Kenan said that such activities and games can influence people’s actions in the real world.
But, is this the most effective way to learn? Yes, because that’s how the developer duo has learned. The brothers have never had formal schooling and preferred self-education learning from the information available on the Internet and online courses. “From basic literacy to numeracy, coding to design, animation and design thinking, we learned everything in a self-organised learning mode” said Nabhan.
As the coronavirus pandemic compelled people to stay indoors and triggered an abrupt shift to online learning, the two brothers decided to utilise this opportunity to prepare and protect the people. Pakistan’s whiz kids developed the game in one month to help struggling people follow health guidelines, bust COVID myths and learn key facts through recurring reminders in the game.
Six levels of the game
The free-to-play game has six multi-levels. The first four levels are quiz games about the coronavirus facts and myths, symptoms, protection and prevention besides a detailed hand-washing module. The fifth level is unlocked only after accomplishing previous levels. This level is the most interesting one in which the player must follow the guidelines such as avoiding handshakes, practice hand-washing and sanitising as well as practicing social distancing with people without masks to proceed to the next level – an endless arcade-style game in which the player has to eliminate the viruses from the world.
GAME LEVELS1. Facts and Myths Level
2. Protection Level
3. Preventions Level
4. Symptoms Level
5. Walk the Talk Level
6. Soapy to the rescue (endless game)
The initiative of the Pakistani whiz kids offers stressed children an chance to learn the fun way while staying at home. “I learned many new facts and the correct way of hand washing by playing ‘Stop the Spread’ but my favourite part is killing the germs” said 8-year-old Haaris Usman with a giggle. His parents described the game as an “effective and entertaining” way to learn.
“I am extremely impressed by the efforts of the young kids Nabhan and Kenan who are great examples of motivation and inspiration for a lot of young kids in the Gulf region, South Asia and all around the world,” commented Mohammad Waseem, board member Gulf Education Services and former head of development at the Knowledge & Human Development Authority (KHDA) in Dubai. “Digital skills, coding, innovation and experiential learning is what we need to teach our kids,” Waseem insisted.
Every kid must learn digital skills
Interestingly, the game development is not the only achievement of the duo as they have inspired and trained hundreds of children in different countries including the UAE, Malaysia, and Singapore, besides Pakistan. “The whiz kid duo were instrumental in conducting the first MIT scratch day in Malaysia, along with numerous workshops on coding, design, animation and game development which they conduced during 2014 till 2016 supporting the Digital Malaysia mission” said Imran Kunalan, a former director at Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDeC). Kunalan said that he’s proud to have collaborated with exceptionally talented people from Pakistan such Kenan, Nabhan and their parents.
With their tech talent and dynamism, Nabhan and Kenan are eager to contribute to the Digital Pakistan vision by encouraging and preparing the younger generation for the digital future. “We are excited to have gifted this free game to society and based on the amazing feedback from all over the world, we are ready to do more for a digitally smart society” Nabhan said.