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New game teaches kids about COVID-19 safety

A free online game has added a pandemic level to teach children key safety messages. File image/SunLive.

A new online game developed by New Zealand disaster recovery agencies is the latest weapon in the war against COVID-19.

What’s The Plan Stan? is a free online game developed to teach primary school children how to be prepared for emergencies, and has now been expanded with a new pandemic level in response to the current crisis.

The game already included scenarios for earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, volcanoes and even a zombie attack, but the Auckland-based developers, Geo AR Games, have been working day and night to prepare the new pandemic level to deliver messages relevant to COVID-19.

“Getting this game and new pandemic level completed wouldn’t have been possible without the incredible support of so many people and partners,” says Geo AR Games chief executive officer Melanie Langlotz.

“I must acknowledge the incredible efforts of our individual developers who have worked long hours during difficult circumstances to get this new level completed in double-quick time.”

The game is internet browser-based and can be played on a Chromebook, laptop or PC with a keyboard, and takes about 30-45 minutes to complete.

The game has undergone extensive testing with students and Melanie says the testing showed children really enjoyed the game.

“More importantly though, the key messages about being prepared for different emergencies really stuck with the kids.”

A screenshot of the new pandemic level. Supplied image.

The game complements the comprehensive What’s The Plan Stan? online teaching resource and has been developed in partnership with Auckland Emergency Management, the National Emergency Management Agency and the Earthquake Commission to support schools, teachers, parents and students in developing knowledge and skills to prepare for emergency events.

NEMA and AEM remain in the thick of the COVID-19 response and AEM Group Controller Kate Crawford says any tool that helps reinforce messaging around how to protect ourselves from the virus remains vitally important.

“Steps like washing our hands and keeping two metres distance will help keep all of us safe. This is as true for our kids as adults and this game helps get those messages across in a fun and memorable way.”

Kate says the game’s release marks the culmination of three years’ work.

“Because of this earlier work and having the game’s platforms in place, we’ve been able to move at pace to get the new pandemic level completed.”

EQC had funded the development of the desktop version of the game, allowing students with less access to mobile devices to take part.

“These extraordinary times have required many agencies to adapt from their core work as we all do what we can to help flatten the curve for COVID-19,” says EQC head of resilience strategy and research Jo Horrocks.

When most children head back to school there is something new for Kiwi kids to look forward to – an augmented reality version of the game. This version, which had been the primary focus for Geo AR Games, sees kids use mobile devices to physically move through the game’s world.

The game can be found here.

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