Video Game to Combat COVID-19With the COVID-19 pandemic being a new reality for people all around the world, top medical experts have advised everyone to take a series of precautionary measures to protect themselves against the disease. This includes wearing a face mask, social distancing and regular handwashing. While many have successfully adapted these recommendations into their daily routines, one group that is particularly struggling to do so are young children. However, two Pakistani teenage brothers have put forth an out-of-the-box solution and created a video game to combat COVID-19 in Pakistan.

The Creators

Brothers 14-year-old Kenan Khan and 13-year-old Nabhan Khan, created a free video game to combat COVID-19, called Stop the Spread. They began developing the idea in February 2020 and released it in April 2020 because they observed that children had trouble remembering and adapting to the guidelines that are meant to protect them against COVID-19. The tasks of the Stop the Spread game, test children on the health guidelines put forth by the World Health Organization. This includes being able to identify symptoms and the difference between facts and myths regarding COVID-19 as well as protection and prevention measures that need to be taken to protect their chosen videogame avatar from being exposed to the virus. As each video gamer completes a task, he or she accumulates points and advances to the next level. Once the video gamer completes all six levels, he or she is considered a COVID-19 warrior and is deemed knowledgeable enough to protect themselves against COVID-19. This keeps children engaged in the game as well as well-informed.

Neither of the Khan brothers has been formally educated. However, they were able to use the vast resources available online to learn design, coding, simulation and animation as well as basic literacy and mathematics. 

Combating COVID-19 Through Video Games

Other children around the world have also begun to create video games of their own. Israel Smith, a 12-year-old from Georgia, redesigned Space Impact, an old cellphone game, to combat COVID-19. In the game, each player is assigned an avatar who is tasked to identify and kill the COVID-19 viruses. Throughout the game, the avatar and the viruses use speech bubbles to inform the video gamers about facts regarding the virus as well as health guidelines.

Recent COVID-19 game developments such as these, have inspired a global campaign called #PlayApartTogether to use video games to as a means to prevent the spread of COVID-19 globally.

Videogame companies have also partnered together to spread the World Health Organization’s message by incorporating COVID-19 self-protection messages into videogames.

The Khan brothers’ video game to combat COVID-19 just goes to show that even the youngest of minds have the power to make a big impact during unprecedented times. The creation serves as an inspiration to others and provides rays of hope amid a global pandemic.

Rida Memon
Photo: pxfuel

Viral Video Game Employing Venezuelans
Hundreds of people in Venezuela are playing RuneScape. RuneScape is an online open-world game with multiple themes to choose from. RuneScape involves a world of ancient magic, pirates and medieval castles. This game provides an escape from the daily lives of Venezuelans. This viral video game is also employing Venezuelans during the country’s economic crisis to give them the income they desperately need.

The Economic Crisis in Venezuela

Venezuela is facing hyperinflation due to its plummeting economy and increasing political turmoil. Citizens are leaving their jobs and protesting on the streets instead. The country is in massive debt and corruption is rampant with violence on the streets in addition to food and medicine shortages. As a result, Venezuelans are fighting for survival as they earn only $6.70 a month.

Venezuela remains highly dependent on oil reserves, which accounts for almost all export earnings and nearly half of the government’s revenue. However, the falling oil prices due to the economic crisis has caused U.S. multinational firms to shut down their Venezuelan operations, aggravating the issue even more. The access to dollars has become insufficient with inflation on the rise and price controls as well as rigid labor regulations causing even more shutdowns. Because the government is so in debt, there are food and medicine shortages leading to health issues rising across the country. Malnourished children and citizens without access to proper health care is an ongoing crisis. Some Venezuelans are even migrating from their home country. Citizens are escaping to neighboring places such as Columbia and Peru in the hope of finding a better life. According to worldvision.org, the number of displaced people may increase to 5.4 million.

The Bolivar is worth $9.90 compared to the U.S. dollar. Meanwhile, Venezuela’s unemployment rate is 17%. The country is suffering from an inflation rate of 482% according to IMF figures. As the country is rationing food, angry and hungry mobs are attacking supermarkets and civil unrest is threatening the government.

In 2015, the oil price reduced by half and access to basic necessities like groceries cost 22 times the minimum salary. With the economy in turmoil, Venezuelans are searching elsewhere for employment and are looking anywhere to earn money.

RuneScape

RuneScape is a multiplayer online roleplaying game that can help the economic crisis in Venezuela. For some Venezuelans, this virtual video game is their only source of income. By farming gold on the game in exchange for in-game weapons and armor, Venezuelan’s can trade their virtual currency that is worth more than their actual currency online to other gamers across the world. Players are killing the green dragons in the game and selling the objects that they drop on the virtual marketplace. Additionally, Venezuelans can sell this gold to third party sites for money like cryptocurrency sites such as Bitcoin.

While the monthly minimum wage is only $6.70 a month, RuneScape players can earn that amount in only two days for eight-hour shifts by selling 500,000 units gold per hour. Since the economy is unstable in Venezuela, RuneScape offers a safety valve for Venezuelans across the country for the future. Estimates determine that 50% of the younger population and 20% of the older generation now farms RuneScape gold. In addition, 1.8 million Venezuelans depend on the green dragons in the game. A gold farmer can earn $40 a month, triple the average minimum monthly wage. This viral video game employing Venezuelans allows citizens to sell the gold for real money in the virtual marketplace that is not as volatile as their own economy.

The amount of RuneScape players may increase as the economy becomes more unstable. Additionally, for some Venezuelans, playing this viral video game will be the only way to feed their families and put food on the table in the foreseeable future.

Venezuela Crisis Relief

Although there are no organizations working to facilitate this money-making opportunity, multiple organizations are reaching out to help improve the economic crisis in Venezuela. Many children and adults suffer from malnourishment due to shortages of food. Global Giving imports medical supplies to dying patients and provides daily meals for starving patients. Each day, this project feeds 400 patients.

Humanitarian activities that the U.N. has supported have raised $155 million to support the Venezuelan people. The U.N. also donated food and provided agricultural support to 50,000 people. In addition, it has provided educational support to over 160,000 students.

While this viral video game is employing Venezuelans, Venezuela’s economy is still in collapse. With employment at an all-time low, RuneScape provides an opportunity for Venezuelans to escape from their poverty-stricken world and embark on new quests. One simple game online provides a solution by employing Venezuelans and allowing them to escape not only the economic burden of their country but also their daily lives. In the future, as online players increase, this money-making opportunity may even shape the world in which all Venezuelans are living.

Joelle Shusterman
Photo: Flickr