Can video games raise awareness during a global crisis?

The case study of “19 Crowns”, a serious game developed by Pegneon amidst the Covid-19 pandemic

By Efi Papachristou,

Growth and Innovation Lead, Pegneon

 

Game-based learning and serious games have a strong foothold in our society. They are valuable tools for sharing information and for serving training purposes across industries.

The use of video games can also prove crucial in helping citizens obtain information, raise awareness and achieve a better understanding of a situation in a sociopolitical context, during a crisis and/or during a pandemic.

Amidst the current Covid-19 pandemic, Pegneon’s team started to seek out information about the new disease. Looking for ways to share this knowledge with our network of co-workers, partners, friends and family, a few ideas we discussed implementing, were the following:

  • Putting up a banner on our website that promotes the “Stay at Home” Initiative

  • Drafting a manual/handout including key information about Covid-19 with quotes and photos of our game characters to achieve a funnier or more appealing approach regarding the information provided

  • Posting articles, sharing links with useful information on our social media.

Wearing the hat of a millennial campaign manager, who is determined to use all the available technology tools, learning methods and training techniques that we used in business, the idea to develop a serious game amidst this pandemic came up almost naturally.

Our core aim lied on stimulating people to take all the necessary precautions, to act wisely, to stay at home, to follow all the recommended steps and to keep themselves and their loved ones healthy and safe. The solution we sought would serve multiple purposes, among others to de-stress, amuse and educate citizens. Our discussions on how to communicate key information about the pandemic efficiently, focused on the following:

  • Fast, efficient and effective implementation of the project

  • Easy and user friendly interface

  • Reliable sources of information

  • Engaging storyline, great gameplay

Time limitations were restricting us from working on a brand new game, thus we agreed to use one of our award-winning educational games as the basis for “19 Crowns” (game elements, game library, game mechanics, key concept, graphics, etc).

The name of the new game, inspired by the crown-shaped virus, facilitated our brainstorming process. We also decided to use the websites of World Health Organization and EODY, (Greek National Public Health Authority – Εθνικός Οργανισμός Δημόσιας Υγείας) as our key sources of information.

19 Crowns” was launched after three days. The game introduced a series of three mini-games, each including five quiz questions about Covid-19. The player visits an enchanted kingdom, where a virus spreads quickly and our two heroes, Peg and Neon, have to stay apart for a while. Neon has to go through various challenges and adventures, learn about the virus and meet again soon with his beloved Peg.

The idea of “19 Crowns” was based on the following milestones:

  • 3D design combined with simple yet fun gameplay and instructional design principles. We need the player to enjoy the game and remain extra focused on the learning content.

  • Repeat, play and learn. Player can decide to go back to the main menu, learn from their mistake and play all over again.

  • Free perusal and no time limitations. Players can start from any adventure and freely navigate on the map/enchanted kingdom.

  • Monitor progress / receive instant feedback and rewards. Players receive instant feedback on their response after answering a question.

  • Our target audience is players of all ages, as the game does not require highly skilled players (speed, reflex, etc)

The feedback we received proves that our inception and the solution we proposed has served its purpose well so far. Encouraging comments from those who played the game make us even more result-driven, keep trying to innovate and commit to our vision that technology should and must serve society, especially during turbulent times of crisis.