Sixth-grader redesigns video game to help with COVID-19 stress

(U.S.) Like many across the country, Israel Smith was feeling the stress of COVID-19 and so he turned a school assignment into a way to help himself and others.

Smith, a sixth-grader at Brookhaven Innovation Academy Charter School in Norcross, Georgia, channeled those negative feelings such as anxiety and uncertainty into designing a video game. The project was for an assignment in his coding class. He made the decision to create something that combats COVID-19 and the stress other kids may be experiencing from the bad news, schools being closed, and social distancing.

Smith turned his attention to the old-school cellphone game, Space Impact for a new battle: fighting COVID-19. In the game, a player controls an avatar on the left-hand part of the screen, which shoots at cartoon-looking virus avatars that move around the screen. Players have to determine which ones are the coronavirus and shoot them with a laser to earn points.

At the start of each game, players will see a text bubble emerge from the player’s avatar that shares a variety of facts about the virus such as “coronavirus spreads from person to person,” and “protect yourself by wearing a face covering.”

As we know, pandemics can create a lot of unsettled feelings in children. The CDC indicates children and teens as high-risk groups that may have stronger reactions to the stress during a crisis and offers solutions to help them cope. Some of those solutions include maintaining a routine as best as you can, limiting exposure to news coverage, and sharing COVID-19 facts.

Smith indicated he just wants kids to learn so they don’t have to be afraid of the virus and that they can still have fun.


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