Educators the world over understand that to get through to youngsters, sitting them in front of a book to read hoping the information soaks in isn’t enough. Whether young or old, if the content you’re consuming is engaging and interesting then you’re more than likely to retain the information and hopefully seek out more. With the current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic one of the most important lessons people need to learn is hygiene and washing their hands properly. So Starcade Arcade has created a virtual reality (VR) experience to do just that, Virus Popper.
The premise is simple, wash your hands and then start popping the incoming viruses using a range of household items, gaining a score along the way as well as building a multiplier. Get hit by a virus and the multiplier resets, get hit by too many and it’s game over.
As the viruses fly in, building in number you can grab hold of disinfectant sprays, floor mops and toilet scrubbers to destroy the little green viruses. Each particular item can only be used a select number of items, after which they disappear and you have to grab another one when ready. Virus Popper even jokes about the public panic buying of toilet roll as the viruses attach to the rolls so you have to throw them away.
Another important aspect is to not touch your face. It’s an action most people do numerous times a day without even thinking about it, yet that can be one of the main ways COVID-19 gets from a surface onto your hands and then into your system. So Virus Popper will penalise you for this action.
The core gameplay loop is just a few minutes of fun but if you’ve got a couple of kids stuck indoors, climbing the walls because of the lockdown then Virus Popper is entertaining enough. Plus they can challenge each other for the highscore.
Virus Popper’s main draw isn’t in the gameplay, more its message and the washing of hands at the very start. You can’t start until both hands have soap on them, followed by washing them under the water for 20 seconds. Now you may assume this is basic knowledge but it’s the time which is critical. Have you ever counted to 20 whilst washing your hands, it can be longer than you think? There’s a handy timer which lets you know when to stop, warning you if you’ve not done anything correctly.
It’s this sort of content which youngsters can easily grasp and find appealing, instilling a sense of hygiene without being forceful. Another big benefit is the fact that Virus Popper is free to play via Steam when it launches on 9th April, so if you’ve got a compatible PC VR headset there’s no excuse to download and give it a try for five minutes, you might learn something. Educational VR is one of the best use cases for the technology, with Virus Popper a simple yet effective example.