Last year US President Barrack Obama challenged video game developers young and old to develop a game that encouraged the learning of science, technology, engineering and maths. The winners of the STEM Video Game Challenge have been announced, and the grand prize winner is a game that teaches children how to spread disease.
Filament Games' Dan Norton and Dan White (the Dans) were awarded the $US50,000 grand prize for their web-based game You Make Me Sick! Created with the aid of special education expert Dr Matthew Marino of Washington State University, You Make Me Sick! is a game in which children design their own virus and then attempt to infect hosts with it by placing it somewhere the host might come in contact with the bacteria.
While the concept sounds sinister, the game itself is actually quite charming, filled with colourful mini-games that manage to entertain as much as they educate.
In my initial play through of the game, I chose Influenza A, my favourite airborne virus. Being airborne, I had to find an area where wind was blowing in order to infect my target Henry, a sickly slob of an old man. I chose an open window.
Hitting the space bar lured Henry over to the window, giving my beloved Influenza A a chance to attack. In a separate mini-game, I used puffs of wind to direct the bacteria to Henry's mouth as he breathed in and out.
Once inside his body, I got to guide the Influenza A to a cell, infecting it slowly as anti-bodies attempted to take a bite out of it. After three cells were infected, my job was done.
It's the most fun I've had infecting another human being with Influenza A ever. I can see why the Dans walked away with $US50,000.
Ready to infect some unsuspecting slobs? Head over to Filament Games' website for some infectious learning fun.
For a list of all of the National STEM Video Game Challenge award winners, visit the Joan Ganz Cooney centre at Sesame Workshop.