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  • Game design is a creative and innovative way to build understanding of science concepts and express them within a meaningful context. It combines aspects of science, technology, digital technology, literacy and the arts.

    My game is set in ImmunoCity – basically the internals of your body. These little white blood cell-like creatures chase after the little crowned, spiky viruses. It’s basically like how blood cells in your body take down and destroy the virus.

    Anya, D-Bug Game Design Challenge participant

    Educational research shows:

    • game playing allows students to explore science topics – and approaches to learning – in an active manner
    • games provide low-risk settings that enable students to consider larger-scale, real-world impacts
    • game-based scenarios help students learn about their own agency
    • the fun of gameplay is advantageous to diverse learners who may find the content challenging if taught in a conventional manner.

    The D-Bug Game Design Challenge

    Antonia Hoeta is a microbiologist and a gamer. She explains why creating games is an excellent way to help tamariki and rangatahi understand science concepts and ideas.

    Select here to view video transcript, questions for discussion and copyright information.

    In this activity, students use their knowledge of viruses, methods of viral transmission and infection, and defence strategies – including our immune systems and vaccines – to design a game. The game can take many forms – a visual representation, diorama with 3D models and/or digital technology.

    By the end of this activity, students should be able to:

    • observe and recreate some of the basic structures of a virus
    • discuss methods of viral transmission and infection
    • discuss some of the ways our immune system protects us from viral infection
    • discuss some defence strategies we can use to protect ourselves from viral infections
    • use this information to create characters in a physical or digital game
    • use this information to create a narrative about viruses, transmission and defence strategies
    • use this information to create a game or game idea.

    Infographic factsheets

    The Science of Medicines – Whakatere Waka project uses games and game design as part of its outreach. The team has created infographic factsheets that provide helpful background information:

    The activity Viruses and immunity – interpreting infographics aids students with observing and deciphering the information presented in these factsheets.

    Download the Word file (see link below).

    Nature of science

    Science communication can take many forms. Games are capable of reaching a wide audience and presenting information in a fun and engaging manner. The levelling up during a game is similar to scaffolding new, more complicated content.

    Related content

    These resources provide additional information about viruses and vaccines:

    There are two unit plans for primary classrooms:

    Visit this curated collection: Viruses and the immune system

    Activity ideas

    Useful links

    New Zealand Council for Educational Research (NZCER) has a number of resources regarding game-based learning. You need to register to access some of the resources. Read the reports on the NZCER Games for Learning project.


    The Science of Medicines is a collaboration between the University of Otago and Tūhura Otago Museum and was funded by an Unlocking Curious Minds community engagement grant.

    Rights: University of Otago, Tūhura Otago Museum and Unlocking Curious Minds

    The Science of Medicines stakeholders

    The Science of Medicines project and D-Bug Game Design Challenge are outreach projects initiated by the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, University of Otago. Funding was provided by Unlocking Curious Minds, with support from Tūhura Otago Museum.

      Published 17 August 2023 Referencing Hub articles
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