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Prof seeking to harness power of gaming to fight pandemic

A UWindsor researcher is applying game elements to life in social isolation as a way of combating COVID-19.

Eunsik Kim, an engineering professor who specializes in gamification, is looking into ways of offering virtual rewards for things like social distancing, self-isolation, fitness, or even handwashing during the pandemic.

“We will use game elements in a non-game context to encourage people to maintain healthy practices, not just for entertainment, but to educate people,” Dr. Kim said.

“In addition, by connecting with others through gamification the loneliness epidemic associated with social distancing, quarantine, and isolation can be allayed.”

Gamification is the application of typical elements of game-playing — competition, scoring, and rules of play — to encourage participation. Gamification encourages participants to engage in desired behaviours by capitalizing on the human psychological predisposition to engage in gaming.

Kim’s project, which will be developed in collaboration with Master’s student Gorav Nayak, will involve designing a website available to Apple and Android operating systems that users can share through social media. Participants will be able to create activities and share tips while competing for virtual prizes, scoring points, earning badges, or climbing leaderboards.

The project’s goal is to slow the spread of COVID-19 by encouraging people to engage in prudent behaviours to combat the pandemic.

Kim has received funding through the University of Windsor and the WE-Spark Health Institute, a research partnership involving the University of Windsor, Windsor Regional Hospital, Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare, and St. Clair College. It is one of 21 local COVID-related research projects receiving support from WE-Spark through its COVID-19 Rapid Response grant program.