Review by Dana Villamagna, Common Sense Education | Updated August 2013
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POX: Save the People

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Engrossing strategy game offers lessons in public health

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Grades
6-12 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Pros: Really engaging gameplay with a very important lesson and strategy practice.

Cons: Eerie music may be too distracting and sad for some kids (but can be turned off).

Bottom Line: POX: Save the People is an incredible game of strategy, collaboration, and public health education.

In the classroom, you can use the Sample Lesson Plans to help kids understand the role of vaccines in public health. The lessons focus on science and public health, but also touch on global awareness, subject-specific vocabulary, and history. After students play POX: Save the People as a multiplayer game, teachers may also want to discuss the role of teamwork and collaboration in gameplay. Then take the lesson one step further to discuss how public health officials in a community, a state, a nation, and the world collaborate to prevent disease outbreaks.

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POX: Save the People is a strategy-based board game app that puts students in the role of infectious disease specialists trying to contain an outbreak of a deadly disease. This app is based on a board game with the same name and intended for one to four players. Choose the number of players and difficulty level, then watch the step-by-step tutorial. Protect people by vaccinating the healthy game pieces (they turn blue when vaccinated) and curing the sick (red) ones. Yellow pieces are already vulnerable and cannot be vaccinated; if they become infected, they die immediately and turn black. You win the game when the infection is contained, or lose when too many die. Players can also read a brief primer on vaccines, and the developer's website provides lesson plans for both middle  and high school classrooms.

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POX is an engrossing way to help middle and high school students learn about infectious diseases and the importance of vaccinations while using strategy skills. Even though people are represented by game pieces that don't look realistic, there's an eerie feel to gameplay (perhaps increased by the sad background music, which can be turned off) that makes the decisions and results feel strangely urgent, dire, and important. While it may be a little too spooky for younger players, POX is an imaginative way to get older kids thinking about public health, vaccines, and disease containment. Students can learn about the importance of vaccines in stopping the spread of illness as they practice strategy and decision-making. If students play a multiplayer game, they'll learn how meeting challenges together by participating in public health efforts (such as vaccinations) may help prevent the spread of sickness.

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Overall Rating
4

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
5

Due to its grim subject matter, this engrossing game has a serious tone that adds an unusually high sense of importance to a strategy game. After playing, kids likely will be more engaged with information about vaccines.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
3

Built-in learning includes practicing decision-making and, if playing with others, collaboration and teamwork. Kids also will learn through reading the brief information on vaccines provided by the app.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
3

Settings help adapt gameplay to appropriate skill level and number of players, while the tutorial clearly explains the purpose of each move. The developer offers lesson plans for middle- and high-school students on its website.


Common Sense Reviewer
Dana Villamagna Classroom teacher

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Featured review by
Rae F. , Technology coordinator
Technology coordinator
3
Science Strategy Game

Do students learn that vaccinating healthy people keeps disease from spreading? Yes, but that is about it. The game does offer some brief information about vaccines, but mostly it is just a strategy game. I think it is good for all students as here is not much reading and the game promotes systems thinking. If you facilitate discussions about the game or maybe track data on game play, students could reflect on strategy and the importance containing disease.

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