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You Make Me Sick!
Pros: Kids become evil scientists when creating and then spreading their own infectious germs in a simulated environment.
Cons: The stage of the game where you actually spread your germs on objects in the rooms -- with a virtual spray paint -- gets repetitive.
Bottom Line: This engaging and informative game teaches about the spread of germs by letting players take the side of germs.
You Make Me Sick! would be a handy addition to a unit on infectious diseases, bacteria, or the human body. It provides a fascinating, if unsettling, reminder of how many germs and microbes are around us, and how careful we need to be in what we touch and where our hands end up.
Teachers can try using the free demo version that provides a nice overview of the game (with limited features.) The demo does not require a login account, and you activate the game easily enough with the game launch link. A tutorial with video screencasts walks you through the gameplay, and then you start by making choices about your bacteria and virus. The game then informs players of the host target (the person you're trying to infect). For a more in-depth game experience, teachers will need to purchase the classroom version of the game.
The witty title of this game -- You Make Me Sick! -- will no doubt get the attention of your students. The good news is that this game will also sustain your students' interest because it's a simulation game where they get to create and then spread germs -- kind of like being an evil scientist. By putting players in control of “creating” bacteria and viruses that they then spread into the simulated environments where computer-generated characters, or hosts, wander around touching things, kid see firsthand how the spread of disease occurs. When the hosts come into contact with the player’s germs, they get sick. The challenge of play increases as the hosts use antibiotics and better hygiene to combat illnesses.
As in the popular game Spore, kids love to name and create new life -- in this case, pathogens. Players choose the basic characteristics of the pathogens (and those choices increase in the paid version); they spread germs around the room or environment by choosing objects to infect, and then the computer-created hosts wander in. Players have some tools to guide the hosts to the infected objects. Once a host is infected, the game shifts to an inside look at the host's stomach, where a battle ensues. A game is won or lost depending on the strength and number of the pathogens that the host character comes into contact with, and how well the gut of the human host can fight.
As students are put in charge of creating and then tracking their germs' success, they quickly understand the life cycle of germs. Kids learn by taking the side of the germs, trying to figure out how they can best make humans sick -- a novel approach to learning. You Make Me Sick! lets kids learn by investigating, applying information, and experimenting. By embedding scientific terminology throughout the game, the game helps kids pick up the new language. Plus, the game offers an audio narrative that helps guide the gameplay, and an accessible dictionary of terminology with voice-over makes even the most difficult words here accessible to a wider audience.