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This Minecraft map attempts to simulate social distancing during a pandemic

Apple a day keeps the zombies at bay

Are all you kids out there still playing Minecraft? Let's hope so, because some folks have made a Minecraft map to teach you younguns about how social distancing and healthcare services work together to beat a pandemic. It sounds a bit corny off the cuff but it does look pretty neat, actually, and although it's not a scientifically-accurate model, it might actually help teach some folks in a more visual manner than talking heads on the news.

Blockdown Simulator shows how a pandemic spreads, turning regular villagers into zombie villagers. The map has two modes: one where you just observe what's going on sort of like a diorama and a second mode where you actively participate as a nurse wearing scrubs and a protective face mask as you help treat your zombified villagers.

"It is by no means an accurate model of the Covid-19 pandemic but is simply meant to visualise the concept in a digestible way with the help of Minecraft," Mojang say of the map created by design company AKQA.

From the control tower you can watch how different variables affect the spread of the zombie virus. Apparently you can spawn additional zombies, more villagers, and lock the doors to villagers' houses which will presumably slow the spread of zombie-ism just as social distancing and staying home does.

As a nurse, you admit zombies to your Zombie Intensive Care Units and splash them with potions to begin the treatment process. You'll administer the cure via golden apple. Only one zombie can occupy a ZICU at a time, and of course your little nurse avatar can only treat zombies as fast as your legs will carry you, showing how a massive pileup of sudden zombie patients can out-pace a healthcare system's ability to treat them.

"We felt compelled to use our skills to make social distancing models accessible to everyone," co-creator and AKQC member Joseph Davies says, "especially younger audiences who might be confused about the new reality we are living in." Other co-creator Hugo Barne says "Minecraft was the perfect platform to show social distancing in a more tangible and meaningful light."

As Mojang say, Blockdown certainly isn't a true-to-life simulation. There are factors that a Minecraft minigame map can't effectively simulate. Still, it's a neat concept and it does help to get across why social distancing and staying in your little villager home actually helps slow the spread of the virus to avoid overwhelming your, ah, ZICU.

Blockdown Simulator was created by design company AKQA in support of the United Nations Development Programme and Heart17.

Blockdown Simulator is only available for the Java edition of Minecraft (not the Windows 10 Bedrock edition). You can download it from the Blockdown Simulator website.

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Lauren Morton