UW student Ridhi Patel creates trivia game to combat COVID-19 misinformation

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In March, 2020, UW, along with many other post-secondary institutions province-wide, declared it would be shutting down its campus until further notice. COVID-19, what once seemed like the unknown virus limited to the other side of the world, was now here. If the pandemic had not already impacted students’ lives, campus closure would sure do the trick. 

Ridhi Patel, a third-year Bachelor of Science student at UW, suddenly found herself back home in Niagara Falls following campus closure in March. In a time of great uncertainty and widespread misconception around the virus, Patel wanted to find ways to navigate around the new normal and help her younger peers separate truth from false information, when it came to COVID-19.

“Even at the beginning, I was wondering if I should purchase an N95 mask or just go with cloth masks. I have definitely had talks with people where they would be quite unsure about some of the simpler things, like if you should be wearing a mask when going outside or not, ” Patel said.

She created Quarantrivia, an interactive online game that helps players understand the difference between misinformation and facts, which has over four-hundred users so far.

“There is a lot of uncertainty that comes with COVID-19, and misinformation in the mix can have devastating effects. Even if a handful of people can learn something from this game and even take away one fact from this game, I think it could make a real difference, and it could really save someone’s life,” Patel said. 

In Quarantrivia, players take on the role of Dr. Pixel, the mask-wearing protagonist. Pixel uses reliable and factual evidence to destroy viruses with hopes of saving the Pixel World from COVID-19. Players face various multiple-choice style trivia challenges — right answers bring Dr. Pixel one step closer to saving Pixel World while incorrect answers lead players to resources and information to inform their understanding of the virus. Trivia questions vary in scope and level of understanding, ranging from general and foundational knowledge to complex information surrounding the spread of the disease, symptoms, and debunking common conspiracy theories.  

“I thought that the game approach would be best suited for a lot of people right now because they have a lot of time on their hands (…) a web app-based game to me was the fastest way to get to everybody [learning about COVID-19],” Patel said.

With support from Jozef Nissimov, UW Faculty of Science Associate Professor and virus ecologist, Patel used information from the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Canada’s Government when creating Quarantrivia. 

“It is inspiring to see such initiatives being driven and led by self-motivated students at Waterloo on important topics such as COVID-19 and the infodemic we find ourselves in,” Professor Nissimov wrote in a tweet discussing Quarantrivia. 

Patel keeps track of the average score for each game and says that most players are doing well with multiple rounds of trivia and is pleased people are keeping track of the facts about COVID-19. 

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