What can games teach us about spreading infections

In the age of pandemics our daily lives are guided by mathematics.

Centuries of accumulated knowledge on infectious disease spread have been formalized into mathematical models. These models provide us with possible scenarios of the disease progression. Models are not only tools for scientist but also for policy makers who use them to decide which scenario to pursue, pondering on expected negative social and economic consequences of each of them.
Unfortunately, these models are not easy to understand for non-experts. This leads to public confusion and frustration, as well as misinterpretation of epidemiological measures and bad public policy choices.
However, the basic mathematical and statistical principles of such models are not so difficult to grasp. Even better, these principles are ideal for gamification – meaning they can be easily presented, observed and learned through a game form in which various game elements are the mathematical elements of the spread of a infectious disease through social contact.
Games based on the models of infectious disease spread can be an insightful complement to educational topics such as:
  • Why do we get sick?
  • What are viruses and microbes?
  •  How are they spread?
  • How does a body fight against them?
  • How can we protect ourselves against such diseases?
The level of math complexity in these kind of games can be tuned by the game design.
For instance, on a kindergarten level only visual clues of increasing and decreasing numbers of infected can be used, whereas on high school and college levels players can be introduced to advanced mathematical properties such as network graphs.

We designed two types of games that are inspired
by mathematical models of infectious disease spreading:

SIR Model

SIR models games follow one of the simplest mathematical models of infectious disease spread.
The basic game level of this model is suitable even for young children who do not grasp basic math but can understand a change in quantities – for instance that the number of infected players is increasing. We successfully tested this model on a group of kindergartners.
Advanced versions of this model can be used as a helping tool in teaching basic math.

Network Model

Network model games help us  understand that social contact is a key factor in infectious disease spreading.
These types of models are becoming increasingly popular as they enable us to understand and control various complex social factors that influence epidemics and pandemics.
We developed a visually attractive and informative interactive game with various play scenarios that can be used as a teaching tool for mathematics of networks (graph theory). That theory has widespread and increasing application in many aspects of our daily lives.



Tibor Kozjak

Tibor is a computer graphics designer and programmer with more than ten years of experience in the field of visual arts and communications. While working as a graphic designer, illustrator, concept artist, web designer, animator and architectural visualization designer, Tibor has mastered several digital content creation tools and programming languages that are the industry standards. Most recently, his work has concentrated on the design and programming of high-end interactive multimedia presentations and applications as well on the design of user interfaces and user experiences (UI and UX).


Dr. Dejan Vinković

After receiving his PhD in physics from the University of Kentucky, Dejan worked at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and then at the University of Split, Croatia, as a physics professor. After that he founded Science and Society Synergy Institute, a private non-profit research institute, and co-founded the firm Oraclum Intelligence Systems in Cambridge, UK. He is also a chief science officer at the aeronautical start-up Hipersfera. Dejan is actively involved in various research activities in astrophysics and astronomy, biology, sociology and computer science. His research results have been published in some of the top science journals. Dejan is also very active in science outreach and education.

If you have a question or want to be informed about updates to our games…