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Going Viral – The Card Game

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The scientists at BioBus and their creative interns have created a new educational card game to help students understand how viruses work!

Our current version in play-testing was sent off for a limited print run, featuring updated art and rules. With the guidance of game designer and biomedical illustrator Lucas Petrin, BioBus has tested the game using virtual game simulators and prepared the cards.

Early Versions

Print the printer-friendly version here:

Students in BioBus’s middle school Medicine Summer Camp play test “Going Viral” for the first time in the summer of 2019.
Thanks to students, school groups, interns and friends the game has undergone several revisions. With the sudden move to remote learning, BioBus produced a printer friendly version (left) with updated rules reflecting the feedback from all our play testers who used our full-graphic version 1 (right).

If you’d like more information about the game or the process of creating it, please email rob@biobus.org
If you’re interested in obtaining a professionally printed card game when they become available, please record your interest in the form linked here.


The Science

Viruses are bits of biological material (the same pieces that make up animal cells and plant cells). Viruses can’t survive without cells to infect: in fact, they aren’t really “alive” in the way we think of other living things, so for them surviving means making copies of themselves.

There are millions of viruses in the world. Lucky for us, most viruses don’t make people sick (many can’t event get in our cells, and some can infect human cells but not make us sick). There are a relatively small number of viruses that cause human diseases.

The Cards Explained – in “Going Viral” we picked 5 well-known viruses that affect people all around the world. In “The Cards Explained” page we lay out each card in the “Going Viral” Version 1 deck and explain their function.

Rockefeller University’s “RockEdu: What is a Virus?
Scientific American: What is a Virus?


The Story

In the summer of 2019, BioBus hosted two interns through the NYC Life Sciences program. These two young women, Desiree and Ruby, designed and created an activity to help middle school students learn about how viruses work. Working on it over the summer (while writing research articles for students, visiting research labs, and running two weeks of science summer camp) Desiree and Ruby created a fully-functional playable game: Going Viral!

After students played the game, Ruby and Desiree submitted an abstract to the 2020 CUNY Games Conference, and academic meeting for the development and sharing of educational game resources. In January, 2020 Ruby and Desiree presented on their project and were able to have the game play-tested by educators and game designers in NYC.

BioBus Interns Desiree Obaji (left) and Ruby Gumenick (right) presenting “Going Viral” at the 2020 CUNY Games Conference.

The sudden switch to remote learning lead to an immediate desire to complete, produce, and share “Going Viral” with teachers and families, and BioBus rapidly prepared the printer-friendly version available above. However, BioBus has every intention of producing a professional-quality version of “Going Viral” and sharing Desiree and Ruby’s vision with students everywhere.

Going Viral Version 3.22
Beta Test Print Deck

In the summer of 2020, BioBus was fortunate to meet Lucas Petrin, BFA, a cartoonist, game designer and biological illustrator from Rowan University who volunteered to help our summer 2020 college interns develop and improve the game. Lucas was hired for a short contract in the fall of 2020 to develop the art assets and continue testing the game mechanics of Going Viral! With Lucas’s help, the first professional test prints were created for more testing.

In 2021 BioBus hopes to prepare the physical game for a more robust release and develop an online platform for the game.