The Vaxcraft game was made with Dr. Ben Ashby from the Department of Mathematics at Simon Fraser University (SFU) and the Department of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Bath, funded by the Natural Environment Research Council.
The player needs to vaccinate the creatures in a game world to keep them safe from new virus variants. The dynamics in the game are based on reality:
- If a creature's immune system shapes match the virus spike protein shapes, the creature recognises and neutralises the virus. If the creature doesn't have the right immunity, the virus can infect them and potentially kill them.
- If a creature gets infected, the virus multiplies and causes more problems for the other creatures.
- The more virus there is around, the more chance there is that a new variant will evolve.
- Immunity wanes over time, so the creatures need regular vaccination.
- As the virus evolves, previous vaccinations might not work any more, or might not work so well.
- The virus evolves to evade the creatures' immunity.
- There are five levels that get progressively more difficult - the only thing that changes is the proportion of the population of creatures that are vaccinated. At the start, 100% of the creatures get the vaccination, but this gradually reduces to only 25% at the end of the game, which makes it very difficult to keep the creatures alive.