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Do we really need the COVID-19 video game? This might change your mind. | features | Instant News


Surrounded, concerned and frustrated by our current pandemic, most people do not want COVID-19 to enter their game time. The virus and its effects have eaten up quite a lot of people’s lives.

I didn’t know 100% that I needed the COVID-19 games – let alone 51 of them – but I really needed them. Of course, it’s a good idea that these games generally don’t feature dark and complex simulations. Also, they were created in collaboration with the National Academy of Sciences arm, which means some of them contain actual research.

A mostly short set of sketches comes out of Jamming the Curve, a competition spearheaded by the team behind IndieCade, the annual celebration of the game that will take place this month in Santa Monica if world events don’t interfere. Participants are challenged to build a game from scratch, known in game development circles as a game jam, that somehow reflects our pandemic and the data and science that is trying to understand it.

To ensure that this brief experiment in game creation is based on facts, game makers not only have access to the epidemiological model developed by Georgia Tech, but can also consult a team of medical and health experts organized with input from the National Academy of LabX Department focused on science culture education.

The best of the 51 matches felt as if they opened up a dialogue, allowing me to communicate digitally about topics I didn’t always bring up in my daily life. Playing on this becomes a much needed breath, whether I enter the head space of a person who is stubbornly wearing a mask under his nose, trying to stop the spread of disease on an alien planet, watching the life of a nurse, or seeing how controlling an outbreak among a species equals herding cat.

The “Cat Colony Crisis”, for example, is a funny mess. Don’t assume anything, I told myself, as Ms. Paint, a calico, sneeze. Maybe Ms. Paint just experienced a pre-existing condition? But why Ms. Paint doesn’t wear a mask? And why is Ms. Cat started fighting and cuddling with other cats? After all, a pandemic is not the time to act like a cat. Being a cat is no excuse, Ms. Paint!

When it comes to educating people about COVID-19, said Rick Thomas of LabX, the biggest challenges are the invisibility of the virus and the struggle to recognize when we make a difference, when we panic too much and when we ‘just get selfish.

Games, particularly their ability to visualize abstract subjects as well as their need to ask players to lean back and take an active role, can close that gap, says Thomas.

“Games are great for helping to fight COVID because they do a great job of translating data into stories and helping show people how individual decisions can affect bigger problems,” said Thomas.

“That feedback is lost in daily interactions with COVID. You don’t really know if you made someone sick by not wearing a mask because there was a disconnect for a few days. You are not told if what you are doing is dangerous, but in play you can make the connection clear. That’s why we got involved. “

Delivered games – most of which are free to play via a browser, although some require download for PC or Mac – largely circumvent the tendency of more general games to emphasize the spread of the global pandemic and how to manage assets. Here, the game focuses mainly on people.

“The Covid Express” feels like my everyday life – that is, having to navigate between guises in public spaces or on mass transit. “PandeManager” is more complex, asking you to survive a year as mayor amid changing policy decisions. “Smash the Curve” is influenced by the classic game “Breakout”, where the COVID-19 graphics replace the standard bricks, and power-ups come in the form of masks and contact tracing.

For those who are new to the space jam game, get ready for an amateur, do it yourself. Games are made quickly, and the goal is to express ideas through play rather than creating a chic finished product. However, the most polished games, such as “Outbreak in Space”, allow players to delve into experimenting with variables.

Against the backdrop of science fiction, “Outbreak in Space” shows us what happens when a certain percentage of the population does not wear masks, is not isolated, or continues to engage in activities without social distancing, all covered by the Georgia Equation Tech inspired real life simulation. But even a simpler title like “Everyday Hero”, which offers an old-fashioned arcade feel where we have to keep our distance and masks from the descending characters, can have a fantastic effect on science.

“People just walk under the screen and you try to keep them away. Then add a mask variable. Then add the sick person variable. Then you have to prioritize, ”said Celia Pearce of IndieCade, a game designer and professor at Northeastern University. Pearce helped organize Jamming the Curve and this week’s online IndieCade talk list and demo.

“It’s a bit of a roundabout game, but using real data,” Pearce said of “Everyday Hero.” “In the end, you get the number: ‘This is the number of people who got infected because you didn’t move them far apart.’ It pushes home the same games we all play when we go to the market, where I’ll be walking around trying to keep everyone six feet away. This is a game that makes you think about your personal space. “

Scrolling through Discord’s Jamming the Curve channel reveals a conversation between game creators and medical experts that feels more like a public health FAQ than a game development event; The developer asks questions on a wide range of topics, including mask efficiency, viral load, and persistent immunological responses.

Some games cover those tough topics. “Hero Lab” is a colorful simulation of a medical professional’s challenges and focuses on distancing people, caring for patients and researching vaccines. Others take a more personal route. “Nonessential”, for example, is an intimate conversation game about how we fend off worries and avoid mental health topics.

For epidemiologist Sarah Matthews, who spent more than a decade working for the Florida Department of Health and currently completing her PhD at the University of Central Florida, she’s already had to work through several outbreaks, including the most recent. He’s not quite sure he had much room for play in his adult life, but after serving as a mentor on Jamming the Curve he has a strong belief in both how games can reach the public and how they can help health professionals better communicate complex communication. , difficult subjects.

“This is a very powerful thing,” he said. “Not being a gamer, and looking at it from an outside lens, it gives me new respect for that. This technology can revolutionize the way we do things. If you remember when you were a child, you learned through play. It resonates with me. I realized it again. You can learn through play. It’s more motivating and more interesting than I thought. “

He jokes that some games, especially those simulating a public not following health guidelines, can be therapeutic for medical professionals who see their advice going unnoticed.

The game “Together” addresses such topics.

“Together,” said designer Chelsea Brtis, an adjunct professor in Virginia Commonwealth University’s communications arts department, is a way for him to manage his own frustrations with people he sees not taking the pandemic seriously. However, it comes from a place of compassion, to help others see a different point of view.

“Games give you a kind of safe space,” said Brtis. “I tried to get close to him so you don’t know it’s a serious game. So you enter playfully. And play opens up opportunities for a conversation with yourself when this serious problem is brought up. The game starts a conversation. “

Copyright 2020 Tribune Content Agency.

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Baltimore Humane Society Ask for Dry Dogs, Cat Food Donation – CBS Baltimore | Instant News


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People Scramble to Help Brazil’s ‘Cat Island’, Starving Due to Pandemic | Instant News


MANGARATIBA, Brazil (AP) – All the locals know that this island west of Rio de Janeiro is full of cats. They left food behind and even took tourists. Then the Coronavirus pandemic hit, and human support dried up, resulting in a terrifying sight witnessed by fishermen: a group of cats devouring the corpses of others.

Furtada Island, widely referred to as “Cat Island”, is 20 minutes by motorboat from the town of Mangaratiba, at one end of Brazil’s Green Coast, a vast expanse of mountainous tropical forest and sandy bays dotted with hundreds of islands.


AP photo / Silvia Izquierdo

A cat is seen on a tree branch on Furtada Island in Mangaratiba, Brazil, Tuesday, October 13, 2020.

Over the years, fishermen threw fish guts and unnecessary catch on the island, while kind souls left behind a store-bought bowl of water and cat food. That has helped hundreds of the island’s inhabitants keep eating, especially the recently stranded cats that lack the skills of their wild-born siblings, who climb trees to attack bird nests.

As the pandemic forces people to quarantine, drown tourism and close restaurants serving seafood, boat traffic around the island drops sharply – and with it, food and water settle there.

A cat sits on a rock overlooking the water on Furtada Island.


AP photo / Silvia Izquierdo

A cat sits on a rock overlooking the water on Furtada Island.

Locals didn’t realize the horrors unfolding on the island until fishermen reported back in April.

“The number of boats went down, the number of tourists, and we looked at the conditions of the animals on the island,” said Jorge de Morais, 58, who works with a local group that rescues animals from abuse. So we mobilized.

He and other volunteers solicited donations from local businesses. In April, they started installing rudimentary food and water dispensers, made of PVC pipe, and now make weekly trips to refill them.

Furtada Island cats eat food taken by volunteers and pulled out of PVC pipes.


AP photo / Silvia Izquierdo

Furtada Island cats eat food taken by volunteers and pulled out of PVC pipes.

On Tuesday, as the cats roam, de Morais and three other people fill the dispenser on the small island, where dense vegetation meets rocky beaches.

“Cats that have just been dumped, they are more sociable. You see we can get close, caress them, ”said Joice Puchalski, coordinator of the volunteer group. “But not a wild one. They are all hidden, and you see them at night, because of their eyes. “

About 250 cats on the island trace their origins to a couple who were the only residents about two decades ago, Puchalski, 47, explained. They left behind their two cats to do what most creatures, left alone on desert islands, do. As the cat population grew, people took notice, and some believed they had found a storehouse for the urban scourge: unwanted, stray cats.

The cat shelter on Furtada Island.


AP photo / Silvia Izquierdo

The cat shelter on Furtada Island.

Authorities are looking for ways to stop people from leaving animals on the island. This was already a crime, but the signs noted had little effect.

Karla de Lucas, who oversees animal protection in Rio state, inspected Cat Island in June, and she met with the Navy and environmental authorities to explore punishments, according to a statement at the time. Congress also passed legislation last month increasing penalties for mistreating cats and dogs, including up to five years in prison.

Cats eat from a makeshift PVC pipe food dispenser filled by volunteers from Animal Heart Protection on Furtada Island.


AP photo / Silvia Izquierdo

Cats eat from a makeshift PVC pipe food dispenser filled by volunteers from Animal Heart Protection on Furtada Island.

There are no springs on the island, and limited drinking water often causes kidney problems in cats, according to Puchalski. But the greatest danger is the pit viper and its poisonous bite. Opportunistic lizards will also attack and injure kittens. Several cats were injured when the boatman threw them on the rocks.

Volunteers transport the cats to the beach as needed, for treatment or surgery. They try to find someone to adopt each animal and, if that fails, bring it back to the island so they can treat other animals that need medical attention.

This is a Sisyphean business, said Puchalski.

“We desperately need someone who can join us in trying to cure a crime which for us is cruelty,” he said.

Biller reported from Rio de Janeiro.

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The teen ‘koala whisperer’ is fast becoming Australia’s new conservation superstar | Instant News


There isn’t much time in the day when 13 year old Izzy Bee doesn’t have a baby koala hitching a ride behind his neck or following his shadow.

After living among the rescued koalas at her home and Ali’s mother’s veterinary clinic for as long as she is known, the Australian teen has developed a special relationship with the cuddly marsupial.

“I don’t know about koalas,” said Izzy Dpa as the baby koalas climbed on his shoulders. “I’ve grown with them all my life, so I’ve cultivated that relationship with them.”

That unique connection has not only earned him the nickname “koala whisperer” from his father, Tim, but has also caught Netflix’s attention.

In September, an eight-episode documentary series Izzy Koala World launched in over 190 countries.

Filmed when Izzy was just 11 years old, the series follows the Bees’ family as they care for koalas on Magnetic Island Queensland in northeast Australia.

Viewers learn about the plight of endangered species, which face habitat destruction and injury from vehicles, fences and dog attacks as they are forced into more urban areas.

And while getting lessons about conservation, the audience can also witness the koala’s very unique behavior and unique personality.

“This new little Molly is totally obsessed with noses; he’d bite and lick the tip of everyone’s nose, ”Izzy said, giggling.

The babies are staying at the house – which also serves as a shelter for rescued koalas – for extra care, while the others are at Ali’s koala rehabilitation facility.Izzy with his parents, Ali and Tim, as well as some of their favorite koalas.

“The babies were squeaking loud enough for me to hear upstairs, so I came down to feed them in the middle of the night, which is the main reason why we put them at home,” said Ali, who is responsible for rescuing more than 230 koalas in the island.

He explains that once strong enough, the animals move to “a nursery, then a kindergarten”, before being released back into the wild.

“They are the most adorable and very helpless things. They just see you and your heart melt – you have to help them, ”said Ali.

This series comes at a critical time for Australia’s native animals, who are particularly vulnerable to threats including deforestation, disease and the effects of climate change.

Prior to the devastating 2019-2020 “Black Summer” bushfires, the Australian Koala Foundation estimated there were “no more than 80,000” left in Australia, rendering the species “functionally extinct.”

Once the koala population drops below a tipping point, it can no longer produce the next generation, leading to extinction.

Habitat damage caused by bushfires has led to a decline in koalas. A parliamentary inquiry found koalas would become extinct in the state of New South Wales by 2050 without immediate intervention to protect their habitat and help the species recover.

New South Wales is the state worst affected by the fires, with as much as 81% of koala habitat burned in some areas.

However, the investigation agrees with evidence showing that even before wildfires swept the state, koalas were on their way to extinction in the next 30 years.

Environmentalists and activists have been pushing for better koala protection laws in the country and for the species’ threat status to be upgraded from vulnerable to endangered.

Environment Minister Sussan Ley recently agreed to add combined koala populations in Queensland, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory to the priority list for assessment by his independent Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC).

“This process is critical to ensuring threatened species are given strategic protection, qualify for targeted funding, and are aware of the issues affecting them,” said Ley.

Ali hopes the Netflix series will provide a bigger picture of conservation and climate change action in the country.

“Even though it’s not a koala, there are lots of animals that need that care and attention, which is basically down to protecting the planet. If we don’t do that and don’t act on climate change, they will have no place to live, “said Ali dpa.

“It’s all about the big picture; getting people to see the bigger picture and getting the younger generation excited to do something about it. “- dpa

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Italian prosecutors investigate alleged mistreatment of ‘runaway genius’ bear | World News | Instant News


Italian prosecutors have launched an investigation into alleged mistreatment of the country’s most notorious bear, dubbed Papillon, who is currently being held at a wildlife center in the northeast. Italy after being recaptured a third time.

The 149kg light brown bear is accused of slaughtering dozens of cows and sheep in the mountains in the Trentino region, and to his property. catch last month is the most wanted wild animal in Europe.

Authorities considered the bear – officially known as M49 – a “runaway genius”, as he had twice escaped from his cage. On one occasion he managed to climb three electric fences and a 4 meters barrier before disappearing into the forest. The feat earned him the name Papillon, after the eponymous character from Henri Charrière’s book about escaping from a French penal colony.

His latest arrest angered environmental groups, who have promised to take legal action against the governor of Trento province, Maurizio Fugatti, of the far-right League party.

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Fugatti, who is sure there is too many bears in the region, issued the first orders to catch bears last June, and gave permission to guards to shoot an M49 if deemed dangerous.

Bear has been locked in a cage measuring 2 x 6 meters Since September 7, it has been surrounded by three 7,000 volt electric fences, a 4 meter barrier, CCTV and ranger cadres.

The Italian Minister for the Environment, Sergio Costa, has made this point the animal must be returned to the wild. However, he acknowledged that the central government had little say in the case because Trento’s autonomous status gave the province the authority to decide Papillon’s future.

The report from the environmental protection squad of the national police, released last month after a visit to the Casteller center, said bear is under pressure and live in unsuitable conditions. “M49 has stopped eating properly and filled the gates of his cage,” he said, adding that in the first week of being re-arrested, veterinarians administered sedatives to calm him down.

Papillon was detained along with two other bears, codenamed DJ4 and M57, who allegedly attacked a man last August.








The fence was broken in the center of Casteller after Papillon’s second escape in April. Photo: Corpo Forestale dello Stato / AFP / Getty Images

“The three bears suffered from severe psycho-physical stress,” said the police report. “Therefore, bear conditions of detention do not guarantee adequate welfare.”

Trento chief prosecutor, Sandro Raimondi, confirmed to The Guardian that an investigation had been launched into the alleged mistreatment of the bear.

The Alpine brown bear was reintroduced to the Trentino region in 2000 after its population had dwindled to just four. The herders protested when the bears began to prey on livestock, and as their numbers grew, armed “anti-bear” squads were formed to catch and, if necessary, shoot at bears deemed “potentially dangerous”.

Some of the bears were killed intentionally, while others died from an overdose of sedatives during the capture operation. Those caught ended up behind the fence, while about 10 simply disappeared.

The Papillon controversy revived the debate in Italy about who owns the wild and the rights of humans and nature. “This forest belongs to wolves, bears and deer,” said Ornella Dorigatti, Trento representative for the International Organization for Animal Protection (OIPA), which has been on a hunger strike for 10 days to protest Papillon’s detention. We humans are just guests.

Find out more age of extinction coverage here, and follow biodiversity reporters Phoebe Weston and Patrick Greenfield on Twitter for all the latest news and features

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