The Department for Transport has taken an unusual approach to improving child road safety by launching an online game as part of its latest Think! campaign.
The game is called The Code of Everand and is of the ‘massively multi-player’ variety, similar in concept to well-known commercial titles such as World of Warcraft and Second Life. Its virtual world aims to help children develop the skills they need to deal with the dangers of the real world road network.
These skills include finding a safe place to cross and planning ahead, promoted in the game by a series of quests around the land of Everand, each of which involves the negotiation of ‘spirit channels’ packed with ‘dangerous creatures’.
Playing the game
The spirit channels represent roads while the dangerous creatures are the Everand equivalent of traffic. Players learn, for example, to look both ways before crossing the spirit channels, and are encouraged to continue exploring through the acquisition of ‘experience points’ and virtual currency.
Uniquely, the game uses real road data to present children with challenges they are likely to face in the outside world.
Which? logged on and had a quick go, and found the experience immersive and unpatronising – the communication of road safety topics to young children has suddenly become far more sophisticated.
Cutting child road deaths
The Code of Everand was launched by Road Safety Minister Paul Clark, who said: ‘Our roads are among the safest in the world, but the death of any child is one death too many.’
The game is aimed particularly at children making the transition from primary to secondary school, as this is the point where many begin to make longer journeys on their own.
According to government statistics, twice as many 12-year-old pedestrians are hurt on UK roads each year than nine-year-olds. A total of 17 children aged 10-12 were killed in 2008, and 2,500 were injured.
Free to play
Previous Think! campaigns have proven very successful, helping to achieve a 50% reduction in child road deaths since the mid-1990s.
The Department for Transport states: ‘Research has shown that computer games can help children develop essential skills such as logical thinking, planning ahead and cooperation.’ So it seems a road safety computer game is a logical step.
Clark added: ‘Today’s young people have access to more media than any before and their attitudes to communications have become much more sophisticated. The Code of Everand reflects this sophistication, and by communicating with children through a medium they already enjoy we hope to improve their understanding of safe road behaviour.’
The Code of Everand is completely free to play, and requires only a simple registration process.
Think! has developed the game after taking advice from leading education and gaming figures, and it was created in conjunction with games specialist Area/Code.
Follow Which? Car on Twitter
The Which? Car team is on Twitter, to offer you help and advice as and when you need it.
We’re monitoring our Twitter account every day, so if you have an account, please send us you thoughts and questions to @whichcar.
Don’t worry if you haven’t got a Twitter account – you can still stay in the loop by regularly checking www.twitter.com/whichcar.