November 23, 2020

BM Heinz Faßmann and Governor Johanna Mikl-Leitner present “Virus Alert in Stayhomton“

IST Austria developed a board game for young people and schools from 12 years of age on the topic of virus spread

Virusalarm in Bleibhausen © IST Austria (German only)

How does a virus spread in the population and what can be done about it? The board game “Virus altert in Stayhomton” was developed by scientists from IST Austria and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology to give teachers and parents a tool to discuss exactly this question with young people. Due to the great demand, the game is now being released in a second installment and is waiting to be played. Federal minister Heinz Faßmann, Governor Johanna Mikl-Leitner and Tom Henzinger, President of IST Austria, took the opportunity to try the game for themselves.

“It is a beautiful spring day when two people return from their skiing vacation to the 100-inhabitant town of STayhomton. What the two do not know: During their vacation they got infected with the new NOSO virus (NOch SO ein Virus – German for: Another one of those viruses)! …“  This is the beginning of the game instructions for a board game, which was often developed at the Institute Science and Technology Austria for pupils starting from 12 years. The players either take on the role of scientists who simulate and analyze the course of a virus outbreak, or they take the position of politicians who have to make sure that the outbreak is contained without completely paralyzing public life, for which they receive penalty points.

Minister of Education Heinz Faßmann says: “The game is ideal for discussing the current situation in class or at home and for awakening understanding for certain measures. In addition, the children learn how to handle tables and data sheets and create diagrams.”

IST Austria Präsident Tom Henzinger, Landeshauptfrau Johanna Mikl-Leitner und BM Heinz Faßmann spielen „Virusalarm in Bleibhausen“ © Martin Lusser
IST Austria President Tom Henzinger, Governor Johanna Mikl-Leitner and Minister of Education Heinz Faßmann play „Virus Alert in Stayhomton“ © Martin Lusser

Governor Johanna Mikl-Leitner: “The board game “Virusalarm in Bleibhausen”, powered by the province of Lower Austria and IST Austria, encourages discussion and learning, both in class and at play at home. Our young people get a playful approach to the topic of pandemics and learn what it means to take responsibility for themselves and others.”

IST Austria President Tom Henzinger particularly emphasized that the game was the result of a collaboration between various female scientists from several countries: “This shows that IST Austria is not only a place for outstanding science, but also a place for creative and committed minds who, even during a pandemic, take responsibility for society and cooperate across borders.” 

Game should stimulate discussion

However, as the minister and the governor quickly discovered while playing the game, the game is very different from the reality of the coronavirus pandemic. The fact that gamers get ideas how to make the game more realistic by adding more rules is an important part of “Virus alert in Stayhompton”, because it stimulates deeper discussions. This is also supported by question cards, e.g. “In reality, people close to an infected person are more likely to get infected than those who are in the same building further away. How could you re-enact this” or “How would the outbreak go if half of all people were vaccinated?”

For schools, youth groups or even at home

The game is aimed at young people from about 12 years of age and can be used in lessons in various subjects. Parents and youth group leaders are also welcome to use the game. The game can be ordered free of charge via the IST Austria website.

More information and a download version of the game can be found on the IST Austria website: ist.ac.at/virusalarm

Project funding

This project was funded by Robert-Bosch-Stiftung.

Press kit (German)

Video link

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