BRATTLEBORO — A Vernon man going to college in Washington has found a way to have a little fun with the COVID-19 pandemic.
"One of my friends here at Walla Walla University told me before spring break in early March that we should try to build a game," said Christian Miller, who grew up on the Miller Farm. "We wanted to do something to help people affected by the virus."
Over spring break, Miller developed the game play. He was then introduced by a friend to Josh Boram, a local entrepreneur who owns Trust Lock, a web-based company that provides business verification for online retailers.
Boram took Miller's game play and created cards to go along with the game.
"Josh did the mock-ups and all the designs and we worked together to get it manufactured," said Miller.
Miller, who is attending Walla Walla for mechanical engineering, attended Fountain View Academy in British Columbia before taking a two-year mechanics program in Boston at Franklin Technical Institute. He returned to Vernon to work as a small engine mechanic for Renaud Brothers before jetting off for college in Washington.
"After developing the first version, we had to play a fair amount to work out the issues," said Miller. "One version took four hours to play, which is too long. We got it down to about 30 minutes."
But just developing the game wasn't enough. They decided that a portion of the proceeds would go to help hospitals purchase personal protective equipment.
Miller said Covid Survivor, 19th Edition, includes a pair of dice and a deck of cards.
"The goal is to survive the longest," he said. "Spread fun, not fear," is the game's slogan.
"Our game was designed in a 'good-humored' way that we believe respects those suffering from COVID-19 in every way possible," states the game's website. "We created COVID Survivor with the intention to bring fun and joy, instead of the majority of fear being put on display during these times. We also hope that our game might even subliminally teach others several helpful pandemic protocols that might transfer over to real actions we can take to protect ourselves from any future COVID pandemic, in specific the use of the hand sanitizer card when a Cough card is played on someone. This is something we all should do if someone is coughing around us and it's true in the game as well!"
"Although fear is natural in a situation like this, it can be toxic and hurtful," Boram told the Union-Bulletin, a newspaper in Walla Walla. "I knew I could do something to help make an impact."
Demand for the game has been so strong that they are selling out.
"Honestly, I'm really surprised," Boram told the Union-Bulletin. "That's why we ordered a smaller amount. I (didn't) even know how this was gonna be perceived."
"Will you take the social distancing activities seriously?" asks the game description. "Have you stocked up on toilet paper and hand sanitizer? Are you wearing proper PPE? Let's hope so because your COVID survival can go from minor to fatal in just a few plays! This easy-to-learn game is super fun and addicting while teaching players that social distancing, wearing proper PPE, and avoiding coughs are crucial for survival."
Covid Survivor is currently available on Amazon and at CovidSurvivor.com, as well as at Book & Game Co. in Walla Walla. The retail price is $14.95.
Miller said he grew up playing Settlers of Catan and Exploding Kittens with his cousins.
"There was always enough people around on the farm who enjoyed playing games," he said.
Miller said he might want to develop another game some day, but he is focused right now on a career in mechanical engineering.
"I have a couple of ideas I am kicking around," he said.
Bob Audette can be contacted at email@example.com.