Prahlad Wulf’s eyes are locked on his laptop screen and his fingers tap the keyboard in complete absorption, his focus broken only by the time taken to grab a few corn chips to eat.
Six boys sit next to him, each similarly focused.
They are all playing Minecraft, the massively popular game where blocky-pixelated characters explore, build, and live in a limitless blocky-pixelated world.
But unlike the other boys, Prahlad has type 1 diabetes.
He was diagnosed at the age of eight, and spent two weeks in hospital learning how to manage the condition via the rituals of daily injections, blood glucose checks and watching what he eats.
“I was really young then so I didn’t really understand most of it, it was a little bit scary,” Prahlad said.
For his father Josh Wulf, the experience was tough to handle.
“If anything happens to your children it really hits you, you know?” Mr Wulf said.
The experience stuck with Mr Wulf, who now runs programs helping children learn coding through Minecraft.
“I realised we could make a difference for children and families living with type 1 diabetes in terms of learning how to manage their condition in a safe way, and a fun way,” he said.
With a group of volunteers, he has been building a modified version of Minecraft and they have been spending weekends together fine-tuning and testing the game.
In the modified version of Minecraft, players walk around the world and play through stories, with the added challenge of monitoring their blood glucose and insulin.
“They focus on playing, they focus on the story, they focus on the magic, and they just learn how to manage diabetes in the course of that,” Mr Wulf said.
He hopes the finished game will help children with type 1 diabetes connect online, as well as help their friends without diabetes better understand the condition.
QUT associate professor Michael Dezuanni studies how kids learn playing games and he would like to trial the game with newly diagnosed kids in hospital.
“They would be able to play the game, and it would be able to become one part of their education around type 1 diabetes,” he said.
The project has also attracted international attention.
Mr Wulf said a Danish pharmaceutical company that manufactures insulin approached him after hearing about the project.
“We’re working with their scientists on the modelling of the metabolism in the game, and we’re going to visit them in Denmark in June to talk further about that,” he said.
Prahlad said if the game existed when he was diagnosed, it would have helped.
“It would’ve been easier for me to understand what is, cause it’s in simpler terms instead of all this scientific mumbo jumbo,” he said.
“Someone who newly has type 1 diabetes – it would help them a lot.”