CREATIVE media students are helping to develop online games to spread safety messages to a new cyber generation.

Darlington College students are working with Newton Aycliffe web company Pixel Media Design targeting children aged 5-12.

One game, Pixel Run, takes young gamers on a four level journey in the company of an avatar called Pixel, a huskey dog in a suit. If he dies on his adventure the player has to answer an internet safety question to have Pixel restored.

The first level takes a general look at internet safety after which gamers tackle the issue of strangers ‘phishing’ for personal details. Level 3 looks at cookies and for the dangers of the dark web.

Pixel is being developed by UAL Level 3 creative media, technology and production students including project leader Mitchell Woodward, 23, of Darlington, lead programmer Joshua Hutchinson, 18, of Bishop Auckland and art leader Ayla Wilkinson, 23, of Darlington.

“The games have a theme which will make the children more likely to listen to the messages,” said Ayla. “Danger is always going to approach the children so it is important that they learn how to handle it.”

Robert Proctor, 25, of Butterknowle, Amber Stevenson, 18, of Tunstall and Ethan Craggs, 17, of Darlington, are developing another game called Pixell Panic.

For Robert the project is particularly poignant as his family was targeted by internet scammers.

“We were approached by a hacker claiming to be from Microsoft,” he said. “His story seemed plausible, his emails looked like Microsoft and it was only when he asked us to set up a PayPal account so he could give us a ‘refund’ that the alarm bells sounded.

“The contact downloaded a virus so we had to completely reset the computer and cancels credit cards. It was a close call.”

Darlington College is backing the worldwide Safer Internet Campaign which seeks to increase awareness around cyber-security.

Tutor Lliam (CORRECT) Morrice said: “Breaking into the games industry is a challenge and most employers are looking for students who have some work experience. Working with Pixel Media Design has given our students that incredible opportunity to help themselves and ensure young people stay safe on-line.”

Pixel Media Design founder Ian Proctor said: “Pixel Media wants to give a little back to the community and as an ex-teacher I feel strongly about education.

“I thought it would be a great idea to go into schools and provide a little insight into the world of cyber security. The games that are being developed by the students at Darlington College will be put onto our website for children to play after having the internet safety input.

“It also gives the students at Darlington College a real purpose and an end result which we will keep live on our site throughout 2019. The students, wherever they go in 2019, can refer back to the website with potential employers or prospective universities. They have really jumped on board and run with the project, taking in the brief we set out at the start with real gusto. I am excited to see the results because the development has gone so well.”

For more information on opportunities at Darlington College visit www.darlington.ac.uk