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EndersGame
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USING PLAYING CARDS IN THE WAR AGAINST COVID-19

Note: I'm posting this in the General Forum, because the coronavirus is something we're all thinking about and confronted with right now. And since playing cards are something we all use for magic, I figured this article (which I wrote) might be an enjoyable read, and be something that other magicians might like to know about!

Educational Playing Cards

Playing cards have always been used for playing card games, and this is what caused their rapid spread through Europe in the 15th century. But throughout the extensive history of the humble playing card, which now spans more than five centuries, they have also been used for educational purposes. After all, the essential element of a playing card required for playing games is quite minimal; there just needs to be some clear indication of the suit and the value of the card, but for the rest the artwork can be customized in a lot of ways. That makes the face of every playing card a blank slate or miniature canvas, waiting to be filled with content and information.

Already early in their history playing cards lended their services to the world of art, and especially for the nobility there was a real fad for creating luxurious decks with lavish miniature artwork. But it was only a small step to move from the world of art to the world of education, because playing cards were equally effective servants for teaching purposes. Already in the 1400s and 1500s, many decks of playing cards were created as teaching tools, and contained summaries of key facts from the sciences and other fields of study. Decks were printed that were devoted to educational materials for sciences like botany, astronomy, and chemistry, as well as subjects like history and geography. Some decks of cards served as miniature self-study courses for mathematics, writing, music, and heraldry. Many wonderful and colourful decks continue to be produced today which do something similar.

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War-time Playing Cards

In times of war and conflict, playing cards have had a similar function, as a way of educating the masses with important information that they might otherwise not learn. Especially for troops who would playing card games to while away the time, the deck of playing cards was the ideal tool that could perform double duty in providing soldiers with something to do during down time, but also to help sharpen their skills about important facts.

A prime example of this is the "Most Wanted Deck", which was created during the Gulf War, and depicted photos about the 55 most wanted individuals of Saddam Hussein's regime, along with key information about each. This was not a new idea, and had been done previously in other wars. A similar concept is the Airline Spotter deck from World War II, in which each playing card featured a silhouette of an aircraft, to help anti-aircraft gunners recognize different Allied and Axis aeroplanes. A Naval Spotter deck applied the same concept to ships. Several Ordnance Recognition decks were created and distributed by United Nations and government agencies to help teach people who live in war zones how to identify unexploded munitions, and thereby save lives.

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Coronavirus Playing Cards

The war we are facing against the coronavirus today is a very different one, but the enemy is no less real. So it was only a matter of time before creators began seeking out new and novel ways of disseminating information, to help equip the public in the fight against this deadly disease. One of those who has stepped up to the plate is Shuffled Ink, with the creation of a custom deck of playing cards designed to provide educational information about the virus.

Like the many educational decks that have gone before it, these playing cards serve a double duty by also being a tool to bring families together around the table during this time of crisis, and give them some moments of joy and entertainment together in the midst of adversity. Proceeds are being donated to the American Red Cross, as well as to various health and local food and shelter organizations.

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The first of these decks is 52 Helpful COVID-19 Tips Playing Cards (priced around $14). The card backs have artwork featuring a doctor and nurse, but a matching deck with alternate artwork that depicts a virus is also being made available.

The deck has standard indices, so the cards are still very suited for playing card games. But each playing card contains a helpful tip related to the coronavirus crisis, highlighting important precautions you can take, or sharing some other important information that is vital to know in these troubled times. Unlike many custom decks where only the court cards have custom artwork, in this deck all the number cards also have panels of information and artwork related to the COVID-19 crisis.

Examples of cards included in this deck are "How do you know you have the coronavirus?", "Alternative remedy choices", "Use effective hand sanitizer", "if you develop minor symptoms notify all recently contacted people", "Transmission by mosquitoes", "Social distancing", "UV lamps", and "Can thermal scanners find COVID-19?" In each case there is further information on the card that explains more key facts. For example, the card "Can alcohol or chlorine kill COVID-19?" (10 of Diamonds), also says this in smaller print: "No! Spraying these items on your body will not kill viruses already inside your body. In fact, it will likely cause harm to skin, eyes, nose and mouth."

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The remaining decks in the series all feature standard faces, and convey an important message on the card backs. Three decks feature the hashtag #SocialDistancing in large and bold letters on the card backs, with a choice of black on white, white on black, or multi-coloured.

Then there's a range of five decks that feature the hashtag #AloneTogether, to capture the idea that while some of us may be alone, we are all together. Besides the main design that focuses on the words, there's also an alternate one with an image.

The #SocialDistancing Playing Cards and #AloneTogether Playing Cards both sell for $10 each. Currently there's an offer that if you buy 2 decks you get 1 deck free, which applies to all the decks. All net proceeds are being donated to support the fight against the coronavirus.

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Final Thoughts

It's great that even from the comfort of our home, there are small things we can do to help in the battle against this deadly disease, even if it is by making ourselves more informed, or by purchasing something that helps support organizations like the Red Cross.

And of course, playing cards are always good to have around, even in times like these. If you're stuck at home with family, there's plenty of great card games you can play. Start by checking out my article 40+ Great Card Games For All Occasions to see some good suggestions, including some great solitaire card games you can even play - even if you're in isolation or quarantine on your own!

Where to get them? You can see the complete range of the Coronavirus Playing Cards over on Shuffled Ink here.

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Author's note: I first published this article here.
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