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Minnesota teen builds video game in honor of COVID-19 vaccine

Get ready for serious Atari vibes and an original rap from 16-year-old game creator Josh Ternyak.

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Minnesota teen Josh Ternyak created the online game COVID Invaders. (Screengrab)
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PLYMOUTH, Minn. — So, you want to destroy coronavirus?

Here’s your chance.

Minnesota teen Josh Ternyak created COVID Invaders , an online game where you shoot tiny syringes at coronavirus particles. You have 30 seconds to destroy as many as possible.

The game is Josh’s way of spreading awareness of the vaccine. It features serious Atari vibes and an original rap from Josh, 16.

“I wanted to build something that was unbiased and not offend anyone and help make people laugh,” he said by phone.


Press the blue “here” on the online game, and red coronavirus particles — some masked, some not — float in jagged sets from the right. Amid a gray, cartoon-like backdrop, you can move your syringe vertically, lining it up to shoot doses one after the other. The particles explode upon impact.

In its first week, COVID Invaders had more than 1,000 users and 1,600 views. In its second week, the number of users was well over 2,000.

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In its first week, COVID Invaders had more than 1,000 users. (Screengrab)

The idea for COVID Invaders came from his friend, Roman Peysakhovich, but Josh is the sole game designer. It’s the first game the Plymouth, Minn., high schooler has created.

It took about two month, and launching it cost about $10 for a domain name, he said.

For a game designer, Josh hasn’t played many himself in the past year. He has been aiming for a minimalist lifestyle online, no social media and no gaming.

With that in mind, he wanted to build a game that was entertaining without being addicting or time-consuming, hence a 30-second limit before COVID Invaders cuts you off. (But you can play back-to-back games.)


As far as feedback, Josh has heard most comments about his original rap that plays during the game.

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Players of COVID Invaders attack the virus with syringes. (Screengrab)

“… Just kill the virus with the vaccine.

Which virus? The coronavirus.

It is not the beer. You just got to get the virus.

Either shoot the vaccine at the virus.

The virus should put on a mask, then you can just dance all day long.”


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COVID Invaders can be played multiple times in a row, but each game is limited to 30 seconds. (Screengrab)

He used a free beat he found online. It took him less than 10 minutes to record — and it’s catchy.

At the end of the game, you can type your initials into the leaderboard, but don’t be fooled by the scores in the million. Josh has since fixed a glitch that allows falsifying a score, he said.

Josh started learning programming at age 11. When he was 13, he taught himself software development and how to code through YouTube and paid courses.

Being home-schooled since last spring due to the pandemic, Josh said he has grown more productive over the past nine months. He’s thankful for more time to arrange his schedule for schoolwork in the day and coding at night, he said.

“What I learned, if you have something really interesting and engaging to do like building a website or a game, you’re not going to need to get dopamine from Snapchat or Instagram,” he said.

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