Many years ago, I played a game called Pandemic on Kongregate where the objective of the game was to become your preferred life form to spread disease (virus, bacteria, or parasite) then infect everyone! Players would upgrade with delightful symptoms like vomiting, delirium and open sores to wipe off everyone on Earth. Madagascar kept closing its ports too quickly for my life form to infiltrate and thus it was difficult to ever complete the game.
An alternative game spun off the same concepts was release in May 26th 2012 called Plague Inc. The concept is the same, as you play an evolving pathogen in an effort to destroy mankind via a plague. Since its release, the game has sold copies of the game but recently sales have boosted. It is believed the Ebola scare has cause the sale of the iPhone game to skyrockets. Last week, more than 430,000 new players downloaded the app with a total number of 4 million players. The uncanniness of it all is some players have named their life form Ebola with victory declarations at the completion of the game such as: ”Victory! Ebola has successfully eliminated all life on Earth.”
Before jumping the gun on the topic, players are becoming aware on the real world issue via the game. It has sparked a large interest in how and why Ebola is such a serious issues and how to keep it from spreading.
‘Players are often interested in real-world issues, and frequently discuss diseases and the science behind them. Recently, we have seen that tens of thousands of Plague Inc players are talking about Ebola on game forums and social media.”
According to DailyMail ,there have now been 9,936 probable, suspected and confirmed cases of Ebola, mostly in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, with warnings in some areas remaining ‘intense’. These numbers continue to rise as the World Health Organisation (WHO) figures suggest the real death toll could be as high as 15,000. We live in an era where gaming can and will transcend the limitations of its predecessors becoming more than just entertainment but also a tool. Ebola is a clearly an important global topic and if a mobile game can provide the knowledge to understand how such a disease spreads and function, the more of a chance we have to protect ourselves and others.
Many would see the sales spike as just a result to fear, but in actuality it is a call for information. People know little about how or why the Ebola epidemic has become such a threat to our health. Plague Inc. could be seen as a viable tool to understanding the spread and threat Ebola poses to the world by putting players into the mind of the disease itself. Instead of taking this as a possible psychological displacement of fear to the threat of Ebola, become inform of the spread and prevention by playing Plague Inc.