I’ve got the plague. Okay, not the plague. I actually have several plagues in the palm of my hand thanks to Plague Inc. a great but gruesome iPhone/Android video game that has been out for a little while, but that I just got hip to quite recently. (Thanks, Drew!)
Plague Inc. is a strategy game in which the player develops a highly infectious pathogen and unleashes it upon the world. The goal is to have it spread and kill everyone on Earth before humanity develops a cure. Infecting more people rewards the player with points to upgrade their disease by mutating its symptoms, vectors of transmission, and more. It becomes a race against the clock as news reports come in detailing the number dead and how close health authorities are to curing your precious disease.
Difficulty settings affect human behavior, with the easiest setting being described as doctors not washing their hands and patients giving people hugs.
There are several diseases available at start, and each can be customized so that no one pathogen is the same. There’s even a zombie pandemic available for download from the in-app purchase menu. Needless to say, I downloaded it immediately. I named my strain “Romero 68″ (in honor of George A. Romero, the director of Night of the Living Dead, and that movie’s year of release).
So far, it’s been pretty difficult, but awfully fun. Apparently, real public health authorities took notice of the game. Creator James Vaughan was actually invited to come and speak to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about using Plague Inc. as a learning tool.
I’m not sure how much learning I’ll be doing, but it Plague Inc is a chilling reminder of how quickly a disease can spread in our global society, and that we might be one or two mutations away from billions of deaths. Scary stuff.
Look for Plague Inc. in your smart phone’s game marketplace. Just be sure to wash your hands after you’re done playing.