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For the creator of Plague Inc, the Covid was a big case of conscience

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It’s not just vaccine makers who have profited well from the Covid-19 pandemic; this is also the case for the developers of Plague Inc., who have also experienced it quite badly.

Thursday, May 26, the famous epidemiological simulation game Plague Inc. celebrated its tenth anniversary. The opportunity for its creator James Vaughan to engage in a small question and answer session on Reddit. And one of the Internet users hit on a very interesting point when he asked the developer about the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on the popularity of his game.

For those who are not familiar with Plague Inc., it is a game that offers the player to embody a microorganism; over the course of the game, he evolves his pox to make it more and more virulent thanks to various and varied evolutionary strategies, with the objective of achieving the pure and simple eradication of humanity.

The concept is very simple, but the game is also surprisingly complex and addictive when first discovered. But when he published his game, Vaughan was still far from suspecting that humanity was going to go through a real pandemic, this time very real, a few years later… and that his game was going to benefit greatly from it. A finding that made him very uncomfortable.

A success boosted by the pandemic

When the Covid started, we had our biggest increase in the number of players”, he concedes. A situation that he very willingly qualifies as “annoying”. “That’s the case to say ! It was really uncomfortable seeing all these fictional events that I had just put into the game taking place in real life.”, he specifies. “I want my games to work because they’re good, not because they profit from planetary disaster.”, he laments.

Result: today, more than 180 million people have played the game, and this score has been largely boosted by the pandemic. But Vaughan can rest assured; Plague Inc. was not the only work to gain popularity during the pandemic, far from it. The long months of confinement have also pushed the population to consume a lot more digital content.

In addition, because of the anxiety-provoking context, all virus-related works instantly gained popularity. And if Plague Inc actually benefited from it, it was a godsend effect that we can’t really blame its author. Despite everything, Vaughan was still keen to contribute to the efforts to fight the pandemic.

When Covid hit, before it spread around the world, I immediately connected with medical and scientific experts in my network to get their thoughts on how we could help. We ended up donating $250,000 to WHO and CEPI.” The studio has also developed Plague Inc: The Curea game that allows the player to take the original concept from the other end while trying to stop the pandemic.

A cartoonish micro-lesson on the basics of epidemiology

In the end, even if he said he was embarrassed, we can argue that on his scale, Plague Inc. may have directly involved in the fight against Covid-19. Even if it is obviously very far from being scientifically solid, this little game had the merit of sending some very important subliminal messages in this context; Just by playing, 180 million people have been forced to think about the parameters that favor or slow down the spread of a virus – starting with the famous vaccine which more or less represents the final boss of each game.

And above all, it will have identified a foolproof emergency response scenario that the players know only too well; If a pandemic of a deadly virus threatens the planet, your best chance of survival is to set sail for Greenland as soon as possible before the ports and airports close!

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