Plague Inc is a game on smartphone mixing, according to its creators, “Terrifying realism strategy and simulation”. It depicts the spread of a virus. The level of detail of the mechanisms of infection and spread is such that its creator, James Vaughan, had even been invited in 2013 to the CDC in Atlanta (United States) to talk about Plague Inc. to researchers.
After numerous messages, requests for information from players and the crash of its servers, Ndemic Creations posted a message on Twitter and its official website to remind them that Plague Inc. “Is a game, not a scientific model and that the coronavirus epidemic is a very real situation which has an impact on a large number of people”, preferring to refer players to the official websites of the United States and WHO Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Today, the creators of the game seek to distance Plague Inc. of its informative aspect on pathogens. But the game had already been used by teachers in classrooms in the United States to discuss the principles of microbial genetics, epidemiology and pathogenesis with students. On her site, you can even read a letter from an associate professor of biology who tells how the application is used as an educational tool to interest students by comparing it to more realistic situations or already existing in the world.
Boosted by epidemics
The rules of Plague Inc. are simple: choose your pathogen, develop your spread and infection methods, and unlock new, more or less lethal symptoms to try to eliminate the world’s population. All from his laptop. With the increase in the number of coronavirus contaminations in China and around the world, the game has once again topped the lists of the most downloaded paid mobile games on the Apple AppStore in China, in the United States and in France.
The media buzz on these epidemics is also an opening on which Plague Inc. can capitalize indirectly. With each new epidemic, the number of downloads surges. This was particularly the case at the time of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa in 2014 and Zika in Brazil in 2015. At the time, James Vaughan had brought together with the gaming community nearly 70,000 euros for research on Ebola and had invited each player who opens the app to donate. He was already calling to consider Plague Inc. only as a means of educating players about epidemics and not as a real source of information.