Video games have been an absolute godsend during the coronavirus pandemic, but one game in particular has calmed me more than anything else. No, I’m not talking about Animal Crossing: New Horizons, I’m talking about Plague Inc.
I downloaded this game (and paid actual money for it) in the first week of isolation while quarantining at my parents house and it has surprisingly helped to remind me that staying home right now and minimising my face-to-face contact is the best way I can help to slow the spread of the virus.
Put simply, the aim of the game is to infect and subsequently kill-off the entire world’s population before a cure is found. I know, it sounds really sadistic and horrible to be playing this right now, but in all honesty, it has been somewhat therapeutic.
After deciding where your disease starts, you have to develop and evolve it to become more transmittable and more lethal. As the disease begins to spread, you watch it infect more and more of the world’s population in the race against the time it takes a cure to be found.
The objective of the game is to wipe out the entire world’s population, and you lose if the computer is able to cure the virus before you’ve killed everyone off.
As a person who suffers from pretty bad anxiety, my mind has spiralled a few times during isolation to a point where I’m wholeheartedly convinced that the entire world is going to be annihilated by the coronavirus pandemic. It usually results in me wasting a huge portion of my day stressing about things that probably won’t happen, and it just doesn’t really help anyone.
But that’s where this game has really helped. For starters, it means I’m spending more time on my couch, which is where we should probably all be right now. But it also helps me to conceptualise exactly how me sacrificing a little bit of freedom by staying at home right now actually helps minimise the spread of the coronavirus.
Much like in real life, the virtual virus spreads through travel (which is illustrated in-game) and human contact. So while you’re slowly killing off the entire human race, it serves as a little bit of a reminder as to why we’re all staying home right now.
I guess why this game is so therapeutic for me right now is because it gives me a few fleeting moments of feeling like I actually have some sort of control over the situation at hand. Rather than sitting back and complaining that politicians/the general public are doing it wrong, I can take the reigns and just try it for myself. And as it turns out, there’s a good reason the World Health Organisation hasn’t put me in charge of the actual pandemic.
I feel this strange urge to defend myself for playing this game, as if it’s somehow insensitive given the current situation in the world. But realistically, this isn’t any different to shooting people in Call Of Duty or *maybe* drowning your Sim in the pool after you remove the ladder. It’s a game, it’s not real life. Just because I’m trying to wipe out the entire virtual population doesn’t mean that I’m some insensitive asshole who wants to watch the real world burn.
And if you’re still feeling bad about it, the company behind the game also chucked a $250,000USD donation to the fight against COVID-19, so I guess that makes up for the fact that it might be in a *little* bit of poor taste to be playing this game right now.
I’m not about to tell you this has been a life-changing experience for me, or that this is some deep, philosophical thing that’s helping me deal with the coronavirus pandemic. But it has helped me to kill hours of my free time while reminding me that minimising my travel/interactions with other people is the best way to help slow the spread of the actual pandemic we’re dealing with right now.
For the measly price of $0.99, you too can download this game and waste hours of your time infecting the virtual world’s population (presumably while socially distancing and trying your hardest NOT to infect the real world’s population).