Does Plague, Inc. give Gamers an advantage when responding to COVID-19?

During a conference call with all the GeorgiaSTEM contributors a few days ago, our Curriculum Director, Dr. Kelly Cassidy, was on the call and her teenage son walked by. We were discussing how to best prepare educational materials for the virus and make it accessible to everyone from teenagers with limited knowledge but also give some deeper information to readers with some experience in virology and epidemiology. Dr. Cassidy’s son, Logan, has done some work for us before with programming and even running some of our STEM camps. He started hanging around back in 2007 when he was 4 and has basically grown up in front of us. He is a gamer, programmer and hacker (legally through HackerOne) in his own right. He stopped behind his mom and said, “Well, I’m just gonna move to Greenland”.

This comment perplexed some of us and we asked him to come back and explain- Why would he pick Greenland and how does he know about viruses and how they spread?

Logan said: “It’s like Plague. You know, the game.”

Um- I vaguely remember something about an app called Plague.

Logan continued: “When I first heard about this virus that started in China and moving through Europe, my friends and I began to joke and say “I’m moving to Greenland”. While we might be deemed nerds or geeks by people around us, we have all understand how viruses spread and the measures taken to try and combat them by playing Plague”

It is true. If you go to google and type in “Plague- How to get to Greenland this is one of the most complex and hardest parts of the game. Fascinating.

He went on to explain to all of us (fascinated over 40 year old experts) how he knows all about containment, DNA and genetic components of viruses, fatality rate, snowball effects, mutations, genetic designs, and even mitigation. One of our authors works at the CDC. As he walked away- she said:

“How old is that kid? He has a huge advantage now that this thing has hit us here. Wow. Can playing a game really provide some protection and give some kids an advantage?

Then the WHO declared a Pandemic and we all got really busy really fast being adults and didn’t have time to really think about it anymore at the moment. It was sitting back in my lizard brain though. So a few nights ago when I couldn’t sleep,

I downloaded this thing, Plague, Inc. Wow. I am intrigued.

I started working on this post. I would suggest you all go and download it and play it. You will learn a ton just by immersion. (Disclaimer- there are some scientific limitations and inaccuracies in the game but don’t be a jerk about it. It is a game- you can comment below though and we can discuss your frustrations)

The more we talked to people who play Plague, Inc. the more we realized how better educated they were about a Pandemic, the components, the possible responses for containment and mitigation, and the possible outcomes for ignoring the spread. They really surprise us by their understanding of the graphs and math we are presenting. The wiki below has tons of information on the game and the components, how to build a better virus, etc.

If you have no prior knowledge of Plague, Inc. there is a plethora of videos on Youtube that you could watch but the one we have embedded below is a good synopsis by Scott Manley. We chose this one because he starts his virus in China and he does a good job explaining how it evolves and even gives a little bit of insight to the difference between evolution and intelligent design (which is an entirely different cogent argument we could have later- is transgenics- intelligent design- maybe a post for later)

If you would be willing to share more about your experiences with Plague, Inc. please fill out our survey embedded below or at this link. We will add information to the bottom of this post. You can also comment below and we can discuss

Nathan Lawrence, an educator at Commerce High School, Chapel Bell Curve Host and an Almuni of UGA, comments: “I think a lot about how COVID – 19 closely mirrors themechanics of Plague Inc. It doesn’t have noticeable symptoms for the most part, so the world reacts slowly to it. It spreads quickly, so it has a foothold in every country. The thing I worry about is the next step in Plague Inc. Mutating the virus so it become more lethal”

Nathan Lawrence, March 14, 2020, Educator, UGA Alumni, ESports Coach at CHS , Chapel Bell Curve Host.

It is tempting to say “I’m moving to Greenland”. In reality living in any isolated area can give you some protection against infectious diseases that are spread through close personal contact. But that isolation also keeps you away from adequate health care at times of need. There is a give and take.

Brandy K, March 14, 2020, Georgia Pharmacist

I am very good at the game and have only lost about 30 times in total .

TigerDragon30, March 14, 2020 (aka Ryan Waldrop, a student- Commerce High School)

Plague, Inc gives you a fundamental understanding of epidemics.

Christopher Koenig, Student at Commerce High School

The pandemic is not problematic for all and international travel to Europe has been banned. I think we are all going to be fine. We just need to wash our hands and stay safe. With the travel ban, going to Greenland would prove problematic anyways so we will just have to ride it out here.

DaBearPlayz , Plague, Inc player since 2015

My experience with the game has changed lately. Yes, although it is still a very fun game it does feel kind of wrong playing it knowing that what I’m doing in the game is currently happening in the world. Plague Inc. has helped teach me about the ways that viruses like COVID-19 can spread. This caused me to research the Coronavirus in more depth so I know how to be cautious and careful.

Clary 910, Plague, inc player since 2014.

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