What Can We Learn From the `Plague' Game?

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Nov. 11 (Bloomberg) -- Plague Inc. developer James Vaughan discusses why he made the "Plague" game with Pimm Fox on Bloomberg Television's "Taking Stock." Bloomberg's Meg Tirrell also speaks. (Source: Bloomberg)

Tell us, how did you connect with this idea of playing a game called plague?

It's incredible.

A friend of mine was playing it one night and i said what are you doing?

I'm killing everybody in the world with a virus infection.

I said that's kind of more bid and it turned out i looked into this game it's incredibly popular at the top of all the download charts since it launched in may 2012 but it's caught on with people at the c.d.c. they see it as a teaching tool for helping people learn.

Tell us more about that in a moment but i want to turn to james vaughn now coming to us from london, the developer.

James, is there any coincidence that you join us from the site of the black plague?

The -- what inspired you to create a game called plague?

I wanted to create something that was realistic enough that it was sort of building on what people would know about in the real world while also have a bit of fictional element to it and could merge both of those things together.

But more broadly than that i was wanting to do something a bit creative, something a bit different from the normal day-to-day job.

I thought a good way to do that would make a mobile game.

How many iterations did it take for you to go through and create plague?

A lot.

I mean, i was doing it in my spare time, so evenings and weakeds, sort of spending as many hours as i possibly could when i wasn't working.

And it required enormous amounts of tweaking to get the algorithms right.

Because modeling how an infectious disease spreads, it either works or it doesn't. so you have all these complex algorithms sitting in the back of the game and these are controlling how government amp i will focus, how the disease will spread, when it will start killing people, what kind of transmissions, how good the cure research is.

All these factors needs to be tweaked and carefully tuned so that they're not only realistic but they're fun.

James talks about the government in the plague game.

But what about the government in the real world?

They've been surprisingly receptive to this idea.

The c.d.c. you might think they wouldn't want to get involved in a game that involved killing everybody in the planet with a a viral or bacterial.

But they embraced the game.

It's not the only kind of outreach they've made.

A couple years ago they launched a campaign about the zombie apock lips.

Hey, in the event, here's what you need to do to make sure you're prepared.

If people are going to get prepared for a zombie apock lips they might be prepared for a tornado or flood or some other kind of disaster.

And they've launched their own ap called solve the outbreak which is kind of the opposite of what james has done.

There you're trying to be a disease detective and solve the thing that caused an outbreak of a bacteria or virus.

Not necessarily killing everybody like james is trying to do.


of course not.

James, you've got competition now from the u.s. government.

They seem to want to go and do battle with you.

Could that be any better for a game developer?

I think firstly it just shows at least what a brilliant outreach they've got.

The boring way of educating and communicating to people is to tell them this is what happens and you need to do this or else bad things will happen.

That's boring.

That's what you get taught in school.

Something which both plague ink and the zombie preparedness thing that you mentioned is they let people learn through doing or through showing it in a context which is fictional but the core lessons still matter.

So with the zombie preparedness one, as you said they're still going to learn we've got to think about food, water.

We've got to have an emergency stash ready.

And with plague, the same thing there evolving the disease and thinking about how are we going to kill the people in greenland.

What are we going to do here?

But at the same time it's doing that they're having to think about certain critical disease concepts such as they can decide to stop people watching their hands.

-- washing their hands.

What does that do?

And get antibiotic resistance.

What does that do?

James -- these things go back to the real world.

That's what i was going to ask.

Are the jot couples real?

Are the underlying facts of the game accurate?

So they are to a certain extent.

It's absolutely critical to remember that plague is a game first and foremost.

I made it as a hobby because i wanted to make something fun.

So where there's a choice to be made between fun and realistic i have to go with fun.

But the very way the game is constructed was i started off with realistic as possible and then slowly tweaked parts of it and made certain parts into a game instead to get that sort of element of fun, realistic balance.

But the majority of the stuff has core skinettisk groundings.

We've got to leave it there.

Best of health.

He ts creator of plague.

This text has been automatically generated. It may not be 100% accurate.


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