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Plague Inc. dev urges players not to look to game for coronavirus info

The game was designed realistically, but it’s not a ‘scientific model’

A plague-type bug-like thing on a red background Image: Ndemic Creations

Following the coronavirus outbreak in China, developer Ndemic Creations’ Plague Inc. saw a boost in players — something that happens often when there’s an outbreak of a new illness, despite the game being eight years old. But with the surge in players, Ndemic Creations is reminding players that Plague Inc. isn’t a “scientific model” and people interested in the outbreak should seek official information elsewhere.

“We specifically designed the game to be realistic and informative, while not sensationalizing serious real-world issues,” Ndemic Creations wrote in a statement on its website. “This has been recognized by the CDC and other leading medical organizations.”

It continued:

However, please remember that Plague Inc. is a game, not a scientific model and that the current coronavirus outbreak is a very real situation which is impacting a huge number of people. We would always recommend that players get their information directly from local and global health authorities.

The current coronavirus outbreak originated in Wuhan City, China in 2019. Originally thought to be pneumonia, the novel coronavirus has spread within the region. Nearly 3,000 people — most are in China — are reportedly being treated, according to the New York Times. The Chinese government is restricting travel in the affected region in an effort to contain the virus.

Plague Inc. was developed in 2012 as a mobile app. The strategy game has players creating a pathogen that spreads using an epidemic model, in an effort to wipe out the world’s population. Multiple versions of the game have been released since its 2012 launch, including a board game and PC and console versions. In 2013, developer James Vaughan spoke at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about Plague Inc. “as a tool to teach the public about outbreaks and disease transmission.”

The game has remained popular over the years, but the developer said it often sees spikes in players when outbreaks occur. In 2014, Vaughan said Plague Inc. saw a 50% rise in downloads during an Ebola outbreak. Current interest in the game, tied to the coronavirus, caused the game to go offline on Jan. 24 “due to very high player numbers.”

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