December 28, 2013
I am a biochemist, making games to teach the invisible bits of cell biology.
I was very impressed how Plague Inc. makes a smooth, easy to play and still very complex and strategic game from reality. Similar to a board game, the action (and gore) is imagined but the game's mechanics are clear and gameplay is moving! The sound effects draw you in. This game is a perfect mix of game and science.
You are a pathogen. You can choose to be a bacterium, virus or a parasite. Your goal is to kill everyone in the whole world. You must avoid letting humans find a cure against you. You must avoid detection. etc. You do this by choosing traits for your pathogen-self that allow you to spread unnoticed until it's too late... for example. Which country you choose to start in, what kind of pathogen you are, etc. all affect your success and require different strategic maneuvers.
Students will learn geography and they will gain an awareness of how disease may spread from country to country and what role transportation plays--play the game yourself and see if you don't!
Students will also gain an awareness of the ways society deals with disease. How cures need time to be developed, etc.
And yes, there is another game that is very similar to this one. The other game Pandemic (also reviewed on the ScienceGameCenter) came out first, in 2008. Plague Inc. is a new game that you can play on Android or iPad. Plague inc. is easier to pick up and play: so if you have a class of 5th graders and some tablets, Plague Inc. is your game. Additionally, Plague Inc. makes it more clear how changes in pathogen's characteristics affects spread of disease. There are numerous reviews that compare both games, and discuss how copycat games can improve a game... for kids who may want to become video game developers in the future, these two game are a good study. Technology development is a standard in most states. Why not consider how the existence and reasonable success of one product makes another one simpler to develop. A rather straight forward teaching opportunity I think.
This game can be played and enjoyed by players 10 years old through adult.
The only deviation from reality that I can detect is fairly obvious: In the game Plague, Inc. you can choose to make your pathogen-self more virulent after it has already infected some % of the world. In actuality you can change the virulence of a pathogen after it has infected people... A pathogen could randomly evolve to be more virulent. But there is no way (as of yet) for all of the pathogens in all of the infected people to all develop a new virulence factor. However, the game makes the role of virulence factors so beautifully clear, that this deviation is easily forgivable. It does make a good talking point for your class after the game!
Fun rating: 5 out of 5
Learning rating: 5 out of 5
Science rating: 5 out of 5
15 / 15
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