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Plague Inc: what makes this immoral game so addictive?

The Play Store is packed to the brim with all kinds of games. From FPS car racing to Candy Crush to city management, there’s something out there for everyone. As a general rule, on these occasions we'd give you a fairly broad list of games with a brief test. Today, however, I'd like to break with old habits and introduce you to a rather immoral game: Plague Inc. How did such a game succeed in becoming so popular?

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Immorality at the heart of the game

Do you prefer to stick with what is tried and tested or do you prefer to stand out and be an individual? The company that created the game, Plague Inc., Ndemic Creations, clearly falls into the second category. For many years, the company has succeeded in creating popular games with some dubious themes: it’s more or less all about destroying humanity by causing horrible suffering, obviously. To do this, all you need to do is create a disease and infect the entire planet until the last human being dies.

Neither the nationality of the victims, their political opinions or their religion matter in this game as there is only one overriding objective: eradicate all of humanity. At the beginning of the game you have only one bacteria but, after winning several games, you gain access a wealth of other diseases: viruses, fungus (fungi), parasites, prion (a pathogenic agent that attacks the brain), a nano-virus (an artificial virus) …

plagueinc
How will Google destroy the world? Choose your poison! / © Ndemic Creations

Outside of the menus, the game’s main interface is a world map. At the start of the game, you choose where you want to release your epidemic - as China and India are the most populated zones on the planet, it’s advisable to start there. In terms of the disease, you have to then decide on which pandemic and which symptoms you should adopt in order to win the game. However, be careful, each disease has its own characteristics. The virus, for example, is unstable and new symptoms can appear independently, attracting the attention of health professionals and can lead to the development of a cure. If a remedy is found, your disease will be eradicated and you lose the game.

User involvement

As you can see below, the aim of the game is not only to stretch your ethics but to engineer you to make strategic decisions (decide on symptoms, etc.) to reach your goals. This in itself is enough to capture the attention of a lot of psychopaths ... I mean, fans. That said, the game has another ace up its sleeve that has contributed to its great success.  

A key element of the success of games such as Pokémon GO has been the way it has been able to reach users on a personal level. No need for revolutionary technology (although that's always a plus), they just needed that little something to get users emotionally involved. There are many methods out there to do this, but the one Ndemic Creations has gone with was humor: whilst you are playing the game, you’ll receive funny messages. Of course, after playing the game for a while you tend to get used to these and stop paying attention to it, but it’s the first few hours of use that count as these are when the user decides whether they want to continue playing (or not).

plagueinc symptoms
You can manage the evolution of your disease. / © Ndemic Creations

First, you can choose the name of your disease. For example, you can give it the name of a certain presidential candidate that you hate, or even the name of someone you love. For example, we named ours ‘Google’, so when we received notifications from the game they said things like, ‘Google has infected its first patient.’ When you use current affairs in your game, you’ll also come across a few gems.

The most sadistic among us (of which I am one) will certainly find the idea of eradicating humanity amusing, inflicting severe symptoms on the population as part of the disease (insomnia, paranoia and other illnesses that difficult to cure, coughing and sneezing to increase the spread of the contagion, tumors and hemorrhages to increase mortality, etc.) Horrible, right?!

Does immorality have a future on Android?

The multitude of games on the Play Store has created huge competition among game developers. While some are happy to just copy those others that have succeeded (for example, all the Candy Crush clones), others will make an effort to stand out. Some will exploit the nostalgia of an entire generation, others use humor, while others will focus their attention on offering the best technology available (like concentrating on graphics). Generally, the key to success is a combination of several of these factors.

Opinion by Benoit Pepicq
Plague is certainly immoral ... but it's also a lot of fun.
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It will be interesting to see what we find with the arrival of VR. At the moment, we've only found a few games on Daydream (however, only a few headsets and smartphones are currently compatible), but we’ll probably find more immoral games in the future. The type of games that are prohibited for minors or certain age groups (but doesn’t necessarily prevent them from installing them). Whatever the gaming platform, a good number of them are already immoral (remember Carmageddon where you could run over all the pedestrians?) and gory (many gaming fans will probably be familiar Postal²). In other words, VR will bring us the best and the worst of the ‘horrible’, ‘disgusting’ and/or ‘disgraceful’ nature of these games that lead to their success.

Do you think these games are a threat to our societies, as some critics claimed after the Columbine massacre? Do such games encourage immoral behavior? Let us know in the comments below.

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  • It is true that Plague Inc is an epidemic simulator. But it's not idiotic to call it an immoral game. Because the player plays from the point of view of the disease itself. The player tries to spread the disease, not to stop its spread. And if the end point of the game is to kill every last human being on this planet, not to stem the spread of disease, what else is it but 'immoral'? Nevertheless, I find the whole schema of the game slightly humorous rather than strictly immoral. Quirky and interesting.

  • To say that Plague inc. is a game of morality is frankly, for lack of a better term, idiotic.

    This is not a game of morality, a plague, the basis of the game has no moral position. It does not make choices, it does not weigh the relative value of one option over the other. It just spreads. The common cold does not hold existential debates with acne while waiting for some sponge mold to show up for lunch.

    Plague Inc. is an epidemic simulator, and one that can fairly well simulate what is actually and scarily possible. Even the CDC has taken notice of its modelling. To compare it to a game where you as the player can direct a human character to commit any number of illegal acts to this game is assinine. This is like comparing bread to beer. Yes, they have a few similar base components, but the end result is vastly different.

    Furthermore, there is no reasonably held study that shows any correlation between videogames and negative behaviours. Those that have been done in the past have shown poor research methods and been debunked.

    This article strikes me as one written by someone who did not play the game. When you question the morality of directing the evolution of a virus perhaps you are then suggesting that there isn't evolution but design at moral fault.

    So please, next time you sneeze, question your colds moral values.

  • Dwarfer66 6 months ago Link to comment

    Great game, had it since is was released on android and PC.

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