In the latest release from Ndemic Creations, maker of the 2012 hit game Plague Inc., Plague Inc: The Cure, takes the original core gameplay experience and puts a whole new spin on it. Plague Inc. has always had its spikes of popularity during times of crisis, more specifically times of virus outbreaks such as the 2014–2016 Ebola outbreak and the 2019–present COVID-19 pandemic. The goal of the original Plague Inc. game is to create an infectious disease and kill off humanity. The Cure game mode was released on November 11, 2020, and largely came as a surprise to many, including myself, taking a departure from the usual route of the game.
Mino Lee (’21) says, “I think it’s cool that they’re adding a spin that has people actually rooting for a cure rather than playing with the objective of ending the world.”
According to Ndemic Creations’ website, the new game mode was released in partnership with global health experts including CEPI (Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness), WHO (World Health Organization), and GOARN (Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network), and it provides—if not an excellent yet unconventional educational tool about the effects of a global pandemic—a welcome source of entertainment and distraction for all the quarantined folks out there.
The game still manages to hold a strong connection to the real-world despite being eight years old, becoming ever more relevant in the context of a COVID world. In addition to comically amusing in-game news headlines, such as “Man covered in essential oils bursts into flames,” and “Aspiring thief enters theatre. Steals spotlight,” there are many pop culture references as well, and most importantly, a meta acknowledgement of our current crisis. Through the many messages displayed on the in-game news ticker, one is highlighted among the rest: “COVID-19 ‘Stay Inside – Save Lives.’” The release of this new game mode really couldn’t come at a better time, as the effects of our very own pandemic see itself in more and more aspects of our lives. James Vaughan, the founder of Ndemic Creations said, “Eight years ago, I never imagined the real world would come to resemble a game of Plague Inc. or that my game would be in a position to help educate and inform people. Plague Inc: The Cure will be free for all Plague Inc. players until COVID-19 is under control.” But just how long until it’s under control?
“I feel as though the game mode will be free for quite a bit, a year or more,” Kofi Boateng (’21) says, “It would have been better if they made it paid and donated all proceeds towards COVID research.”
Plague Inc. has donated a quarter of a million dollars to fight COVID-19 earlier this year.
Gameplay of The Cure puts you at the head of a pandemic task force and lets you make decisions to control and respond to an impending plague. Players rush to hunt down patient zero, mitigate the spread of the outbreak, support the economy, and ultimately develop a vaccine.
Andrew Cho (’21) thinks the game will provide a valuable education experience for those less informed about diseases. “It shows that when people don’t listen to professionals and underestimate a pandemic, the pandemic will just be harder to keep under control,” he said.
This is also shown through the difficulty level that players can select prior to starting a game of The Cure. With higher difficulties being chosen, altered versions of the world are set as the scene for the contagion that the player must ultimately combat. Casual mode has a world with full international cooperation, people that love wearing masks and a disease that is able to be scared away by clapping. In contrast, Brutal mode has a world where sick people inject disinfectant, leaders ignore science, and doctors are arrested for reporting diseases. It is, however, somewhat hard to imagine either scenario being the case in real life, so perhaps the game’s Normal mode might provide a better experience for most. Plague Inc.’s The Cure expansion is available for free on Apple and Android devices and will be coming to consoles and PC soon.