Saturday, June 21, 2008

Patience Zero

Patient Zero is a new Facebook application from VisualDXHealth that promises the following fun-filled social networking experience to those who add the application:

Patient zero is the epidemiological term for the person linked to the start of an outbreak of a disease.

In Patient Zero, you are this person! You can create a new virus, power it up by answering health questions, and then infect your friends. Patient Zero lets you watch as the outbreak evolves and spreads.

- Create a virus and power it up by answering a series of questions related to infectious diseases. The more questions answered correctly, the harder it will be for those infected to cure themselves.
- Infect your friends but watch out because they can do the same!
- Vaccinate yourself against viruses in the clinic by answering a series of questions.
- Using our map, you can see how your virus has spread and can compare the evolution of your creation with your friends’.

In Patient Zero, you gain points by creating, transmitting, and vaccinating viruses.

After all, nothing says "fun" more to young people than answering questions about infectious diseases! I want to ask all of my friends to join! For more digital jollies, the company makes various cancer widgets for your desktop.

This press release tries to explain the game's rationale: "Competition and creativity are key elements of Patient Zero, but knowledge and curiosity to learn are what power it." Yes. Competition, creativity, knowledge, and curiosity would all be best exercised by such an amusement.

Frankly, making your friends answer questions in an online quiz is just not such a cool thing to do for laughs (or revenge cackles) in an online game. It's not like towing their virtual car or biting their virtual zombie or anything else really very transgressive. If you could go in and crash their computer systems (with the understanding that they could go crash yours back), then they might have something.

I'm sort of fascinated with the idea of the worst Facebook app ever, especially since there are so many bad apps already, but I wonder what the creators were thinking. Would I think that senior citizens would want to play a form of bridge designed to teach them about elder abuse? Should I recommend to my seventy-five-year-old father that he might dig a special variant of poker from which he can learn about heart disease?

Of course not. We know that no one would want to play those games; we recognize traditional card games as part of a social activity involving interaction with one's peers; and we realize that the games would be made worse by adding a layer of preachiness. So why assume that young people would be any more willing to give their time to such a "game"? Even if it was a self-paced game like retirement-planning solitaire, no sensible oldster would give it the time of day.

Update: Ian Bogost has more about the game here.

Labels: , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home