Tuesday, May 19, 2009

One Flu Over the Cuckoos Nest

Okay, who can resist a game about clinical virology and killer flu? As Ian Bogost explains at Water Cooler Games, the game presents two related arguments: 1) "pandemic flus are rare and unusual strains that are far harder to spread than popular discourse might make it seem" and 2) ordinary seasonal flu kills hundreds of thousands worldwide every year. Like many serious games, such as Operation Pedopriest or the ReDistricting Game, players play from the position of the bad actor by trying to infect likely carriers with mobility and connections to concentrated populations who work, live, or study together best suited to spread the disease. By making the game particularly hard to play in H1N1 mode, because infection is dependent on genetic compatibility, the game design itself reinforces the pedagogical message. Unlike public health games like Outbreak at Watersedge that rely on the online tutorial format, game play exploits the excitement of racing the clock.

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