As the Ebola virus outbreak dominates the news, Ndemic Creations' disease-simulating strategy game Plague Inc. has seen a rise in mobile downloads.
With the Ebola outbreak reaching new locations and seemingly endless news stories covering the panic over the deadly disease, you might be tempted to quarantine yourself in your house for the foreseeable future. If you choose to hunker down with a game that best simulates an apocalypse by disease, you wouldn't be alone: downloads of Plague Inc. have risen 50% in the last two weeks--not too shabby for a game that's been available on iOS and Android since 2012. Though the game's continual updates have led to spikes in the past, developer James Vaughan believes the most recent boost in downloads is all due to Ebola. Speaking with Polygon, Vaughan said, "This is the first time something in the real world has has an effect on the sales charts... People are curious about it and want to know more about infectious diseases. Plague Inc. can play a role because it's an intelligent look at how infectious diseases can spread."
With a user base of about 35 million people, Vaughan acknowledged that Plague Inc. could help raise awareness, and says he's "talking to major charities to see if Plague Inc. can be used as a tool to help in some way." The developer also pointed out that the game's diseases aren't like Ebola because "the algorithms are designed to assume that air transmission is possible and they also don't assume that it takes a number of days or weeks before people are able to spread the disease." Despite mutation fears, it's currently not possible to spread the Ebola virus by air.
Plague Inc. may not slow the spread of Ebola, but it could help raise awareness of infectious diseases in general, as well as the outbreaks facing many areas of the world. "A disease in one country affects us all," Vaughan stated. "People have been talking about quarantining West Africa so we [elsewhere in the world] don't have to be concerned about it, but that is absolutely incorrect. In out multi-connected world, a disease in one country is a threat to everybody."