The H7N9 bird flu has claimed 16 lives in China, with the total number of illnesses reaching 77 today according to Forbes. Concern has been so widespread that 90,000 pigeons were vaccinated against the flu and poultry trading has been halted. It had never been known to infect people until the first reported case last month. If you’d rather play games than read the news, you may as well recreate the chaos on your cell phone, as many Chinese players have by playing “H7N9 mode” in Plague Inc.
Plague Inc is a mobile game for Android and iOS developed Ndemic Creations. It’s a strategy game where the goal is to infect the world, not unlike Pandemic 2. You pick a country to begin your plague and then pick evolutions for your virus to boost its infectivity, severity, and lethality. Scientists in different countries will spend money and work together on research to halt the spread of your disease, and you must plan your evolutions to get around them.
By following real news, players insert the variables into their game of Plague Inc. For instance, the first known case of the H7N9 virus was in Shanghai, where it spread to neighboring regions on the Eastern seaboard. In two weeks, cases spread to Beijing, more than a thousand miles north of Shanghai, and even in Henan province in central China. The number of cases has sky-rocketed from 24 cases the week of April 9th, to 63 infections and 14 deaths less than a week later.
One user recorded his play-through of “H7N9 mode”, beginning on the in-game date of April 6, 2013. He starts the video by writing, “Today will give everyone an explanation on Plague Inc (H7N9).” The digital plague is a bit slower than its real-life counterpart; by April 30th, only 7 people have been infected and nobody has died. However, by the beginning of August, 206,000 people worldwide are infected, and by the beginning of September 33 million people are infected. The world ends in April 2015. Yep, even Madagascar.
According to a poll on QQ, 56% think it’s all in good fun, while 44% think it’s offensive and tasteless.