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Coronavirus Epidemic Sparks Weird – and Macabre – Gaming Trend

Coronavirus Epidemic Sparks Weird – and Macabre – Gaming Trend
  • Doomsday games are a hit in China in the wake of the coronavirus epidemic.
  • Plague Inc. and Rebel Inc. top China’s iOS download chart.
  • Players are fascinated with the parallels to real-world events.

Mobile games about global viruses and misinformation are a hit in China right now. Chinese citizens are avoiding the SARS-like coronavirus by playing doomsday games at home.

According to data from mobile app analyst firm Sensor Tower, Chinese gamers are suddenly flocking to two mobile games from developer Ndemic Creations: Plague Inc. and Rebel Inc.

Doomsday Games Go Viral in China

News that the coronavirus had spread beyond the epicenter of the outbreak, a seafood market in the city of Wuhan, triggered the upsurge in interest earlier this week.

Plague Inc. – a human annihilation strategy sim – jumped to the top of the Chinese iOS download chart on Wednesday.

In a rather unsettling parallel to real-world events, Plague Inc. tasks players with developing a pathogen. From there, they must spread it by avoiding treatment through mutations and upgrading the pathogen’s attributes.

Interestingly, Plague Inc. allows the player to control the spread of misinformation about the pathogen. It’s all rather apt given accusations that the Chinese authorities may be understating the coronavirus epidemic. Or, at the very least, failing to quell fears as spurious rumors spread through the lack of a steady stream of correct information.

Rebel Inc., a geopolitical sim, sees players guide a failed nation back to its feet while warding off insurgent forces. The mobile game surged up the charts from 27th to fifth in the space of two days.

Chinese players flocked to Rebel Inc. as the coronavirus epidemic sparked a renaissance in doomsday gaming. | Source: Ndemic Creations

A Morbid Fascination With the Coronavirus

The coronavirus death toll has surged into double digits and infections in the hundreds. But, rather than wallow in fear of infection, Chinese citizens have developed a morbid fascination with the epidemic.

Porting the uncanny similarities with real-world events to virtual sandboxes is seemingly helping many cope with the daily task of avoiding the epidemic, with many citizens forced to isolate themselves at home in Wuhan, Ezhou, and Huanggangat as authorities lock down the cities.

Although authorities have succeeded in pinpointing the genetic sequence of the virus, there is currently no cure. As the coronavirus continues to spread and reaches countries as far as the U.S. and Mexico, these doomsday games are likely to provide twisted solace to many more yet.

This article was edited by Josiah Wilmoth.

Last modified: January 23, 2020 2:15 PM UTC

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