‘Plague Inc.’ game app booming in China as coronavirus rages

Chinese gamers are apparently flocking to an app that asks them to spread a deadly disease as the nation grapples with a deadly mystery virus.

“Plague Inc.” — a strategy game in which the objective is to “bring about the end of human history” — was the No. 1 paid Apple app in China Wednesday morning amid the coronavirus outbreak that has reportedly sickened more than 400 people and killed 17, according to app data firm Sensor Tower.

Developed by UK-based Ndemic Creations, the game puts players in control of a pathogen they can use to destroy the world before humanity adapts to it. Some Chinese users seem to be playing as a way to cope with fears of the coronavirus, which is raging ahead of this weekend’s Lunar New Year holiday.

“The best way to conquer fear is to confront fear,” one observer wrote on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social networking site.

Ndemic said on Twitter that it was “getting a lot of questions” about the coronavirus outbreak. The developer shared a link to a World Health Organization website with information about the virus.

A woman wears a surgical mask in China amid the coronavirus outbreak.
AP

Downloads of “Plague Inc.” also spiked in 2014 amid the Ebola virus epidemic that afflicted thousands of people in Africa and sickened some in the US. Ndemic said it raised more than $76,000 for charities fighting Ebola after asking fans to donate.

“Plague Inc.” has become one of the world’s most popular mobile games since its 2012 release despite, or maybe because of, its dark premise. But it also won praise from officials at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which invited Ndemic founder James Vaughan to talk about the game in 2013.

The game “uses a non-traditional route to raise public awareness on epidemiology, disease transmission, and diseases/pandemic information,” Ali S. Khan, who led the CDC’s Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, wrote in a 2013 blog post. “The game creates a compelling world that engages the public on serious public health topics.”

With Post wires

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