A CEBU-BASED game developer has produced an online game that gives insight on some of the hurdles that a crisis manager confronts in curbing the spread of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19).
“In the Time of Pandemia” is a simulation game where one can take the role of crisis manager of a town under the grip of Covid-19.
“Your mission is to save lives,” the introduction of the game reads.
The game was made available on July 31, 2020, and can be played on the entertainment website, Newgrounds.com.
Khail Santia, a multi-awarded game developer and co-founder of gaming company Moocho Brain, had several thoughts while developing the game.
“The compound I stay at is about to be cordoned. We’ve been contact-traced by the police, swabbed by medical personnel covered in protective gear. One of our housemates works at a government hospital and tested positive for antibodies against Sars-CoV-2. The pandemic closes in from all sides. What can a game-maker do in a time like this?” Santia said in the preface of the game.
“A local writer compared the experience of pandemic to the Five Stages of Grief. In my case, I went from denial to a form of suspended depression. As if in a fog, I felt helpless as the pandemic tore through the city. I wanted to do something, anything, to help, and perhaps truer, to find a lifeline out of this dark place between helplessness and despair,” he added.
As the crisis manager in the game, a player can purchase test kits to help identify whether suspected townsfolk are healthy, asymptomatic, symptomatic, severe, critical or recovered. A player can then put under “hospitalization” those who are severe and critical or choose to isolate those who are infected. Every decision made costs money and will be deducted from the player’s pool; only active townsfolk can earn money.
An “SOS” feature of the game also provides real resources where players can extend their help to fronliners, patients, indigenous families, persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) and other underprivileged communities.
Santia said that the game was inspired by and based on Raph Koster’s call and game design sketch for interactive Covid-19 simulation.
“We made this game because we want to tell people why they should obey and follow health protocols in a manner that’s compelling and engaging,” Santia said to SunStar Cebu.
He said the edge of playing simulation games over the basic relaying of information is that people could absorb more information since emotions are invested and players are placed in a virtual life situation.
“The beauty of simulation games is that you put the player in action. The player is not just a passive consumer of information but he is there interacting and engaging with the information,” he added.
In the Time of Pandemia’s core concept was created in two weeks but was fully developed in three months. The developers had also consulted with experts on the plausibility of their model. Parameters and limitations of the game are openly mentioned on their website.
“In the Time of Pandemia” was number 1 ranked game of the day and number 3 in games and animation at Newgrounds.com
Santia said games can make abstract concepts accessible, awake empathy and move people to action.
“Games can allow us to explore the possibility space to not only see but live through proposed solutions and their consequences,” Santia added. (JGS)