China Bans 'Plague Inc.' Amid Coronavirus Outbreak
from the that'll-show-'em dept
Unless you’re somehow living in a cabin without electricity somewhere (in which case, how are you even reading this, bro?), you’ve heard all about the coronavirus. The virus is the subject of roughly all the news and at least half of our brainwaves these days, with an unfortunate amount of misinformation and spin floating around far too many governments and media. Some folks, such as social media groups used by law enforcement types, seem to think this is all a joke. Others, such as our very own United States Senate, seem to think an illness infecting and killing thousands is the perfect excuse to reauthorize surveillance powers by those same law enforcement types.
China, meanwhile, isn’t fucking around. While there is some analysis to do as to whether the country did enough in the early stages of the outbreak, not to mention whether it tried to downplay risks and silence dire warnings in a gamble to keep its economy going, there is no question that eventually it went full on heavy-handed to combat the virus. Since then, quarantines of metropolitan cities have been put in place, travel restrictions abound, and shutdowns of commercial and public services are the norm.
But China’s still gonna China, meaning the government is also banning a popular mobile game about infecting humanity with sicknesses after it surged in popularity in the country.
In a statement, Ndemic Creations said: “We have some very sad news to share with our China-based players. We’ve just been informed that Plague Inc. ‘includes content that is illegal in China as determined by the Cyberspace Administration of China’ and has been removed from the China App Store. This situation is completely out of our control.
“It’s not clear to us if this removal is linked to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak that China is facing. However, Plague Inc.’s educational importance has been repeatedly recognised by organisations like the CDC [Centre for Disease Control and Prevention] and we are currently working with major global health organisations to determine how we can best support their efforts to contain and control Covid-19.”
Let’s be clear: this is absolutely about the coronavirus. Let’s also be clear: this is China trying desperately to control the sentiments and minds of its population. I’ve played Plague Inc. It’s great. It’s also a game about inhabiting an anthropomorphic virus/bacteria/illness and developing or evolving that illness to literally kill all of humanity on literally all of the planet. That, to put it mildly, could strike the average person as somewhat morbid in the context of a world now dealing with coronavirus.
On the other hand, the only reason China is taking this action is because Plague Inc. went wild in terms of popularity in China after the virus outbreak. China saw that as a problem and is trying to ban it to death. The reality, it seems, is that Plague Inc. actually makes it clear how hard it is for outbreaks to spread and can be therapeutic to those worried about pandemics.
It said that it was “devastated” for its Chinese players, adding that the game “encourages players to think and learn more about serious public health issues”.
Plague Inc. has become a huge hit since it was launched eight years ago. It now has 130 million players worldwide and soared in popularity in China amid the coronavirus outbreak, becoming the bestselling app in the country in January. Some players suggested they were downloading the game as a way to cope with fears surrounding the virus.
Games can be a lot of things to a lot of people. They can be therapy. They can be entertainment. They can be education.
What they can’t be, no matter the Chinese government’s actions, is dangerous in the context of coronavirus.