“Select a plague type” beckons my phone screen. Bacteria, fungus or bio-weapon?
Since 2012, and for less than a pound, the mobile game Plague, Inc has allowed players to become a viral outbreak. To “win”, you must evolve and proliferate across the globe. In the early weeks of COVID-19, between watching rolling news headlines and World Health Organisation reports, I found myself playing it almost every day.
I wasn’t alone. Plague, Inc, a long-term top seller, reached record downloads in the UK and many other countries as early as January. Within weeks, apocalyptic virus films like Contagion and Outbreak were trending on streaming platforms. For comfort, solace and to make sense of a moment laden with uncertainty, we reached for entertainment. In his Sight & Soundlockdown diary, Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar wrote: “The current reality is easier to understand as a fantasy fiction than a realist story.”