Developer: Ndemic Creations
Release Date: May 26, 2012 (iOS, Android), February 20, 2014 (PC via Steam as Plague Inc: Evolved)1

Plague Inc. is a strategy, simulation, video game similar in concept to Pandemic. However, while that game is about putting up a concerted effort to cure and halt the spread of a virus, Plague Inc. allows the player to turn the tables on humanity. Set in modern day, the goal is to infect and kill all humans on Earth before a cure can be developed.

The game mechanics are simple. The player chooses a plague and a starting country. As the plague infects and kills, DNA points are awarded which the player can use to “evolve” the plague’s efficiency with tiered and branching powers (Transmissions, Symptoms and Abilities). The plague spreads utilizing a simulated infection model praised by the real-world CDC2. If the plague is too overtly aggressive, humans will panic, in which case, border and ports systematically shut down, and scientists begin to develop a cure. With some of the earlier, less sophisticated, plagues this can lead to an early loss when countries such as Greenland, Cuba, or Madagascar become inaccessible due to infrequent travel to their one seaport. Therefore, the strategy players have to develop is a balance between infectivity and mortality rates.


  • Bacteria – The basic nuisance.
  • Virus – A bit more compicated pathogen which rapidly mutates.
  • Fungus – Can spread via spore clouds.
  • Neurax Worm – A parasite that latches onto the brain and can influence behavior.
  • Parasite – A relatively stable organism which rarely mutates.
  • Prion – A protein which hosts inside the brain.
  • Necroa Virus – A virus that can animate its victims into zombies.
  • Nano-Virus – Out of control microscopic machine with a built in kill switch.
  • Bio-Weapon – Exceptionally lethal pathogen that kills everything it touches.
  • Simian Flu – A franchise tie-in with the recent Planet of the Apes movies, added in July 2014, including a trailer for Dawn. In this you mechanically have to play two versions of the game simultaneously as you spread the virus that kills humans, and foster the fledgling ape civilization.
1: The game is currently listed as an early access beta. However it already exceeds the features of the original mobile version, with many more updates planned. The game works, the creator just wants to keep adding to it.
2: In March 2013, the game creator, James Vaughan was invited to speak at the CDC. Afterwards, and spokesperson for the organization stated "it uses a non-traditional route to raise public awareness on epidemiology, disease transmission, and diseases/pandemic information. The game creates a compelling world that engages the public on serious public health topics."

No More Room in Hell: The 2014 Halloween Horrorquest

To add to Uberbanana's fine writeup, Plague Inc. is a fairly addictive strategy game in which you play the role of an emerging, evolving pandemic disease. With most of the disease types, the ultimate goal is to wipe out humanity, but with the Neurax Worm or the Shadow Plague (a recently introduced vampire plague type) you can trigger a victory by mentally enslaving humanity instead. If thoughtful games provide a kind of dialog, Plague Inc. provides the other half of the conversation that Pandemic began.

The grimness of the game's subject matter is alleviated by whimsical alert dialogs, disease scenarios, and achievements. For instance, there's the Santa's Little Helper scenario, which the game describes thusly: "The world is dark and gloomy. Boring governments worldwide have banned holidays, laughter, and celebrations. Humanity has forgotten how to have fun - people dress in gray and spend all their time working. Luckily, the Neurax Worm has teamed up with Santa and is determined to infect the whole world with joy and happiness. Can Santa's little helper make a miracle happen?"

Plague, Inc. also provides enough of a legitimate educational component that it has been used as a gamification element in college-level public health courses.

What can students learn from this game? Geography is one thing. The game screen presents you with a map of the world, and you have to move your plague from country to country, each of which has a different climate and environment and therefore affects your plague in certain ways. A player is bound to memorize those basic details after enough play-throughs.

And students are exposed to the basics of epidemiology and learn about potential disease vectors such as airborne or waterborne spores or sneezes or rats. When local swimming pools started experiencing a cryptosporidium outbreak, in my mind I saw a map of Ohio with little red infection dots breaking out on it: clearly, this disease was exploiting a Water II infection vector and would be harder to wipe out (which in fact it was). So, playing this game is bound to make students think about how local diseases spread, and if absolutely nothing else it is likely to make students wash their hands a bit more often!

The downside to Plague, Inc. from a gamification standpoint is that some educators and students alike may be understandably reluctant to play a game whose goal is the extinction of humankind, no matter how engaging it is. And if that is the case, Pandemic would be a great alternative.

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