Covid Simulator, the review of a game that explains how contagions work



The review of Covid Simulator, a game designed specifically to explain how contagions work and how saving on security favors it

Videogames have an enormous and unique capacity to represent reality, because they can not limit themselves to flatten it in a language made of words or images, but they have the means to reproduce it, obviously in a simplified form, through mechanics that, added together, form systems with an enormous and pervasive discursive force. In their simple staging of certain dynamics, video games can become a strong critical voice and shed light on a macro event such as a pandemic, while continuing to exercise their playful function, as done by Covid Simulator.

Pure simulation

Covid Simulator has spartan graphics, but here what counts are the game dynamics, not how nice it looks

Basically, Covid Simulator doesn’t offer a real objective. As the title suggests, it simulates the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, in this case within a company of which the player can set all the parameters, starting from the number of employees and the vaccination rate. The only challenging factor, if we want to call it that, is the management of the speed of spread of the contagions, which can be greater or lesser depending on the prudence of our choices and investments made in security.

The player’s freedom of interaction is actually very wide, and concerns all aspects of the working structure, which he can shape as in a normal sandbox. So we can move office furniture to ensure or not the safety distance, we can do the same with cafeteria tables, sinks and any other furniture object in the game. We can hire or reduce staff, buy sanitizers or establish rules of conduct.

In addition, we have a certain margin of intervention on the employees, whom we can equip or not with masks (with different levels of effectiveness depending on the price), to whom we can change the working hours to avoid assemblages, whom we can encourage or not in vaccinations, even going so far as to impose a kind of green pass to continue to enter work.

In short, we can touch many factors, all capable of influencing contagions in their own way, increasing their speed or reducing them drastically.

How to play it

Covid Simulator is playable without spending anything: on itch.io you can download a free version, almost identical to the paid version. If you want to support the developers you can still buy the paid version, which costs very little ($4.99). The game will arrive on Steam on January 25, 2022 and probably will have the same price as the itch.io version.

What would happen if?

Private behaviors influence contagions

Actually, Covid Simulator doesn’t really care about sending positive or negative messages, even if, in its silent adherence to reality (the dissemination mechanics are completely based on real statistical and medical data) it still manages to do so in a more convincing way than those video games that rub it in your face. What really interests him is to be as accurate as possible, thus proving a very precise basic thesis: increased investment in safety and good information can help to curb contagions, though not being able to prevent them altogether, especially in the presence of more aggressive variants (you can also set those: alpha, beta and omicron, changing them during a single game).

To do so, it leaves the player free to explore the other side of the fence, that of the virus deniers, allowing to make no vax propaganda inside the offices or promoting productivity on safety, so as to make more money but making more people sick and, consequently, die.

Contagious statistics are the most interesting part of the game

In all this the external factors are inserted also, determined from the private behaviors of the single workers, that go to influence a lot the results. To the end of the simulation the game concurs to save the statistics of the own game in a studiabile format, in order to understand the several factors that have influenced on the obtained result. If we want we are faced with the possibility to apply in a very rigorous way the scientific method within a video game, with each experiment that can be replicated to confirm the thesis of departure or disprove it (or to develop a different one in itinere). In this Covid Simulator appears to be very successful because it doesn’t give us pre-packaged truths, but it puts us in front of facts, determined by our own choices and beliefs.

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