This semester, owing to my massive courseload, I decided to only do one production with Second Stage and not do any other extracurriculars, even after that’s done. I also cut down drastically on my partying schedule. But alas, my plans to be studious and scholarly this semester have already been thwarted. What is the culprit, you ask? A computer game more insidious, more addictive than the phenomenon that is World of Warcraft. And it’s free, too. What is this game, you ask? A lo-fi Flash game called Pandemic 2.
I have never played Pandemic 1, and I’m not sure I want to, because Pandemic 2 is in league with The Empire Strikes Back, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and The Dark Knight as an awesome sequel that’s probably way better than the original. If you’re at all curious, and I’m sure you are, here’s the premise of this magical wonder-game of dreams: you are a pathogen. Your sole goal is to sicken and kill everyone on earth. Your enemies, your dodongos to bomb, if you will, are scientists who are trying to find a cure to your disease and those pesky world governments that will close their borders if someone so much as coughs. You get to name your pathogen, pick your symptoms, pick what you’ll be resistant to, and how you’ll be spread. I think the ability to name your disease and pick your symptoms is one of the best parts of the game; for instance, the last time I played, I decided to make my virus’s main symptoms Uncontrollable Vomiting, Depression, and Dementia. I named it Eclectic Party.
Now, before you think this is just a fun romp of destroying humanity through unending physical agony and chaos, there is strategy involved. Every time the virus spreads, you get a certain number of Evolution Points. With these points, you can purchase graduated levels of resistance to cold, heat, drugs, and water. Once you’re water-resistant, you can buy the ability to infect a nation’s water supply. These points will also buy you symptoms, but here’s the main caveat of the game: if these symptoms are at all visible (and I mean AT ALL visible), countries will start to shut down their air and sea ports. Why is this bad? Without air or sea ports, the virus cannot spread to these nations, leaving their inhabitants alive and well. Blast. If you’re at all internet-savvy, here’s where a lot of the Madagascar jokes come from. Madagascar, being the party-pooper that it is, enjoys shutting down its single seaport the second any country gets infected, even if you’ve done everything in your power to ensure that your virus is completely invisible. Inevitably, once every other nation of the world has become a blighted, desolate wasteland devoid of life, Madagascar will be sitting pretty with all its lemurs and rainforests and not-infected citizens. Bastards.
I will be blunt and say that most of the enjoyment I get out of this game is its concept: annihilate the world. It doesn’t kill certain people or specific groups; it’s just destroying everyone and everything. You are become equal-opportunity death. Remember when you were a kid and you’d play The Sims and you’d use cheat codes to take out the ladders in the pool or set the kitchen on fire? Think that type of video game sociopathy but enacted on a global scale. It’s a beautiful, beautiful thing.