An old flash computer game is getting a 2nd life because of its eerie similarities to the coronavirus outbreak, and its website's CEO says it has too much of an 'educational value' to shut it down

An old flash computer game is getting a 2nd life because of its eerie similarities to the coronavirus outbreak, and its website's CEO says it has too much of an 'educational value' to shut it down

pandemic 2 coronavirus

Pandemic 2

A scene from Pandemic 2.

  • An old online game called Pandemic 2 has seen a massive spike in plays in 2020 amid the coronavirus outbreak.
  • The strategy game allows users to create their own diseases, from symptoms to transmission techniques, with the goal to infect and wipe out the entire world's population.
  • The CEO of the website that hosts Pandemic 2 told Business Insider that although the game's current place in society is "tricky," he plans to keep the game available for use because of its "educational value."
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

An online strategy game that was popular a decade ago has had a surge of new users during the coronavirus outbreak because of its eerie parallels in mimicking the spread of a worldwide health crisis.

The goal of the game, Pandemic 2, is to create a disease that wipes out the entire world's population before a vaccine can be developed and implemented. The similarities between the game's plot and the status of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, are stark.

The influence of coronavirus on the increase in plays is obvious. Dozens of internet users have taken to Twitter to call out the wild parallels between the game and coronavirus, and crack jokes about how takeaways from the game could be applied to reality. The game's high-scores list is riddled with users who named their diseases "coronavirus," "The Wuhan," and "Bud Light" - a play on the real-life disease's name resembling that of Corona beer.

More than 125,000 people worldwide have now tested positive for COVID-19, which the World Health Organization officially declared a pandemic on Wednesday. Its massive spread has led huge chunks of daily life to be canceled and moved online as the world increasingly takes precautions to prevent the spread of the disease, which has resulted in nearly 5,000 deaths.


Pandemic 2 has seen a tremendous jump in plays in 2020, according to Bill Kara, the CEO of Addicting Games, the website hosting this game and thousands of others. In the first 12 days of March, Pandemic 2's page experienced a 3,500% increase in views, compared with a similar period just 2 months before.

For such an old game with outdated optics, Pandemic 2 is a surprisingly detailed strategy game. Players are able to select their disease's symptoms, from sneezing and nausea to pulmonary edema. They can choose how their disease is transmitted - by insect, rodent, water, or air - and its resistance to drugs, heat, and moisture. Players can track as their disease spreads to various countries, and see country-by-country how much of each population gets sick and dies. The game gives real-time alerts on-screen about how countries are reacting to news of the disease by shutting down hospitals and schools, and closing airports and borders.

Kara told Business Insider that Pandemic 2's spike in plays is happening "for obvious reasons," as coronavirus spreads. But coronavirus' serious implications have raised questions about whether Pandemic 2 should exist at all, and whether the game's parody on a worldwide pandemic is harmful.

"It's a little tricky. Games are meant to make light of things, but this is something that is affecting a lot of people," Kara said. "It's kind of a gray area. The game is supposed to be fun, but when it touches on real life stuff, we don't know what to do."

Pandemic 2 had just 6,000 plays in December, but has now been played more than 140,000 times in 2020. What's more: The game is old - Pandemic 2 launched on Addicting Games in 2008, and still uses Adobe Flash Player, a plug-in that will be discontinued at the end of 2020.


Kara told Business Insider that Addicting Games will likely not shut down Pandemic 2.

"Games get people thinking about how viruses spread," Kara said. "It probably has some sort of educational value in understanding how viruses will spread, if some things will work. It shows how things spread and how hard it is for things to be truly stopped with one measure."

Pandemic 2 is not the only video game that's grown in popularity during the coronavirus outbreak. A mobile game called Plague Inc. has a similar goal, and has also seen a recent spike in plays. However, The game has been removed from China's App Store, and its creator has cautioned players against using Plague Inc. as a "scientific model" for the spread of coronavirus.

Pandemic 2's popularity is likely to continue to grow, as more people share the game with coworkers and friends. A Twitter user told Business Insider that she played Pandemic 2 last week with her boss at work for the first time in nearly a decade.

"It was really eerie to be concocting a pandemic when the virus was like right outside our window," the Twitter user told Business Insider. "That's definitely the best way I'd describe it ... spooky."


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