Citing the coronavirus, China has banned a plague-related video game

‘Plague Inc.’ is a 2012 game that has surged in popularity since the outbreak of coronavirus, one the Cyberspace Administration of China has since banned…due to its name.

 

 

Plague Inc., a simulation game in which the player develops and evolves a pathogen with the intent of humankind annihilation, has been removed from China’s Apple App Store following the breakout of COVID-19. Current events surrounding the novel Wuhan coronavirus have seen the game’s popularity surge in recent months; close to 10% of its total downloads in China have occurred since January.

“We’ve just been informed that Plague Inc. ‘includes content that is illegal in China as determined by the Cyberspace Administration of China’ and has been removed from the China App Store. This situation is completely out of our control,” reads a statement from Ndemic Creations, the independent games studio that developed and published Plague Inc. 

They added that the studio’s immediate priority was to contact the Cyberspace Administration of China to understand its concerns and work towards a resolution. The outlook, however, is dim. “We are working very hard to try and find a way to get the game back in the hands of Chinese players — we don’t want to give up on you — however, as a tiny independent game studio in the UK, the odds are stacked against us.”

 

The game has been an app-store hit ever since its inception in 2012, so much so that a year after its release the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention invited the game’s creator, James Vaughan, for several lectures surrounding video games and public health. 

 

The game has been an app-store hit ever since its inception in 2012, so much so that a year after its release the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention invited the game’s creator, James Vaughan, for several lectures surrounding video games and public health. 

This doesn’t come as a total surprise; China is known for its stern rules on media content, censoring anything it believes to oppose the nation’s core socialist values. While there was a brief period in which public criticisms of the way in which authorities have handled the situation was allowed, censoring has swiftly tightened as of late. WeChat groups, podcasts, social media posts, articles, any media critical of China’s conduct regarding the outbreak has been taken down and/or deleted.

Daniel Ahmad, an analyst with gaming research firm Niko Partners, tweeted that “…Plague Inc seems to be the only ‘virus/plague’ related game that has been taken down so far. All other games in this genre are still up, including games developed by Chinese companies and supported by the Chinese government.” He also noted that the game was removed only after a new feature was introduced in the game that allowed the player to spread ‘fake news’ surrounding their chosen pathogen.

 

 

 

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