Thursday, 14 May 2009

Only a game?

Games like the one above seem in questionable taste given the threat from swine flu, the virus which has claimed lives in Mexico and the US. Yet the defence offered by games designers is thought-provoking for everyone with an interest in media and public relations.

The Guardian newspaper spoke to Ian Bogost, co-founder of Persuasive Games, which designed Killer Flu, a game actually commissioned by the UK Clinical Virology Network. "Our game is about increasing information and reducing panic," he told the paper. "Playing out worst-case scenarios is how we make sense of things." Bogost also explained why he thinks games have a power and impact not held by other media: "They allow you to understand how systems work. Epidemiology may actually be better explained in game form than by pamphlet or documentary."

Tellingly, Bogost also believes that no subject should be denied the gaming treatment: "There was a time when we asked the same questions about the novel," he said. For the PR practitioner looking to find compelling ways to bring issues to life - and reach young audiences - this medium has clout well beyond one-dimensional news or side-bar graphics. Swinefighter apparently notched up more than three million plays in one week.


  1. At the Singapore Science Centre in the Human Body exhibit there are a few electronic games which kids can play, one of them where you have to choose the right bullet (medicine) to shoot down various colorful bugs (viruses and bacteria) or boost immunity. It is always very popular with kids, so agree it is a useful medium of instruction!

  2. Games are increasingly been seen as a way to reach new audiences. They can be fun and light-hearted - like Brian Limond's Snowballs game that was doing the rounds several years ago (with the unforgettable line - "your face is noted"), to more educational.
    We use them on the kids website to help young kids cross the road safely or to alert them to the dangers of meeting strangers online.

  3. well how is it decreasing the pain is yet to be seen , yes games are important to give information to children but not such graphic games .Fine informative games are good but not like these once on a young impressionism mind it takes the control and stays with the kid for some time , i am sure they may be others ways as well to inform the children about swine flu or the killer flu

  4. I bet that game is a smart PR. Swine Flu is the hottest topic around the world. On one hand, we are really sorry for all victims and their families. On the other hand, we should learn from the experience of painful. Adults need patient (and brain) to educate children. Children like playing games perhaps they don't care disease and they don't have intention of death. Game is the most efficient way to educate children in terms of marketing mindset. If I can find any games around me like that, I am glad to join it with my little one. :)