Killer Flu

Persuasive Games

Online game. Commissioned by the UK Clinical Virology Network and produced in association with Scotland’s Traffic Games

In spring 2009, panicked headlines appeared worldwide warning of the dangerous “swine flu”. Reading the papers, you’d think that pandemics are like magical epidemiological tidal waves that rise and cover the planet.

But the truth is, pandemic flus are rare and unusual strains that are far harder to spread than popular discourse might make it seem. In early May, two independent research teams recently estimated that the worst case for H1N1 swine fl u might result in 1,700 cases (not deaths, but cases). Meanwhile, each year three to fi ve million people contract ordinary seasonal fl u, and up to half a million die from it. Around 35,000 people in the US die annually from seasonal flu. By many accounts, the ordinary flu is a more epidemic concern than the pandemic one.

Given historical facts like these, remarks like WHO director-general Margaret Chan’s dire warning that “It really is all of humanity that is under threat” don’t do much more than spread panic. The same is true of US Vice President Biden’s unfortunate recommendation that families encourage their loved ones to stay away from enclosed places.

Killer Flu was created as an attempt to explain how fl u really mutates and spreads, and how challenging it can be for a deadly strain to affect a large population geographically. The player takes the role of the fl u itself, trying to mutate and then spread it in a variety of conditions.