Dramatic Mortality: Pandemics In Your Game


We use them in our games and see them hit our households every year. Diseases can be the driving force of a game (Pandemic),or a life-altering condition in a world controlled by corporations (HMHVV, Shadowrun). You don’t have to be a Ph.D in microbiology to toss the threat of disease into your game, but doing a little digging into the real world of epidemiology and crisis management can bring new dimensions to your tale of danger and disease.

I’d highly recommend that one of your first stops in research be JSTOR (Journal Storage). JSTOR is a digital archive containing thousands of journals and academic resources. JSTOR’s selection and depth as an archive is considerable, and has far more than medical-related research resources. But if you’re not attached to a college or able to reach a library with JSTOR access, it can be an archive out of your grasp. This is where Register and Read comes in.


How does it work?

  • When you find an article that’s part of Register & Read, click on the “Read Online Free” option.
  • Register for a free MyJSTOR account, or log into your account if you already have one.
  • Add the content to your shelf to read the full-text online. After 14 days, you may remove it and add new items to your shelf.
  • PDF versions of some articles will also be available for purchase and download. If you purchase articles from your shelf, the PDF versions may be stored and accessed in your MyJSTOR account at any time.

You can delve more into the program and sign up here.


If you want some food for thought about what a long-lasting pandemic could do to society in your game, there’s a free online FEMA course that could give you new things to think about when you sketch out the changed society in your game. IS-520: Introduction to Continuity of Operations Planning for Pandemic Influenzas is a course that teaches you about the difference between seasonal and pandemic influences, as well as strategies that businesses and NGOs (Non-Government Organizations) can use to keep functioning in the face of a major health crisis.


Want to learn more about how epidemics emerge, and how we respond to them? There’s a Coursera class starting on October 15th that might interest you.

Epidemics – the Dynamics of Infectious Diseases is a free course that will focus on the emergence, spread and control of infectious diseases. To sign up for the class, go visit their course page. If you’re more interested in experiencing a simulated epidemic, they’ll be running an online epidemic during the course that you can sign up for. Signing up for the course isn’t necessary to sign up for the game, but it just might improve your survival chances.


Have you seen epidemics and diseases used well in games? Have your own favorite science resources to use while running games? Share your knowledge in the comments!

About l

L is a freelancer currently working as a writer, editor, journalist and game designer. She hauls a suitcase decorated in stickers as she blogs, travels, and tours. She makes her home in Washington, California, and wherever the tour stopped last night. You can follow L on twitter (@lilyorit )

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