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The CDC Gamifies Shutting Down Contagions With ‘Solve The Outbreak’ Game
The agency aims to raise awareness of its activities at a time when it's in the public eye.
Hmm… While I’m not entirely sure turning real-life disease outbreaks like Ebola into a “fun, interactive app” by trying your hand at becoming a “Disease Detective,” the U.S. government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) seems to have no problem doing so.
Though the aim is to educate people on the nature of outbreaks, gamifying things that kill thousands of people in real life is a decidedly grey-area approach.
After choosing an outbreak, players are given a rundown of the outbreak and presented with clues and questions. If questions are answered correctly, the player solves the outbreak and moves on to the next level.
Badges such as Novice, Apprentice, Assistant, Specialist, Senior Specialist, and Disease Detective are awarded along the way. Those who do not solve a given outbreak are awarded Grim Reaper or Underachiever badges. Those who solve 12 outbreaks in level 1 proceed to level 2 to attain Surveillance Honors and Treatment Honors badges.
With names like Breathless in the Midwest, The Village of Gold, Spring Break Fever, Case of the Conference Blues, Connect the Spots and Up Sick Creek, the outbreaks are clearly fake. Which is a good thing.
The game, which was apparently a success when it launched last year, has been updated and re-released with the agency promoting it on Twitter and Facebook:
Not everyone is a fan. One Facebook commenter said:
“Seriously????? Smh Sooooo, THIS is what my tax dollars pay for?? Less time designing games or having someone to design them for you…..more time solving the Ebola crisis and the correct flu vaccine!!!!”
But others think the game is a great way to make the public aware of what the CDC does. This Facebook commenter noted:
“I’d say building an understanding of what the CDC does, especially in the current climate of fear-mongering against them and modern medicine as a whole, this is a GREAT use of very minimal resources.”
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