THIS PAGE - To-do[edit | edit source]

  • Actively being rewritten by LucasG, in June 2023. Help & visibility appreciated!
  • See also Aerosol pandemic/H5N1BadSoonScenario which updates the challenge. But also remember we're not necessarily catastrophists (= people who predict) but more catastrophologists (= people who want to know what to do if/when catastrophe hits, and what to do now that will help later). This is important because anxiety doesn't help, but sustained clever cooperative effort may help.
  • Change text from 2019 to 2023: we know more about masks, and one priority for the game would be to look at Aerosol pandemic/Needs and Systems, and UV. Also, population is now ~8k million. And we know global institutions are really nation-state in scope so no real worldwide mandate. We are it?
  • See how to contact gamers. Particularly Jane McGonigal's Institute for the Future, if that's what it's called. Any help appreciated!
  • Add links to twitter elifarley work using chatgpt etc. These could be tools used by gamers to assist them to think both broadly & deeply, and then collect information, maybe work on models to see how effective the interventions would be, etc. I imagine a "game engine" is a challenge in itself but we need to start with a working prototype, no?
  • Improve page:
    • Bring ideas from "discussion" page to (this) "page".
    • Bring links from "talk" to "main". Add links to twitter Fla_medic posts that explain mutations, reassortment, etc. Also to pages within appropedia: both inside Aerosol_pandemic and maybe others... like My Ideal Panflu, air filters...
    • Reformat "main" and rewrite as smooth text.
    • Convert to medium post for future reference?
    • Share on twitter for comments.
    • See what's next.

WHY: pandemic flu challenges[edit | edit source]

Pandemic influenza (sometimes called "panflu") is considered one of the most difficult global threats.

One of the difficulties is how to work together. The World Health Organisation (WHO) appeals to member states because it's an aggregate of them (and also to other entities). But other than through recommendations and paper plans, and the repetition of "we're not ready", there doesn't seem to be a mechanism for global, deep, fast, effective cooperation, of the kind that is needed both for preparation and response. (Please prove this admittedly bold assertion wrong.)

Maybe taking it as a game would provide some useful insights?

Let's say the world population is in the order of 7000 times a million people. What if each gamer, or team, looks at "their million" and makes sure they are able to do:

  • NPI (non pharmaceutical interventions, such as timely and effective school closure, etc) and
  • supplies of vital goods and services (such as described in which btw has a specific panflu proposal for your evaluation - in written in ~2010) (Note: goods and services are much about NPI for those who carry them out, but it's not just that.)

We win if, and only if, more and more of us, and eventually all humans, win. So the game starts with personal and family actions, then neighbourhood, etc, until eventually you find yourself contributing to international efforts. But of course some people might want to start at the international (local) level first?

What's the goal?

  • Say the virus starts off with really nasty fangs: "I can kill 5% of those I infect, and I can infect 30% of you all". (1% and 20% might be "bad enough". These figures are used because the biology says it's possible, and for clarity. It must look like the threat it is.)
  • "Oh, and btw", continues the virus, "I will kill both directly (flu) and indirectly (disruption of essential (vital, needed to stay alive) goods and services. Say, trade of stuff needed to make insulin or antibiotics... Or food, etc."
  • Faced with these "twin threats", say we then collectively decide "hey, no, less than 0.5% and less than 10%, and we'll lower disruption to a tenth of what it could be", and then help each other do just that. Is that, to use Jane McGonigal's book "Reality is broken" phrase, epic enough?

Our current, immediate challenge is, of course, to design that game. And so it begins...

WHAT: the game[edit | edit source]

Gamers will want to learn a bit, or a lot, about flu and flu pandemics (add links from twitter Fla_medic):

  • A very mild flu pandemic would look like normal flu, but with a new virus. New means it emerges, either by mutation (think writing a phone number incorrectly, so you read 123 and write 128) from a virus that's adapted to animals, or by genetic swapping between two different viruses (say you start with numbers 1-8 of hearts, same of spades, and out comes 1-8 of a mix of colours). Because it's new, we pay lots of attention. But if it's not specially deadly, it behaves more or less like normal winter flu.
  • Now, if it's 10, 100, 500 times more deadly than normal winter flu, or it kills young and previously healthy people, then all of us change our behaviour. We want to reduce the number of infections. That's our very natural reaction: the more deadly it is, the more interested we all are in not catching it.

Gamers will need to learn about what experts believe works to slow down flu epidemics:

  • With flu, nothing works perfectly, so we'd use many "tools" at the same time. Think raincoats with holes, so we use several raincoats, hoping the holes will be in different places, so we'll stay drier.
  • If it's extremely deadly, some would say "Let's just all stay at home". But then nothing works and people die from something else: no food, no help if you're having a baby, etc.

Gamers will also be challenged, at some levels of the game, with "vital supplies and services":

  • In short, we need to find ways to keep vital things (goods and services) moving while we keep infections to a minimum. That's tricky, and that's why we need your help. Officials have provided guidance, but no-one is really sure how things would work in practice. They need help from volunteers, from society, from people who will put their minds to imagining things beforehand, and come up with ways of doing things that actually help.
  • Two approaches have been tried: stock up so you don't have to go out (1% of the population of a few countries are able and willing to do that?). And tell businesses to plan and prepare (but we don't know when it's coming so why tie up resources that make us less viable as businesses?).

So, you see, tricky. You are needed.

HOW: game design[edit | edit source]

Sample run of the game[edit | edit source]

  • Checked world population, estimated for the beginning of year 2018. It's 7600 million of us! 8k million in 2023.
  • Googled for "random number between 1 and 7600". In the future this would be a menu option, but this was good enough. I got 4984, a number like any other. I looked in (where the total is less than 7600 million, btw) and left the sorted list with the most populated first. Added numbers from the top until I got to a close enough numbers... Got Germany, which I found disappointing because it's too similar to the countries I know. So I also noticed that the countries above and below were Vietnam and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
  • Because I've been looking at these things for years, I decided to epically take all 3 countries under my extremely powerful wing. Also, just to test how things would go. I don't speak any of the languages!
  • Below is what I've found about each country. Initial research: population and age structure, what do they grow and eat, how many people circulate inside and outside the country, number and sizes of schools and healthcare centres, and existence of public health structures and pandemic plans. Just learning this is going to qualify as epic, I think.
  • If you want to help, either go to one of these three countries, or select your own. You can invite friends (or students?) to participate in the Flu Quest?

Vietnam[edit | edit source]

  • population and age structure
  • what do they grow and eat
  • how many people circulate inside and outside the country
  • number and sizes of schools and healthcare centres
  • existence of public health structures and pandemic plans
  • makerspaces and other "fun & maybe useful" facts

Germany[edit | edit source]

  • population and age structure
  • what do they grow and eat
  • how many people circulate inside and outside the country
  • number and sizes of schools and healthcare centres
  • existence of public health structures and pandemic plans
  • makerspaces and other "fun & maybe useful" facts

Democratic Republic of the Congo[edit | edit source]

  • population and age structure
  • what do they grow and eat
  • how many people circulate inside and outside the country
  • number and sizes of schools and healthcare centres
  • existence of public health structures and pandemic plans
  • makerspaces and other "fun & maybe useful" facts

Requirements[edit | edit source]

Needs to be energising. "Now or never" kind of thing. Spanish flu started 100 years ago, in 1918, and killed the same number of people, if not more, than WW1. Today, it would kill 90-250 million people. See this!

Variety of participants: why set limits to this? Maybe 10 million gamers would be a good number.

All must get to have basic solid knowledge, including the known unknowns. The difficulties: in terms of prevention, nothing works perfectly with flu - and we don't know how to make "what works" work. Masks are debated - but some work really well, and we need to find ways to get past the debate in time to do something useful. UV might help for some shared spaces but it's science, engineering & regulation so not expected to work fast. School closure is disruptive, but if done early in each local wave may be effective as part of the whole thing - link to Needs_and_Systems. Vaccines probably late and only for a small percentage of humanity. In terms of keeping vital stuff going, it's not just keeping things as they are, as we'd even want to increase some flows: for example, more healthcare, not less or the same, to the poor; mental health for all... Enough water, food, protection from the weather... Enough transport and communication for teams solving people's problems... See which has a 2.5-page index that's highly recommended, so you know where to find things later.

Game, playing it openly and sharing moves so they can be analysed, should give us all insights that could be used in real plans, preparation and response - even if not many play. Better with 15 million, of course! What's the minimum? 8k players What? 80 to prototype it What? 8 to design a first iteration in one or more open zoom (or better) conversations? What would the game look like? ...

References[edit | edit source]

WHO, CDC, ECDC, Mike Coston and Smithsonian videos, etc...

Let's connect and go viral with this?[edit | edit source]

Contact user LucasG, twitter lucasgonzalez, and use twitter hashtag pandemicflugame. Tell your friends. Let's see what the next steps are, today! Thanks!

FA info icon.svg Angle down icon.svg Page data
Authors LucasG
License CC-BY-SA-3.0
Language English (en)
Related 0 subpages, 2 pages link here
Aliases PandemicFluGame
Impact 790 page views
Created January 6, 2018 by LucasG
Modified December 6, 2023 by Felipe Schenone
Cookies help us deliver our services. By using our services, you agree to our use of cookies.