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Video Game / Pandemic

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Pandemic is a web game developed by Dark Realm Studios that simulates destroying the world with your very own disease.

The game randomly picks your starting location. Previously to that, you had to pick your bioweapon: parasite, virus, or bacteria, each with their own set of advantages and disadvantages. Over time, you get points for infecting people and killing people with your bioweapon. These points can be spent adding various attributes to your virus, like symptoms, resistance, and new means of transmission. This can make your virus more lethal, more contagious, more powerful, but more visible. On the other hand, the governments of said infected countries will do their best to stop the spread of your bioweapon: burning corpses, killing carriers, etc.

Sound easy? Not so much. You'll know you're doing well if you infect these countries:

Pandemic 2.5 is a semi-sequel to Pandemic 2 for iOS users and was released on the App Store in the summer of 2012.

This game series has a Spiritual Successor in the form of Plague Inc., a game released on mobile devices and developed by a company named Ndemic Creations. This successor has an Updated Re-release, Plague Inc: Evolved, released for PC, Mac and Linux.

Not to be confused with the cooperative board game of the same name, where the players goal is to cure the world of a disease epidemic, itself having been adapted to a PC, tablet and console game. It also has a reputation for being fairly challenging. Interesting, eh?

Pandemic provides examples of:

  • Ascended Meme:
    • One of the achievements for the Kongregate version of Pandemic 2 is called "President Madagascar Assassin Badge". You have to kill everyone on the realistic (read: hard) setting in 100 days.
    • The highest difficulty setting of Pandemic 2.5 is called "Madagascar", a nod to the notorious difficulty of infecting Madagascar, which has reached memetic levels.
  • Apocalypse How: Planetary Human Extinction is your goal. You can still get Regional and Continental Extinctions (which would effectively mean Global Collapse or Disruption, at the very least) if Humans successfully fight back. Even if you're very unlucky, the spread of your virus is guaranteed to cause Regional Disruption with all the closures and emergency measures.
  • Apocalyptic Log: The news reports, as they track infections and lockdowns across the globe.
  • Artistic License Geography: For some unknown reason, news reports will occasionally inform you of 'a series of hurricanes' repeatedly slamming places like Brazil and Russia. One hurricane is rare enough in these regions (due to the proximity to the Equator and the freezing climate, respectively), let alone a series of them.
  • Artistic License Medicine: Humans, rodents, insects, etc. are covered with bacteria, but unless symptoms manifest they are not diseases by definition, and unlikely to be noticed by anyone but a microbiologist looking for a discovery if they are extremely (un)lucky. This game instead treats microorganisms like Cold-War nuclear weapons: observable, terrifying by their very spread and delivery potential, regardless of their real world (lack of) use. In Real Life of course, bacteria and viruses are incomprehensibly numerous and not observable except with magnification (i.e., spy satellites can't pick up bacteria movement across the globe). The vast majority of bacteria are harmless, some even beneficial, and with all the harmful diseases in the world, pharmaceutical companies aren't going to care about its existence unless it may cure an actual disease with symptoms; no one is going to spend a cent to cure it, much less focus global research to stop a newly discovered bacterium that harms no one.
  • Book Ends: At the beginning of the game, nations will report about mundane things, like the weather. If everything goes right, your newsfeed then fills up with nations locking down their borders, establishing martial law, and burning bodies to prevent infection. Once the world is entirely infected, the news goes back to weather reports.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Countries will go from green to yellow-ochre to orange and finally red as the infection intensifies.
  • Determinator: Greenland's hospital. No matter what happens to the rest of the world, Greenland's hospital won't shut down until the very last person in the country dies, and sometimes not even then. It's quite impressive if you ignore the Fridge Logic. If Greenland's hospital actually closes before the last person in the country dies, you know the world is screwed.
  • "Everybody Dies" Ending: Invoked that you must ensure that everyone is killed off by your disease.
  • Factor Breakdown: In American Swine, clicking the dollar icon shows your revenue and expenses from various sources and how panic multiplies taxes and costs, while clicking on "PANIC" diplays all modifiers that affect panic positively/negatively and its aforementioned multipliers.
  • Foil: Madagascar is Properly Paranoid in terms of containment whilst Greenland is Too Dumb to Live in terms of keeping hospitals open against all costs.
  • Fragile Speedster: Viruses infect people as fast as Germany took over most of Europe in 1940, but they are more vulnerable to the environment and more likely to be caught out by the regional authorities.
  • Flying Dutchman: The one or two ships which sail around the world, looking for a non-existent open port.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: A disease which has no negative effects whatsoever will cause a country to start closing ports and burning bodies that haven't died yet. Also, an uninfected country can close its borders and successfully keep a water-, air- or insect-vectored disease out.
  • Hello, [Insert Name Here]: You get to name your disease. Naturally, players can and will abuse this to come up with the most ridiculous names possible.
  • Hollywood Evolution: Every copy of your disease has the same traits. You can spread your harmless little parasites throughout most of the world, and then give every single one the ability to cause heart attacks simultaneously.
  • Honor Before Reason: As mentioned above, Greenland won't shut down its hospital until everyone dies, but also won't shut down schools, public transport, or its ports. It even refuses to take government measures (i.e. martial law, handing out water and masks, exterminating rodents and insects). If you invest points in drug resistance, Greenland is likely the first to completely die off.
  • Idiosyncratic Difficulty Levels: The difficulty levels in Pandemic 2.5 are Casual, Normal, and Madagascar.
  • Luck-Based Mission:
    • Pretty much the whole thing. If you start in Madagascar, you're halfway there so long as you get off the island before someone coughs.
    • Also, the chance of getting a random trait at the beginning of the game. If you start in a certain country with a hot or cold climate, for example, you gain an automatic resistance to hot or cold conditions. However, there are loads of other traits that crop up much less often at the beginning - these include "Catching" (free rodent/insect/waterborne/airborne transmission), "Mutator" (vaccines are slower to engineer than normal), "Isolated" (reduces infectivity), "Famous" (increases visibility, which is bad) and "Expected" (vaccines are faster to engineer than normal). Having any of these less common traits will either make your game much easier, or otherwise pretty much force you to start again.
    • Also inverted in the second game when humanity attempts to create a cure. There's a random chance it will fail, making your disease immune to all future attempts to cure it.
  • A Million Is a Statistic: One of the most representative examples in fiction.
  • News Travels Fast: Nations halfway accross the globe will respond very quickly to the discovery of a pathogen or other events which occur.
  • Nintendo Hard
    • Note that part of the reason for this is simply that the game arguably tricks you. For instance, you shouldn't choose any form of transmission until after you have infected every region on the planet, because you don't need it to spread your disease and it's the ability of the disease to spread through animals, water or the air that makes countries so paranoid. Likewise, you should sell off any symptoms you have at the start. The key to victory is low visibility; again, buy your lethal symptoms only after you have infected the whole planet. The only thing you should buy is resistance, esp. drug resistance, and you'll need the latter to actually start killing people.
    • Even with resistance, you should avoid anything above level II (if even that). Like transmission, the rest of the world will freak out when faced with a disease that cannot be harmed and transmits freely (which has a stone-cold logic, since they are Properly Paranoid to think that it might mutate and turn lethal at any moment). Of course, it's possible to do all this and still lose the game.
    • Several guides will advise you that if you don't start off in Madagascar, you might be better off just restarting the game, over and over until you do. Even then, starting in Madagascar has its problems- it takes much longer to infect the world from Madagascar than from elsewhere (for one of the same reasons its hard to infect it to begin with- one rarely used port), and nations like Cuba can be just as annoying to get at.
  • No Campaign for the Wicked: Averted from the disease's point of view, anyway. Pandemic: American Swine lets you play as the US government, trying to control a swine flu outbreak.
  • Not So Above It All: Even Madagascar can let its guard down if you're patient or lucky enough.
  • One-Word Title: The title is because you play as a disease trying to kill everyone.
  • The Plague: You play as one, trying to get the whole world infected and exterminate all humanity.
  • Properly Paranoid:
    • Madagascar, New Zealand and China.
    • Also, the rest of the world when your disease is highly infectious but has no symptoms. It may seem like a massive overreaction to a little, harmless bug, but when it will actually mutate and kill everyone at some point...
      Mister President! A [virus/bacterium/parasite] that doesn't do anything has been discovered in [city/country]!
      Shut. Down. Everything.
    • Interestingly, this response has a valid scientific reasoning in real life. If you find a virus that spreads really easily (e.g. is endemic) and then mutates to something lethal... It was the main reason for the response to Swine Flu.
      • Of course, there still need to be symptoms for it to be recognized as a flu, even if they are "level 1" symptoms.
  • "Risk"-Style Map: The main interface consists of a simple world map divided into regions, coloured blue for uninfected ones and red for infected ones.
  • Shout-Out: The TV show Fringe had what seemed to be a Shout-Out to this game. A simulated projection of a highly infectious disease is shown to encompass the whole world... except Madagascar.
  • Spreading Disaster Map Graphic: You see a map of the world, with the areas the deadly disease killing off all of humanity has affected. Madagascar will usually not be among them no matter how hard you try.
  • Stealth-Based Mission: The less visible your disease is, the better.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: As stated above, a nonlethal disease with limited symptoms will cause the world to go berserk: martial law, burning bodies, closing ports, and the like.
  • Timed Mission: When the virus is detected, research towards a cure will start. However, this time limit is flexible depending on how much attention is drawn to the virus, and how many hospitals remain open.
  • Trial-and-Error Gameplay: Finding the just right combination of symptoms and resistances comes down to either this or Guide Dang It!, especially for new players. Whatever you do, don't rely on the common sense that infectious disease specialists are focused on actual diseases, i.e. pathogens that cause harmful symptoms. Apparently, in the Pandemic world, they watch each of the 40 trillion bacteria on each human for crazy transmissions first so they can close their sole port and cripple broad sectors of their country's economy, whereas they can let fevers and coughing go on for a bit.
  • Unintentionally Unwinnable: There's an odd glitch in the first game that lets you get your Infection Rating down to zero. Running the simulation will give you negative points, and your virus will go extinct.
  • Understatement:
    • The winning message for Pandemic 2, only occurring if all 6.3 billion people are dead, begins with the sentence "Mankind's numbers have declined".
    • Some of the symptom's effects are understated, too. For instance, "Heart failure poses severe health problems for the infected.". Or, regarding hemorrhaging, "Is a fairly noticeable symptom.", especially for those who are Afraid of Blood.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Averted. Having "vomiting" or any other extremely noticeable symptom will have everyone freak out.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: The number of horrible symptoms and sinister ways to spread the disease can cause one to feel like a supervillainous Omnicidal Maniac as you rain death down upon the world.
  • Video Game Cruelty Punishment: On the other hand, making your disease horribly over the top and gruesome is a sure way to screw yourself over. It would seem that if you are going to be horribly cruel with your disease, the game would prefer that you employ Pragmatic Villainy rather than Stupid Evil.
  • Video Game Geography: The Earth is actually flat in Pandemic, or at least the transportation methods act as such. For example, a plane travelling from the US West Coast to Australia will never cross the Pacific. It will cross the Atlantic and the Indian Oceans.
  • Villain Protagonist: Naturally. This is also an option in Pandemic: American Swine, especially when playing on closed transparency, where one can do any of the following to prevent the spread of swine flu (or because you want to): intentionally release information to scare the public, covertly murder infected individuals, and drop nuclear weapons on major US cities to kill the infected in them.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Bear in mind your disease kills everyone.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: Combine the right symptoms (necrosis, hemorrhaging, and insanity) and you get this.

Remember, in Real Life, moving to Madagascar will not make you immune to deadly pathogens.

Alternative Title(s): Pandemic 2