plague_icon2Bringing about the end of all humanity – yep, there has got to be a theological weigh in on this one. But it may not be what you expect. This is a game, after all, where you are the ultimate anti-hero. You are the plague itself. Your goal is to eradicate absolutely everyone on earth, before a cure is found, before countries seal their borders, before all your sick people die on you and no one is getting infected anymore. And you get to name your own plague.

Me, I tend to call my plagues Ego. Rachel, who introduced me to this game earlier today on her blog, has at least once called her humanity-wiping plague Stupidity. Today, at least, it’s free on Android platforms and $0.99 at the iTunes store. And for the record, so far I suck at killing everybody on earth. But I have given it the old college try.

Discussing the game with my co-worker Liz, who is now playing it on her iPad (plague name: Derp), we were talking about the simulation aspect of the game, which is fairly realistic to someone who has not much connection with western medicine or disease control, beyond habitual use of ibuprofen and medical insurance she rarely uses. I was reminded of Jesus, who at one point says in Matthew (Chapter 5, verses 21-22) that to call someone a dumbass in your head is just as bad as murdering them.

Now, this is not one of Jesus’ more beloved sayings. (This really doesn’t rank up there with ‘Blessed are the meek, because they’ll inherit the earth’.) Possibly because anyone who looks deeply into their own self sees a thinly-veiled murderous rage that crops up way more often than they’d actually want to admit in public. And in fact, rather like Jesus said, if we examine ourselves closely, we may discover that under the snark, under the grumpiness, under the complaining, under the criticism, under all the vague and nebulous negativity in our lives is a thinly-veiled murderous rage.

Take that to it’s logical extension and it’s not hugely surprising that we all mostly enjoy violent films, at least when it’s the bad guy getting it. And video games. Except of course, as gore and violence goes, this video game has none of it. It’s so much more impersonal that that – and yet it’s still part of the logical extension. And so am I horrified that while playing this game, I was bummed that I lost repeatedly? (I usually kill about 6.78 billion people, but the vikings up in Iceland and Greenland always seem to survive my plagues. Go figure.) Yes. And no. Because if every time I call someone a dumbass in my head (or any equivalent negative attack on myself or someone else), I’m really murdering them, then in a funny, round about way, Plague, Inc. brings it home to me that murder isn’t actually what I want. I don’t want to kill anyone. Not by plague, not by subtle negativity, not physically with my hands, not with my vote as a citizen of a powerful and influential country.

I just don’t want to kill people. I knew that before, but Plague, Inc. helped me to realize that I don’t want to do it metaphysically, either.