Plague Inc. – how to game the pandemic

Our critic’s new weekly slot recommends games for seasoned players and beginners alike. This week, a virus strategy game banned by China

Anyone who has continued to play video games beyond childhood is used to the name-calling. Yes, in 2020, millions of thoughtful, otherwise usefully employed people enjoy video games (as well as a fair few thoughtless wastrels too, if Twitter is anything to go by). But away from the golf course or bridge club, adult play is still viewed, culturally speaking, with suspicion, pity or disdain. As a reporter for the Washington Post tweeted in 2017, in reference to the American chatshow host Jimmy Fallon, a keen fan of the medium: “At the heart of any banality is an adult male who plays video games.”

Still, personally speaking, it took a pandemic to appreciate that the video game reviewer is truly the cockroach of arts and entertainment criticism. As cinemas, theatres, restaurants and concert venues close, and their remaining staff begin the sorrowful work of disinfection and grant application, writers who cover their industries are forced to glumly twirl their pens, waiting. The video game critic (and, breathe easy, the literary critic), by contrast, suddenly finds a near-captive audience that is, once Netflix has been plundered at least, just maybe willing to give video games a try.

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