Ndemic Creations, creators of the popular Plague Inc. video game, have donated a quarter of a million dollars to the fight against the real-life coronavirus pandemic.

“On behalf of all players of Plague Inc. we’ve made a $250,000 donation split between the Coalition of Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the World Health Organisation’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund,” the team wrote in an official announcement on Monday.

James Vaughan, the original creator of the (literally) viral mobile app, offered a candid perspective, saying:

Eight years ago, I never imagined the real world would come to resemble a game of Plague Inc. or that so many players would be using Plague Inc. to help them get through an actual pandemic. We are proud to be able to help support the vital work of the WHO and CEPI as they work towards finding a vaccine for COVID-19.

Nndemic has found itself in a strange position as the authors of a game in which you try to create the perfect plague to kill humanity. While the novel coronavirus — officially classified as “COVID-19” — rages across the planet, China went so far as to ban the game from its app store. On the flip side, sales of the 2012 game have exploded.

In addition to their donation, Ndemic said they are partnering with experts from the World Health Organization’s Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network and others to develop a free scenario for the game in which people can stop a pandemic — rather than create one. “When arranging our donations with the WHO and CEPI, we were repeatedly asked if we could make a game which let the player work to stop an outbreak,” they said:

Therefore, as well as providing financial support, we are accelerating work on a new Plague Inc. game mode which lets players save the world from a deadly disease outbreak.

Players will have to balance managing disease progression and boosting healthcare systems as well as controlling real-world actions such as triaging, quarantining, social distancing and closing of public services.

The new update will be free for all players during the pandemic and we will share more information as soon as we can.

CEPI has publicly praised the team’s efforts. The organization’s CEO, Dr. Richard Hatchett, said:

We are delighted that Ndemic Creations have so generously contributed to our crucial vaccine development work, especially as we tackle the unprecedented challenge of COVID-19.

Games have an important role in raising awareness of the challenges the world is currently facing. Only through a concerted, global response — with the private sector working together with Governments and philanthropies, pooling resources and expertise — can we hope to stop such emerging epidemic threats.

UN Foundation President and CEO Elizabeth Cousens echoed his support. “In this unprecedented pandemic with unprecedented needs, global cooperation is more important than ever,” she said, “I am so thankful to Ndemic Creations’ contribution to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund. Their donation will support the World Health Organization’s lifesaving work.”

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