In a world of fast cars (Tesla) and even faster information flow (Google), the world has yet to properly know what to believe when it comes to news – nothing more obvious than what is happening with the Coronovirus.
In 2011, a movie about the far-reaching impacts of a bat virus that brings the entire world to its knees both through the virus itself and the intense fear that perhaps causes more damage was released in theaters. Directed by innovative director Steven Soderbergh and brimming with sharp writing, multiple storylines, and committed performances, audiences were shown an almost-uncomfortably-realistic look at what could happen just a couple months after a virus begins to burrow its way into humanity’s core.
Within 48 hours, it claims one life.
Within weeks, it claims scores more, all whilst our main characters desperately try and not only find viable information about the virus but also save any shreds of humanity left as society breaks down and body counts shoot up.
While it grossed a healthy amount of the box office, it also led to many discussions about the film’s many realistic assumptions: what are the symptoms of the virus? How does one protect oneself from infection? When will a vaccine be created? And just how many lives will be lost before something can be salvaged?
A year later, a game called Plague, Inc. was released on mobile devices and it was immediately evident that it was going to have the same effect as Contagion; however this time, the audience was in the driver’s seat. Powered by research conducted by the developers and taking into account the many ways diseases can find their way into our daily lives, Plague, Inc. was a monster hit, in all ways possible. Both gamers and critics took note of its realism and the literal hundreds of possibilities present, including antibiotic resistant, airborne-spread, and nerve crippling strands of a virus.
The next year, one of its developers gave a speech at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, where he discussed the power and usefulness of mere “video games” to help with real world issues. In a post-Swine-Flu world, senses were heightened when it came to hygiene and protection from germs (in a matter of speaking), which lead to some improvements in global health. But as proven by the recent Coronovirus outbreak, nothing is safe for too long.
What is ultimately more surprising than the virus outbreak itself is the increased attention that is being paid to the movie and video game mentioned. Within a couple of weeks, Contagion found itself rocketing to the top 10 most rented titles on the iTunes store. Similarly, Plague, Inc. (along with an updated version for modern consoles and PCs, Plague, Inc. Evolved), saw massive upticks in player counts and sales, with the majority of players in China itself, desperately trying to find a way to predict the virus’s trajectory.
On top of all of this, social media was being flooded with numerous bits of information, a majority of which was untrue and meme-filled. The developers for Plague, Inc. got so many questions and activity that they diverted all possible inquiries to a link for the CDC and other institutions for help.
Despite all of the chaos, sadness, and downright horrible things that the world is going through, the fact that we can relate to works of fiction to guide and inform us through real-world events should be admired and noted down for all to see. Being able to relate to make-believe scenarios goes beyond what has already been said of artists and filmmakers (and video game developers). Though not all of us haven’t had the chance to create something for others to see, it is important to realize that thinking outside the box and expanding our horizons is in fact more effective than basing all of our thoughts on static information that was searched last minute on a smartphone.
The ability to think, believe it or not, plays a greater role in our lives than we assume. Accepting facts as they are and not taking the time and effort to wonder for ourselves is a crippling weakness in the otherwise relatively clean human mindset. Films and video games are allowed to have a margin of error because they are essentially opinions, eloquently drawn out and expanded upon to encompass and encourage unique thinking processes.
But this can only be done properly and with full effect if it is well-reported and put above the everyday, frankly-trash news that goes in one ear and out the other. It all boils down to what we deem as “the best” news to follow, and that can only be done if the filter is in check and the world is given the news it deserves, not what it needs (a tad cliche, indeed).
The next time a work of fiction is deemed “realistic”, maybe it should be treated as such and talked about in more lengthy terms – because not to sound like a downer, but the next big event could happen at any time.
Here’s to the tireless journalists, filmmakers, and video game developers who make it just a little bit easier to live on Planet Earth.
Photo Credit: BBC
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