Back when the swine flu was all over the media, I was celebrating Thanksgiving with my pregnant wife, my two-year-old- son, and my parents. We discussed options for how to deal with the flu if one of us got it; my son could live with his grandparents, who theoretically had a better resistance to the flu because they were older. We were just about to leave when we all got sick.
My wife, my son, and I all got the flu. My parents, just as we predicted, did not. And all I could think was: if this was a zombie infection we’d all be slurping brains by now.
In the modern world, viruses can spread with lightning speed, fast enough to even outpace the media. By the time you’re reading about it it’s probably too late.
Ironically, movies portray outbreaks as much moving much slower – probably to give the plot a chance to catch up. Here are some ways modern viruses can spread so fast that by the time you hear about them, it’s too late:
- Sneezing: It’s only a matter of time before a supervirus spread by spray (sneezes) hits a large population center. When that happens, look out – infectious droplets can be too difficult to see and infect a surface for up to 48 hours. Conscientious adults might wash their hands judiciously, but toddlers regularly sneeze in each other’s faces. If we ever get a virus that combines the attributes of the common cold with a plague, it’s over.
- Visual: What if just by looking at something you could be infected by it? That’s the concept behind The Ring. Imagine a virus spread by television…and how fast it would destroy the world.
- Audible: There’s a Twilight Zone episode, “Need to Know,” where insanity spreads through words alone. Residents share it at first through word of mouth, but eventually someone gets to a radio…this was also the plot of the movie Pontypool.
- Radiation: It could be solar radiation, it could come from a passing comet, it could be beamed out of the Earth itself. Whatever it is, there’s no protection against it. And oh yeah, sometimes the radiation turns machine into homicidal maniacs.
- Neurotoxin: What if nature itself decided that humanity was a threat and started emitting neurotoxins that make us crazy? Answer: The Happening.
In short, there are many ways to destroy humanity. Supernatural viruses turn the features that make us so successful — our population growth, our technology, even our arrogance as the dominance creatures on the planet – against us.
Your Turn: How have you used plagues in your game?