How would you handle a pandemic? A new Czech simulation game lets you find out

"Korona hra" lets players take charge of a country of ten million, making major decisions at the start of an outbreak.

Tom Lane

Written by Tom Lane
Published on 28.01.2021 12:12 (updated on 28.01.2021)

A new educational game allows users to see how they would get on when dealing with a pandemic. "Korona hra" which means "Corona game" in Czech puts players in charge of a country of ten million at a time when an outbreak begins to spread throughout the population.

The game arose from frustration with the way the public discussed the epidemic. The creators concluded that the best way to explain the issue of pandemic management is the principle of game play.

"Our intention was to combine fun with learning. It is a game, but in its 'heart' there is a real epidemiological model, which is very carefully calibrated for the current behavior of the epidemic," describes one of the creators, the mathematician Michal Beneš told Seznam Zprávy. 

In an effort to minimize loss of life and the economic impact, players must choose the right measures and possible compensations in real-time over a year and a half of simulation. The game was calibrated on the example of the Czech Republic.

However, unlike conventional, purely mathematical models, Korona hra also takes into account the effect of chance and the fact that the player must make decisions in the running time. According to them, the development of the disease, economic damage, but also the mood in society, then unfolds. 

At the end of the game, the player can compare his result with others. They will see on the chart their expenses, the number of infected, but also the number of victims of the epidemic.

"It is up to everyone to evaluate their result in their own way. How do you rate the value of human life or students who may feel neglected for many years? How do you rate the loss of an entrepreneur who has honestly built his business for years and will now have to close? We do not answer those questions. The beauty of this project is how open it is to interpretation," explains Beneš.

"One of the common opinions is that there is an indirect relationship between the economic costs and the strength of the epidemic. That it is good to let the economy 'rest' for a while, even at the cost of inevitable casualties. In fact, we are only postponing those unpleasant measures and quite possibly the worse situation in the future will force us to add some more," Beneš points out. 

The platform was developed over time starting in early September, and while the game is available in Czech only it can be translated into English using Google Translate via any web browser. It is available to play online now (though currently experiencing slow load times). The methodology and logic behind the game can be found here.

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