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The ANTIC Interview #387 with Claudia Cohl, Editor-in-Chief of Family Computing Magazine, inspired me to go through my back issues of the magazine.  I found a game on page 86-87 of the March 1985 issue called "Epidemic!" by SSI that invokes the idea of the Coronavirus.  Has anyone played it before?

 

"Epidemic!" is available on AtariMania:

 

http://www.atarimania.com/game-atari-400-800-xl-xe-epidemic_1859.html

 

Here are a few screenshots of the game:

 

epidemic_ssi_2.gif.74ffc23de5e6a26f797387f795e0b4de.gif

epidemic_ssi_3.gif.4763bb941a87263248b80defb88a5da5.gif

epidemic_ssi_4.gif.625cd3bfa060c43acaf71a578e506839.gif

epidemic_ssi_5.gif.ccced06780cb6e19ad5843b9074a16e8.gif

epidemic_ssi_6.gif.698219814b6541a51f948576046598d7.gif

 

Here is the front and back of the box:

 

epidemic_ssi_d7.thumb.jpg.756fc3cc6f8947eb7b855e23b760ac74.jpg

index.thumb.jpg.081297777ff52dfd938c80bb22e8c0ec.jpg

 

As with all SSI games, the manuals is lengthy at 20 pages.

 

Here is the Family Computing review of Epidemic!

 

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Epidemic!
(Review from "Family Computing" magazine, March 1985)

Hardware Requirements:
Reviewed on IBM PC.
Also for Apple II series. Atari Home Computers, IBM PCjr.
Manufacturer: Strategic Simulations
Price: S34.95

 

It's rare to find a strategy game that is easy to play, takes only a short time to finish, and is good enough to demand instant re-starting after a run-through, but Epidemic!, from Strategic Simulations, is just that.
You (and as many advisers as you can muster) are the just-appointed international task force assembled to halt, analyze, and hopefully cure a space-borne plague roaring across Earth.

 

Armed with a variety of weapons, you can temporarily arrest it, sometimes slow it, and, under extreme conditions, resort to a nuclear option and destroy entire subcontinents to stop the disease from eradicating the human race.

This is a pure strategy game, playable on four different skill levels. Although we preferred to play it with a group of people, it's designed for solitaire gaming and is an excellent way of passing an hour or two. At each turn (a day in computer time) you can take only a limited number of steps towards eliminating the epidemic. Should you shoot down a plague-bearing meteor which your radar says is hurtling towards an unaffected region? Try to cure a barely-hit area? Obliterate a nearly destroyed zone? Or perform any of the other operations which will mean life or death to tens of millions of people?

 

It's actually just like a Grade B science-fiction movie (you know, one of those with actors who speak English without moving their mouths). It's also one heck of a game, suitable for ages 12 and over, a real brain-teaser that play-testers went wild over. (For an added twist, assign each player several countries/areas as his or her "responsibility." They're the only ones who can push the button to kill their own people. This makes the nuclear option all the more realistic and less likely to be used.)


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Atarimania (and the game manual) claim that "Epidemic!" was released in 1982.  I find it strange that it was reviewed in March of 1985.

 

Does anyone have any memories of this game?  Has anyone played it?  How about recently?  It might be one to revisit in this era of Covid-19, if only for a little diversion.  I'd love to see a video review of this game given the context of the world right now.

 

Adam

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Cool! SSI had some complex stuff back then. When pandemic comes to mind, I recommend Agent USA. If only everyone kept social distancing but it's difficult when you're riding the train everywhere. 😉

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Personally I'd like to see a more realistic simulation game that has you as an epidemiologist for a fictional WHO-like organization combatting the spread of a virus worldwide.  Epidemic! doesn't look terribly realistic from the science point of view (nuclear weapons?  shooting down meteors?).  A realistic game could be a good teaching tool.

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1 hour ago, FifthPlayer said:

Personally I'd like to see a more realistic simulation game [...] Epidemic! doesn't look terribly realistic from the science point of view (nuclear weapons?  shooting down meteors?).

 

The nuclear weapons in this game are a good indicator that the game was created during the cold-war era in the United States.  These were the "ultimate" weapons; there was nothing that they could not accomplish.  The game doesn't seem realistic, but that's just the nature of game's theme (which seems loosely based on The Andromeda Strain).  The thought of using nukes to knock-out an entire country/continent/world never occurred to me, as the baddies in this game are invisible to the naked eye.  Yet, in desperation, would someone ever resort to that tactic?  If you had asked me this question a few years ago then I would have thought it idiotic to bring into a conversation, and it is a completely absurd idea-- yet, in this time, during this era, in our world, maybe anything that I thought I was improbable or impossible now seems within the thought-reach of a select few who have trouble determining where reality ends and fantasy begins.  Luckily for us, Epidemic! is just a game and isn't striving for realism.

 

Adam

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Posted (edited)
16 hours ago, ballyalley said:

 

Luckily for us, Epidemic! is just a game and isn't striving for realism.

 

 

There's a bigger issue here as to whether realism is a good thing for a game to strive for.  I'm of the opinion that the game would be more fun if it reflected the knobs and dials that an epidemiologist would reasonably have on hand, but doing so runs the risk of turing the game into a dry, boring spreadsheet exercise.  For me personally I'd like to see enough attention to reality for the simulation to be plausibly realistic, but still retain the elements that make it a game.  Are nuclear weapons part of that?  Regardless of what certain world leaders today might or might not do, one could argue in practical terms nuclear weapons aren't really a solution, but a cure that is literally worse than the disease.

 

Still, I do admit that I find this game intriguing.

 

Edited by FifthPlayer
emphasis on "plausibly"

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