Thursday, 22 October 2015

The Outbreak Game

Sometimes we get the strangest ideas in the most unlikely moments and this was certainly one of them. 

The idea for “Outbreak!”, an interactive street game which brings together film-makers, game designers and scientists came to me as I was brushing my teeth, one cold grey winter morning. I had been playing in my head with the idea of creating an event that could engage people of different ages and backgrounds in an active way around the topic of public health, but until that point I hadn't quite figured out how. 

Then, all of a sudden, something clicked and I rushed to my phone to call Jana, a friend who specialises, among many other things, in games design. It didn’t take long to get her and Dr. Joanne Pennock, immunologist from the University of Manchester, involved in the project and before I knew it we were working towards the most unconventional and bizarre science communication project I have ever been involved in.

At the core of the game is the desire to target perhaps one of the biggest misconception in science, the idea that science is either right or wrong, black or white, correct or inexact. Anyone who has worked in a scientific environment will know too well that things are never so clean cut and even though we so often read in the media that “science says”, what that really means is “some people have agreed on this interpretation of data”.

With this game and interactive experience we want to highlight the difficulties in science and how science crosses over with policy making, especially when time and resources are limited, as in the case of dealing with an outbreak, where making “right” interpretations and choices becomes increasingly more difficult. By placing players in that awkward but interesting role of scientific advisors to the Government, we want to force them to think on their feet, independently, under a time pressure, wearing the labcoat of the scientist, the suit of the politician and the skin of the citizen, having to realise there is no perfect choice and that often compromises involve some losses, however much you might want to avoid that.

By Greta, Outbreak

Twitter - @OutbreakMcr

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