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Creative Ways Games Are Adapting To Quarantine

Right now, people need video games. These fun, interactive distractions are keeping the populace inside and taking their minds off of the global pandemic outside their doors. In the words of Xbox's Phil Spencer, "Play is a fundamental human need. Proud to be part of an industry that can offer escape and fun right now." 

To better suit this need, some companies have been forced to adapt to their increased audience. Recently, Steam hit a record high of over 22 million concurrent players. Sony and Microsoft have struggled to handle the increased load, with Sony throttling download speeds for the sake of internet stability. 

This is to say nothing of the manner in which individual games have had to rethink their base mechanics in order to support, entertain, and appeal to the hundreds of thousands of folks stuck at home. Here are some creative ways games are adapting to this unprecedented time.

Pokemon Go is now Pokemon Stay Put

In response to stay-at-home orders, Pokemon Go has become Pokemon Stay Put. Typically, the augmented reality game is best played on the go: Pokemon spawn across a wide area and PokeStops are attached to local attractions. These mechanics are essentially void considering the fact governments are discouraging citizens from wandering around outside. One Italian man was even arrested at the height of Italy's quarantine for taking his daughter outside to "hunt the Pokemon.

Niantic has updated the game so no one has to go outside to catch 'em all. The company postponed Abra Day, a community event, and spread out Pokemon habitats so that a variety of Pokemon will be available to those stuck indoors. To attract these Pokemon, Niantic is offering a one-time purchase of 30 Incense for just one PokeCoin. 

If you're lucky enough to be near a PokeStop, you might notice that Gifts drop more frequently thanks to this update. Understanding the fact that it's hard to pace around inside, incubators will now hatch Eggs at only half of the usually required steps. Pokemon Go has evolved to adapt to the quarantined world players now live in.

Plague Inc. has flipped the script

When the coronavirus began to spread, interest in the game Plague Inc. increased. Play centers around creating a bespoke plague with the goal of infecting — and likely destroying — the whole world. This narrative now hits a little too close to home for some, to the point that it was banned in China. The developers at Ndemic Creations have recognized their odd part in this moment in history and are working on an update that will not only make Plague Inc. even more relevant, but also a little less scary. 

The update will reverse the usual Plague Inc. gameplay with a new mode. Players will be pitted against the virus and have control over various means to stop the spread, including social distancing orders, quarantines, and funding health care agencies. Ndemic Creations will release this update for free so players can see what they can do to help stop the spread of this global pandemic.

Foldit is crowdsourcing a cure

There's another science-focused title taking on the challenge presented by the coronavirus. Foldit, part puzzle game and part research tool, is encouraging players to help design a protein that could bind with COVID-19's spike protein. This would, theoretically, halt the infectious nature of the virus. Successful designs are sent to be tested at an actual lab in Seattle, Washington.

Basically, Foldit is trying to crowdsource research that could lead to a cure. According to the game's FAQ, "The more we know about how certain proteins fold, the better new proteins we can design to combat the disease-related proteins and cure the diseases." The player base has tackled the novel challenge presented by the coronavirus, working together in group chats and on message boards to share possible solutions. 

While Foldit usually promotes healthy competition, the site is now asking players to band together to research the tricky protein puzzle that could help end the pandemic.