This will serve as the unofficial first article of AFK News, just to give those of you who were unsure an idea of what we are planning to do! If you have any questions or comments, or want to contribute in the future, don't hesitate to PM us or email at [email protected]
We are currently looking for contributors and researchers, as well as a graphic artist. We plan to keep this on C-Blogs so long as it allows us to create a decent format for our issues, so anyone with the skillz to show the C-Blog editor what's what would be appreciated as well, to solve any formatting issues we come across.
Every week we will be posting news from around the world so that no one needs to leave the gaming sphere to get IRL news. News will be divided up into sections, and some stories will incorporate links to the gaming community, and how these stories either affect us, or the games that we play.
This week I will focus on one issue, but future editions will be combinations of larger articles and shorter press clippings. This is just an example.
Ebola Virus Continues to Plague African Nations
The Ebola virus disease (EVD) is an infection that is caused when a person comes into contact with the blood or bodily fluids of an infected animal, most often a fruit bat or a monkey. Once the disease has been passed to humans, it becomes transmittable between humans as well, and can be transmitted sexually. It is often misdiagnosed as other infectious diseases, and requires testing to rule out similar symptoms before an accurate diagnosis can be made.
The Ebola Virus
The disease can spread in many ways, with one of the most common ways being in the food that people ingest. Infected monkeys spread the disease to pigs, which can pass it along to people working in meat-processing plants, as well as to the consumers if infection is not spotted in time. Extremely sanitary conditions and protective clothing are required when handling meats which may have come into contact with the virus.
There is no specific treatment for Ebola virus disease, and instead effort is taken to alleviate the various symptoms using intravenous fluids, anticoagulants, and antibiotics. The death toll for EVD is between 50% and 90%, and is most common in tropical regions of Africa, which is currently experiencing the largest outbreak in history.
The Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa is the worst that our world has ever seen. So far there have been approximately 1200 cases and 672 deaths since the outbreak began in February. There have already been 3 times as many deaths as the previously worst outbreak in Uganda in 2000. Normally these incidents have been fairly isolated, with the WHO and other health groups rushing in to ensure that the disease does not pass country boundaries or worsen. This has not been the case this time.
Health Specialists at a Doctors Without Borders facility
What began as an outbreak in Guinea has since spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone, with no signs of stopping yet. The lead doctor working on a cure for the virus, Sheik Umar Khan, contracted the disease a week ago, and just yesterday a lead doctor in Liberia succumbed to EVD. So why is this still happening?
In short, it's hard to control. Earlier this month, West Africa adopted a new strategy against Ebola which included better surveillance, cross-border collaboration, and better engagement with local communities. Education is one of the missing links to this tale, as many in rural African communities do not know how the virus is spread and the steps to take to prevent EVD. The WHO and other groups such as Doctors Without Borders are on the ground training health workers and providing assistance, but so far it has not been enough to quell the spread.
The difficulty managing the coordination of several governments, and the dense population in border regions, have made combating the outbreak exceptionally difficult. Many of the people living in these regions are mobile as well, which increases the chance of spreading the disease.
History of Ebola outbreaks
Last week, a woman fled from the hospital after being diagnosed with Ebola, potentially putting thousands of people at risk in the capital of Sierra Leone, Freetown. Also last week, a diagnosed Liberian man died in Nigeria, in Africa's most populous city where the disease had not yet reached. All it takes is one event like these to continue the spread of this disease and potentially put millions of people at risk. One misdiagnosis of a traveler could result in an outbreak in mainland Europe or America.
Video Game Parallels
Does any of this ring any bells? Because I swear, I've seen this one before.
Many video games and films use disease as an antagonist. It's impossible to see, can affect almost anyone, can develop resistances to it's environment, and is thus exceptionally hard to take care of in any final sort of way. You can often push it back, but eradication? Yeah, good luck.
There is an entire genre of video games that can trace the conception of their narratives to the spread of communicable diseases that have occurred throughout history. And they are not reaching back several hundred years to grab these examples; as you can see from the story above, they are very real, and very current.
Viral outbreaks have served as a critical catalysts for a majority of zombie games, such as Dead Island and State of Decay, as well as almost the entirety of the Resident Evil series. Games outside genre of the living dead have seen disease play a prominent role as well though, with examples like Prototype and the fan favourite Syphon Filter.
And then there was reality.
Strong parallels can be drawn between how outbreaks are discussed and occur in the world, and how they have been perpetuated in video games. One BBC reporter referred to the Ebola outbreak as "emerg[ing] from the forest to infect African cities." While this statement is intrinsically true, the sentence can evoke thoughts of ancient diseases hidden in the forest waiting for man to stumble across. Which, in a very real sense, is Ebola. It stays hidden away in tropical forests until someone comes in contact with it, and then we end up with an outbreak.
Such linkages can be drawn with Resident Evil, when Alexia Ashford discovers the Ancient Virus while studying ants, which when combined with the Progenitor Virus (which is a mutagen of Ebola) creates what we know as the T-Virus. The symptoms that we sometimes see in the initial stages of infection with the T-Virus (and in other zombie-related viruses) such as intense vomiting, are similar to how real-world patients react when contracting Ebola, sans the rage.
Some viruses, such as the Chimerian Virus in Resistance: Fall of Man and Cordyceps in the Last of Us, are not as far of a leap from their real-world counterparts. Cordyceps, as many people know, are based off the fungal infection that attacks insects and arachnids and affect the behaviour of the host. Naughty Dog did not make a far leap in suggesting that at some point, this fungal infection could attack humans. But fear not friends, that day is not upon us yet.
A cordycep-infected tarantula
The Chimerian Virus in Resistance, and the similar Blacklight Virus in Prototype, are both mutations of the Chimera virus, which is defined as a "new hybrid microorganism created by joining nucleic acid fragments from two or more microorganisms." In other words, a body who contains cells from different zygotes. In the real-world, these tend to be microscopic combinations of protozoa, but the creators of the aforementioned games took it a step further, just like the Chimera of myth. To try and combat H1N1 (Avian Influenza), scientists created chimeric viruses to use as vaccine candidates, based on H5N1 studies.
A Chimera Virus
I could take the time to go piece by piece through games with infection-based antagonists and show where their viruses originated, but suffice it to say that the majority of them can be traced back to real-world viruses and outbreaks. This isn't to say that game designers aren't creative, but nature tends to develop the most creative ways to attack us on it's own. The next time you are playing a game that follows this theme, take a moment to think about the real-world situations that it was based off.
There are real fears that the current outbreak of Ebola will be able to reach Great Britain, because of the amount of travel that occurs between West Africa and the UK. This is not to say that people need to start freaking out and Doomsday prepping now, but just so that you understand the breadth of this issue. I'd urge you all to continue following this story as it develops.
EDIT: Link to a live map of the current Ebola outbreak (Credit: Zer0t0nin)
Stay Informed. Play Informed.