I live in Brooklyn, so naturally everyone is freaking out about the arrival of an Ebola-infected patient here in the city. They shouldn’t; compared to the infection that is spreading in Sierre Leone, for example, New Yorkers, specifically, and Americans, generally, don’t have much to worry about.
But if you’re curious what disease spread might look like as an epidemiological game, then you’re in luck. Vax was released last year and sets players looking at a top-down view of contagion. Ells Campbell designed the game and actually is studying as a computational biology Ph.D student in the Salathé Group at Penn State University.
The Salathé Group’s specialty? Surprise, surprise, it’s social networks and epidemiology. Specifically, the group’s work looks at “how these diverse social networks are structured, how they evolve over time, and how their structure affects the processes occuring on these networks.” Vax is an excellent visual expression of what Campbell and his fellow students do on a day-to-day basis.
There’s no need to freak out about Ebola if you’re not in West Africa, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn something new about the crisis.