Plague Inc: Evolved is a game about killing off the human race with a disease. Billions of human beings are boiled down to numbers of healthy, infected, and dead, allowing players to neatly sidestep the potential well of moral turmoil that such subject matter invites (especially in these times), and instead focus on evolving their plague.
It's a fairly challenging little strategy game that can be played out in the span of perhaps 10 minutes. And, strangely, it's just about the only strategy game I routinely play where I haven't the slightest desire to get any better at it.
There's a surprising amount of complexity in the systems of Plague Inc. In most cases, evolving your disease is a delicate balancing act. You'll generally want to maximise your creation's infectiousness first, before suddenly cranking up the lethality once you've passed the point of no return. This change has to come at just the right moment, though. Too early and you risk wiping out all your hosts, preventing further transmission. Too late, and the humans will likely develop a cure before you have time to reach your goal of total genocide.
Another thing to think about is that there are various different manners of spreading each disease. Countries that border one another are obviously vulnerable to transmission of the disease, but other countries are islands that can only be reached via plane or ship. And if a country gets too jumpy about the potential severity of your plague, then they'll close off their ports, stopping you from infecting them.
Incidentally: fuck you, Greenland, with your one port that you close the instant anyone so much as sneezes in Australia.
But anyway, there's a startling depth to Plague Inc, and to this day I don't understand why I've never felt any desire to look up different tips or strategies to see how I can do things better. Generally, I win about half the time, and lose the other half. And I've no idea what I do differently each time which results in a win or a loss. I'm sure reasons do exist, but I have no interest in finding them. I think it might just be that I play Plague Inc. Evolved not as a strategy game, but as an experience. I adore the sinister, dreadful atmosphere of the game, from the darkly organic soundtrack to the ominous spread of red across the planet. It's quite calming, in what is probably a very twisted way.
Of course, the moment I stop and thinking about what I'm doing, it's pretty bleak and horrible, and the effect is of course compounded by the current real-life pandemic. Fortunately, the game is almost always enjoyable and engaging enough to distract me from its subject matter. And let's not forget that at its heart it's also a pretty powerful educational tool that sheds new light on the topic of disease and infection with its unique perspective. There's a reason why Plague Inc saw such an enormous surge in popularity early last year.