Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Pox and the City, The Game

It has been an exhilarating ride, and now Pox and the City is finally a Game! Kudos to Elizabeth Goins, Lisa Hermsen and their team at RIT for turning a vision into reality.

It begins, as so much in Edinburgh does, in the Grassmarket, with Edinburgh Castle towering over the city. Young Dr. Robertson makes his way to the city. He has heard about Edward Jenner's smallpox vaccine, and is determined to use it to establish his own career.
His first decision is whether to play the game as a Philanthropic doctor -- that is, someone who became a doctor primarily to help humanity -- or as an entrepreneurial one, primarily interested in building his career.
Of course, the two are not mutually exclusive! If he's philanthropic, but gives away all his money and time, he won't be able to afford to stay in practice. And if he only cares about earning money, he won't find many patients willing to trust him with their lives and those of their children.

Having made his choice, Dr. Robertson finds himself in his office. This is a text-adventure game, and the journal in the lower right keeps track of his quests. His first quest is to read an important letter from Edward Jenner himself! But in order to find it, he first must clean up his office. 

First challenge: how did people get rid of papers in 1802, before there were waste-paper baskets?

The player can look around the office to find additional information, like Jenner's 1798 text on vaccination:

He/she can also use the journal to find out more about Edinburgh locations important to the game. 

The Old Town is for the "lower orders": shopkeepers, artisans, and the laboring poor.

The New Town is for the people of rank and fortune.

But most people don't play the game to read: instead, they want to click on things and See What Happens Next.

Dr. Robertson can use the map to move around the city to meet patients and patrons.

He can build his practice with New Town families...

who will invite him to elegant dinner parties:

And with their counterparts in the Old Town...
who will be less formal, but equally hospitable.

He will have to make choices: when to invest in smallpox vaccine, and how to persuade a patient to let him use it. He will have to figure out how to treat a range of diseases using only early 19th century treatments.

And what to do when beset by a host of challenges: a smallpox outbreak in the New Town, obstructionist physicians who refuse him access to medical records, and a missing cadaver that could -- if not found quickly -- destroy all his hopes of saving the world from the scourge of smallpox.

Not to mention, how to win at Speculation:
For an early account of our playtesting, go to the History of Vaccines blog from our project partner, the College of Physicians of Philadelphia.


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