We have snacks. Soap and toilet roll? Not so much.

Yes, we are told in order to preserve humanity we must stay at home. Gamers and introverts are ecstatic – introverted gamers are practically soiling themselves.

Those who have dreamed of gaming 24/7 have finally had their prayers answered. With new provisions in place to support the economy, many are being paid to game in their pyjamas. That said, it doesn’t mean that gaming can’t be a useful tool to aid you in your survival against the ensuing madness. Here I suggest the three best games to train for the apocalypse:

Pre-apocalypse: Plague Inc.

To better understand COVID-19, we must become COVID-19, and there is no better way than the hugely popular mobile game Plague Inc.

In the game you choose to play as a pathogen of your choice: bacterial, fungal or viral. At this point, even money is on everyone choosing the latter and naming it COVID-19, because, well, shits and giggles (disclaimer: the phrase “shits and giggles” is a commonly used idiom and doesn’t mean you will actually defecate whilst you chuckle, nor is spontaneous soiling a symptom of the Coronavirus – so stop fucking hoarding toilet rolls!).

If there is an all omnipotent being, they seem to have mastered playing the game on hard mode with humanity:

  • Hard to detect virus with long asymptomatic incubation period.
  • Fairly easily spread.
  • Potentially severe illness with reasonable mortality rate.
  • Global spread including hard to reach countries.

I could swear that when the first confirmed case of the virus hitting Greenland was reported, there was an ethereal giggle from the heavens and a collective sigh, albeit with a chuckle as players in the know rushed to make memes. Playing the game is a sure-fire way to better understand how contagions work, even for those whose biology is a little rusty.

And a little knowledge goes a long way. A few playthroughs and you might stop thinking that viruses hate the sun, or that eating garlic or drinking bleaching agents help, or that drinking ice is bad, or that it was created by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, or that Corona beer is in anyway linked to the virus!

The list of stupidity is long, and even in typing these examples, I begin to lose the will to live, hoping the virus will grip me and cease the pain!

Mid-apocalypse: DOOM Eternal

If TV and movies have taught us anything – and they have taught us so much – it is that the apocalypse will inevitably feature huge hordes of things trying to eat you.

Admittedly this is usually zombies, but that’s irrelevant when it comes to training. DOOM Eternal, as with all of the Doom franchise will teach you how to kill shit with a variety of exciting weapons. It is the perfect game to desensitise you against the barrage of horrors that you may face in real world situations, for having faced Whiplash, Doom Hunter and Arachnotron demons, that rabid fuck-womble lurching towards you with arms full of hand-sanitiser will seem comparatively benign.

The downside of the game though is its likelihood of unrealistically inflating your expectations of the weapons available, should the worst happen. Let’s be honest, most of us will, at best, be duel wielding kitchen knifes should the hordes amass. Some lucky souls might be able to find a shotgun not too dissimilar to those in the game, but I’m not expecting to see anyone wandering the streets with a rocket launcher or plasma rifle, let alone a BFG 9000!

Now, I hear the miserable naysayers arguing that this is in no way a viable training regimen. That the only reflexes it is helping with is eye-hand, finger, thumb and the wrist – the one part of me that I have been training regularly for 30 years – Doubt me and I will fart in your general direction whilst calling your mother a hamster! The game offers so much more in strategy, positioning, weapon choice, item management and general horde avoidance.

Personally, I’m relieved real life is (for the time being) different. If only I had a chainsaw to hand last week in Asda though…

Post-apocalypse: The Division 1 and 2

If the virus does cull humanity, with the hordes finishing off the majority, once the dust has settled you will not find a more realistic simulation than The Division 1 and its sequel The Division 2.

Set in New York in winter and Washington DC in summer respectively, observing the familiar landscapes being reclaimed by nature is hauntingly beautiful. Wander around famous landmarks and streets as you’ve never seen them, deserted and desolate, littered and looted.

Gone is the majority of humanity, leaving desperate groups creating strange and deadly cliques. As a Division agent, an elite military operative, you spend most of your time undergoing missions facing of against a varied range of enemies whilst trying to help the more sane and decent members of society rebuild. Like Walking Dead – without the zombies – the danger lies in everyone else trying to survive.

Fittingly, the storyline to the series involves a deadly virus, spread through the handling of money. Such a premise is terrifyingly poignant at present as in real life the few shops you can leave quarantine to visit have mostly stopped taking cash, preferring the use of contactless instead.

A few hours in it isn’t the combat that sticks with you, though well handled it is, up there with many other third person shooters – but rather the vast emptiness. Though fast travel points can be unlocked, it is often fun to just run through the streets, no car, bike or any other vehicle, just you and the void.

The second game, which is set in the summer as I mentioned, particularly highlights the beauty of nature reclaiming the landscape. With such beauty represented in these games eerily reflected by wildlife flourishing in the real world right now, it makes you question what the worst virus sweeping this planet really is…

A glimmer of hope

At this time of writing Ndemic Creations, the company behind Plague Inc, have pledged to donate $250k to help find a Coronavirus vaccine. To be split between various organisations, including the World Health Organisation, Plague Inc creator James Vaughan stated: “Eight years ago, I never imagined the real world would come to resemble a game of Plague Inc. or that so many players would be using Plague Inc. to help them get through an actual pandemic. We are proud to be able to help support the vital work of the WHO and CEPI as they work towards finding a vaccine for COVID-19.”

Furthermore, they will be rolling out a playable variant where humanity works to stop the virus, with players “managing disease progression and boosting healthcare systems as well as controlling real-world actions such as triaging, quarantining, social distancing and closing of public services.”

With efforts like these we might just fend off the apocalypse after all. Just maybe. Good luck.