Critical Play: Pandemic


I played Pandemic on the website since I didn’t have a physical copy of the game or anybody to play with. The online setting made it difficult to play the game as it was intended­–it’s difficult to cooperate when the only means of communication is a slow chat feature that nobody uses. I also have a general critique of online games when there is no tutorial for how to engage with the features on the page. It always inevitably leads to random clicking, which is also counterproductive to gameplay. In this case, that’s an issue with the website and the remastering of the game to work online than a critique of the game itself. Overall, I found the game to be quite fun and engaging even online and I could imagine how in-person it would be a great way to pass time without causing the arguments that can come from competitive gameplay.

The concept of cooperative gameplay is foreign to me. Growing up, I mostly played either competitive card games or board games and I grew to really enjoy the challenge against others. But Pandemic surprised me, almost didn’t miss the competitive aspect of the game as it was replaced with two layers of gameplay. The first, and most important, was collaborating with the other players. In this game, the collaboration is enforced by having each player have a distinct character with different strengths and weaknesses. Moreover, each turn is basically a continuation of your own, so the different players can always provide input to come up with the best strategy even if it is not their turn.  The game certainly becomes a player vs the game mentality rather than player vs. player mentality. There is also some room for discourse within players I can imagine–the second layer of gameplay competition. It was hard to truly experience that over the website, but I imagine in real life there would be some disagreement about the optimal next step. There may also be despites whether people would be willing to give up their decision-making ability during their turn for the greater good. I can imagine that the room for these different sorts of disagreements and collaboration can lead to a very dynamic game.

While I think the cooperation does make the game less fun than direct competition, it is still very engaging. I think that’s because the game always keeps you on your toes about whether you made the right move with the constant incoming issues and the need to deliberate amongst players. For this particular game topic, it also makes more sense that it’s a collaborative approach that lends itself to the credibility of the game. Because there is no inter-player competition the game also feels like your turn never ends as you should also collaborate on a strategy for the other players’ turns. As such, you don’t really get to relax between your turn and the other players as you can more traditionally.

Overall, I thought it was great. It was a nice step away from traditional competitive games and a great example of thinking outside of the box.



I also loved the talk by Matt Leacock, I found that he had a really engaging and concise speaker style. I thought the idea of a Pandemic Legacy game, or a game that changes with time, is really interesting and a great way to engage a group of players. To me, it becomes more of a long-term game than a “let’s pick up this game and see what happens.” I relate the concept of a Legacy game with Candy Crush or an addictive iPhone app game that keeps you returning to see what has changed and what the next level is. I think it adopts the mindset of how you can bring the players back by giving them something new each time. It’s different from most board games in that typically you play the same game over and over, the only variation coming from different players exercising their free will. I think it sounds interesting to have a board game that evolves as you own it and it’s something that I’d love to try in real life one day. The only possible issue that comes to mind is if the players cheat and open cards or envelopes before the appropriate time. I wonder what measures are in place to make sure that doesn’t interfere with the actual game.


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