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Board Game Helps Fight Real World Ebola


As doctors and scientists continue to try and contain the Ebola epidemic in West Africa and find a cure, a global community of board gamers is also helping to fight this disease. The goal is to raise money to help stop the spread of Ebola.

It's a doctor’s nightmare: four disease outbreaks are exploding across the globe and spreading. Medical personnel are racing to control the epidemics and find a cure.

Fortunately, this scenario is just a board game called Pandemic. Players at GameHäus Café in the Los Angeles area are playing this game to help in the fight against Ebola.

“Despite the fact that we are enjoying ourselves and having fun playing board games, it has a connection to real world events and it is possible to make a difference doing something that you love," said Terry Chiu, one of the cafe's owners.

Pandemic game designer Matt Leacock is trying to raise $100,000 to help the international humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders fight against Ebola. One way to do this is to have “Pandemic Parties” where people get together, play the game and make a donation.

These parties are happening around the world, says Leacock in a Skype interview.

“Indonesia, Philippines, a number of them happening in Japan, South Africa, Finland. They’re just all over the place," said Leacock.

Leacock and other gamers such as Sharon Laubach have been looking for a way to help fight Ebola.

“I’ve been hearing, of course, over the summer about the devastation that Ebola has been wreaking in Africa and I think it’s really important that the board gaming community, which I know is a very generous community, to band together for this important issue," said Laubach.

These players like Pandemic because it is a cooperative game, where players take on roles, such as scientists, medics and dispatchers and work together.

Actor and gamer Rich Sommer says it is a hard game to beat.

“It’s meant to sort of remind you of the fact that people who are out there waging these real wars against disease are fighting an uphill battle. I mean it is a game and it’s abstracted, but it does, certainly gives you pause," said Sommer.

Player John Houser says this game gives him a deeper appreciation for the complexities of fighting an epidemic.

“If you play the game, you get an idea of how much… it’s more than just medical…everybody is involved," said Houser.

The four diseases in the game have no names. Game designer Leacock says in the real world, outbreaks of different diseases seem to appear every few years.

“Unfortunately it’s sort of an evergreen topic. I didn’t name the diseases in the game because you know this is something that we’re going to be fighting for some time now as a human population," he said.

The event at GameHäus Café raised more than $1,000 for Doctors Without Borders.

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