1: Two of Us

 

Nationality: Malaysian

Gender: Female and Male

Affiliation: World Health Organisation

Role: Researcher

 

2005. He and she. University classmates.

2006. Stolen glances. Rumours. Unsent texts.

2007. She learns the futility of love, and that he’s seeing someone. 

2008. He learns the futility of apologies, and that he never wants to be in a relationship ever again.

2009. Graduation. She leaves to study in the US. He stays to take care of his ailing father.

2015. She applies to the WHO.

2016. He applies to the WHO.

2020. An assignment. A familiar face. An uncertain hello. A silent commitment.

2021. Two of us. Not quite together. Never apart. We’ll go down fighting as the world ends.

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2: Unbeatable

 

Nationality: Singaporean

Gender: Male

Affiliation: Mediacorp

Role: Dispatcher

 

[Famous TV actor, name redacted] is looking for the greatest role of his life. He has always been looking for the greatest role of his life. He’s been a gambling champion, a gangster with a heart of gold, and a CID police officer. But time waits for no man. He is only getting older with every passing day. So while his body is still spry, he continues to search for the ultimate challenge as an actor. But then the pandemics hit, and the entertainment industry collapses. In the darkness, however, an opportunity presents itself. He sees an employment opportunity, a dispatcher to help organise medical personnel. Seizing his chance, he studies everything, works to become the best dispatcher that he can be. Method acting. That’s what it’s called. Then, when he’s ready, he signs on and leaves everything behind. He is going to be a dispatcher in this unprecedented crisis, the very best that he can be. It is going to be the greatest role of his life.

Sometime in 2019, I revive my ambitions to run a tabletop games group. We start with some straightforward social deception games, and then venture into more mechanically complicated games. The initiative seems to go reasonably well at the beginning, and I decide that we should start attempting campaign games, or legacy games, games that take place—and even transform—over multiple sessions. One of the games we settle on is Pandemic Legacy, the classic game by Matt Leacock given a new spin. I didn’t quite anticipate how it would hit too close to home in the coming months.

 

 

Classic Pandemic is a game about saving the world from four virulent diseases by taking on specialist roles such as Medic, Dispatcher, Researcher, Scientist, and so on. Players travel around the world and do their best to cooperatively eradicate the diseases. With a bit of bad luck or a couple of poor decisions, outbreak will occur all across the globe, and the intrepid band of medical adventurers is quickly overrun. With decent cooperation and sensible planning—and a kindly shuffled deck of cards to draw from—however, players can turn things around. 

 

 

 

Our Pandemic Legacy plan was difficult to put things together logistically. Any Pandemic Legacy experience would benefit from having the same consistent group, which had to be arranged. Furthermore, at the end of the year, people were travelling all around the world, and even as the convenor, I was busy with projects and Christmas celebrations. The initial plan for December was postponed. In January, plans were shelved again as rumblings of COVID-19 began to unnerve people in Singapore. Still, we held onto the plans and even discussed how to organise consistent sessions in the future. With each passing month, however, the possibility of gatherings dwindled, until they were snuffed out in April. 

 

Still, in anticipation, without knowing too much about the potential story content of the Pandemic Legacy campaign and the possibility that they would be useless, I created a set of characters designed to get group members invested in the game. They are cartoonish and absurd characters, meant to get players quickly invested in proceedings. In creating the characters, I was trying to support Pandemic Legacy’s main function as an engine for stories. I was trying to protect a sense of play.

4: Germ Crusade

 

Nationality: French

Gender: Male

Affiliation: University of Strasbourg

Role: Scientist

 

The first thing you ask is the year. It’s no longer 1855. They tell you that it is 2021, and you’re far too clever to think that this is all an elaborate prank. Television, computers, refrigerators, and cars. You look at the child sitting next to you on the metro. He is absorbed in some colourful, flashing thing on his smartphone. You’ll have to get one of those yourself just to experience it for yourself. He glances up at you and disapproves of either your beard or your costume—or both. Who would have thought that Louis Pasteur would find himself in this grotesque new age? You have more important things on your mind now, however.  You hear news that there are outbreaks, dangerous new diseases that threaten to overrun humanity. And if civilisation is ruined by pandemics, there will be no one left to remember your legacy. Have you accidentally discovered time travel? Or is this divine intervention? Some kind of purgatory? Is this punishment for backstabbing your colleagues for glory? You don’t know, but if this is hell, you will fight your way out of it. You will find your way back to 1855. You will find your way back to Strasbourg. You will find your way back to dear Marie.

One of the characters is a serial killer, borrowing from popular tropes of traditionally villainous archetypes becoming sympathetic and murdering “deserving” individuals. The character laments that the greater crisis has put a stop to her plans, because there is no more any meaning to her crimes if there’s no one left to kill or if society collapses. “Serial killing is the discerning individual’s method of rebellion, a disruption of a broken system.” (Of course, I do not in any way condone murder.) The setting of Pandemic is perfect for such armchair philosophy, because it only contains echoes of how societies collapse in the face of such terrible developments.

 

This crisis of ours has already claimed vast numbers of casualties across the world, but it is also a lens forcing us to examine our societies, or what we term civilisation. It has put our politics, our values, and our approach to ecology—how we live our lives—under its immense pressure.

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