Since I was a small child, I’ve heard those grown-up adult types say playing video games all day will get you nowhere in life. That’s actually kind of true. If I had sat on my ass and did nothing but play video games through most of high school and university, I wouldn’t have the skills today that allows me to make video games for living. Wait, what was the reason for this post?
Ok, while video games in moderation is good, playing games can also lead to exploration of new ideas and concepts. For example, I have been playing a game called Far Cry 2 on the PC. The game takes place in Africa, where the setting ranges from swampland, marshes, grasslands, and even desert areas. The game is unique in that the player character, the dude you control is afflicted with malaria early on in the game. Traditionally, most players usually have to deal with more less exotic threats to them, namely bullets and/or zombie bites. I can’t remember the last time a high-profile game featured a decidely real-world disease. The symptoms of malaria affect the player every sixty to ninety minutes of game play, though it’s hard to tell what timetable the game is using.
Because of the inclusion of malaria in the game, I decided to read up on malaria to see I could predict what might happen to my character before the end of the game. Since I was in elementary school I always thought malaria was an affliction that you could only get in equatorial places that were hot and humid. After reading up on the disease, I discovered that wasn’t and isn’t always the case. For example, malaria was common in North America and Europe until mosquito eradication techniques in the early 20th century basically wiped out the disease in those areas. It is interesting to note that North America sees a handful of rare malaria cases each year.
Of interest as well is the history of the parasite that causes malaria. Scientists believe it may existed before even humanity did and has plagued us for nearly our entire history. The malaria causing parasite has affected humans so much, it’s believed it put enormous evolutionary pressure on our species. For example, the development of sickle-cell disease in certain people is thought to because of evolutionary response to malaria. Those with sickle-cell disease are far less likely to develop clinical malaria.
In 1976, the first continuous malaria culture was developed, allowing scientists to study malaria in a much easier manner. Unfortunately, still no vaccine exists at the moment. The bad news continues in that drug resistant strains of malaria are appearing all over the world.
I learned all of that just because of a video game.