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A board game called 'Pandemic' is big right now...because of course it is

Creator Matt Leacock grew up in Long Lake, Minnesota.

MINNEAPOLIS — Starting tonight we'll all be doing our part to social distance and to stay home per Governor Tim Walz' orders. Minnesota has been great at following directions so far and deserves a gold star. However, that doesn't mean that staying home is easy.

One good thing is that we have so many ways to entertain ourselves, including board games. Right now, there's a popular one, called 'Pandemic.'

Turns out, the creator of 'Pandemic' is a Minnesotan.

"I set out to design a cooperative game and at the time, SARS was really big in the news," 'Pandemic' creator Matt Leacock said. "And it seemed like it would be a really good opponent for the players to face."

Leacock, who grew up in Long Lake said he wanted a game that didn't pit the players against each other.

"I had played a lot of games with my family and my wife, and we played some negotiation games together," Leacock said. "They didn't go very well. A lot of the feelings from those games got kind of intense."

So Leacock said he set out to find a common enemy. With the SARS epidemic going around, that common enemy wasn't too hard to find in the early 2000's when Leacock was working on the game.

"Viruses are scary and nobody wants to root for the virus right," Leacock said. "That's where it kind of came together. The combination of those two ideas." 

The premise of the game is to defeat the pandemic. Two to four players work together by taking on a role that has unique skill sets. You can pick to be the dispatcher, the researcher, the operations expert, the scientist or the medic to stop the spread of four (!) deadly diseases. 

Using strategy, players need to halt local epidemics before it turns into a pandemic. This means players need to buy time so they can find the cure to all four diseases, saving humanity once and for all.

"The game comes with three different levels, so you can start in the intro level," Leacock said. "It's meant to be pretty challenging You want to be able to put the game on the table and play it. If you win the first time, then it's like well-- we've done that-- let's move onto the next thing."

Leacock says he's not surprised Pandemic is resonating with some folks.

"People break down into one of two camps," Leacock observed. "Either they don't want anything to do with the game because they get tons of that in the news right now, and if they're going to play a game, they're going to want to play something lighter. But there are other folks who turn to it because it may be a way for them to kind of cope with whats going on. I mean, you can kind of confront the disease...I think games are like a natural way of processing what's going on in the world."

Although Leacock says he didn't design the game to be an exact reflection of any specific of pandemic, he says one thing's clear. Now is the time we need to play our cards right in this game, together.

"If people take anything from the game, i think it should be that we all have to work together in order to come to grips with this, and defeat it," Leacock said. "It doesn't do a lot of good to be competitive here or to blame people or talk about where this came from. It's really about all of us coming together to defeat it."

'Pandemic' was originally released in 2008...and has since released some expansion packs.

Leacock says he has no plans on releasing another version related to the coronavirus.

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The state of Minnesota has set up a hotline for general questions about coronavirus at 651-201-3920 or 1-800-657-3903, available 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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