Big Pharma, out today on PC, Mac and Linux, is a fascinating look at the complicated and often dark world of drug development. Right now there's a counter on the game's official website (it counts profits made, comas caused, patents infringed and clinical trials buried) that starkly illustrates the factors that come into play when profit and competition is involved in the business of curing disease.
Last year I interviewed Tim Wicksteed of Big Pharma developer Twice Circled about how his quest to just make an engaging "tycoon"-genre simulation game quickly veered into the realm of moral nuance. He wanted the game to pose the question of "are the goals of running a profitable business ethically compatible with the goal of making people healthy?":
"Life-saving drugs are shunned in favor of ones which treat (but importantly do not cure) chronic illnesses; companies are incentivized to simply copy their competitors and tweak the formulas rather than create new cures; and treatments for rich Westerners are prioritized over those sorely needed by the poorest communities around the world."
"These last ones are some of my favorites because they sound horrific but strangely understandable," he continues. "If you think about these companies on a human scale, you can imagine the people working for them, under intense pressure from their boss to hit their targets, and when you put yourself in their shoes can you really, I mean really say you would do things differently? That's the question Big Pharma asks of its players."
You can buy Big Pharma for $19.95 from the team's digital storefront.