Can you survive An Unholy Return: The 31 Games of Halloween?
Guerilla Scrapbook
Why Games and the Swine Flu Don't Mix
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on May 01, 2009   |   Episode 48 (Show Archive)  

You see it on the TV, in the paper and on the internet. This so-called "Swine Flu" is just about everywhere these days. But where did it get its start? Should we be worried? What are you going to do if your son or daughter picks up Swine Flu?

I was first introduced to Swine Flu when I attended the Crave Entertainment display at E3 Media & Business Summit 2007. It was in a small room; snuggle right between a kiosk demoing Pinball Hall of Fame and Napoleon Dynamite. There it was, Swine Flu for the PlayStation 2. This sequel to the 2006 megahit, Bird Flu, was early in development, but I could tell that it had a lot of potential. It offered strategic planning, fast action and an online mode that had you and your friends hunting down all of the ingredients to combat this potential pandemic.

The plan was to unleash the Swine Flu in North America in early 2008, however, due to budget cuts, the game suffered a number of disappointing delays. When the game resurfaced at the 2008 Game Developer's Conference, Crave insisted that it had the bugs worked out and were ready to make some major announcements. They also announced a possible Xbox 360 version, which was said to offer full 24-player clan support, customizable characters and a whole new mode where you went back in time to find out where the deadly Swine Flu came from in the first place. No release date or pictures were made available for this Xbox 360 game.

Unfortunately tragedy struck again. Due to concerns over the use of the word "Swine," Israeli deputy health minister, Rabbi Yakov Litzman, suggested that Crave change the name to "Mexican Flu," so as not to offend anybody of the Jewish religion. Crave agreed, officially announcing The Mexican Flu for the Xbox 360. This updated version will feature a number of enhancements, including a brand new art style and the ability to use your own soundtrack. The Mexican Flu will retail for $59.99 and hit stores in Q3 of 2008.

At least that was the plan. What Crave wasn't expecting from the name change was even more outrage, this time from Latinos, the ACLU, politicians and other anti-racist protesters. For a full week these pro-Mexican demonstrators rallied outside of Crave's Newport Beach, California, offices demanding a stop to the outright insensitive title. For a week Crave held their guns, saying that they saw nothing wrong with the game's title, suggesting that this was a phony outrage made up by the politically correct looking for a new battle. The pointed to the election year, which was stirring up anger on both sides of the aisle.

A week after announcing The Mexican Flu, Crave Entertainment gave in and decided to cancel the game. This came amid threats from Bill Richardson, the influential governor of New Mexico. In a press release, Crave announced that they would be suspending development of The Mexican Flu indefinitely. They finished the response by stating that they hoped to resolve these issues shortly, ultimately paving the way for this long-anticipated action/strategy game.

No more than a month after canceling The Mexican Flu, Crave announced two new Swine Flu-related games. The first was a Wii game based on the code from the original PlayStation 2 game, Swine Flu. The game, renamed H1N1 2009, would feature full motion support and even some rudimentary online play. Disappointing fans looking forward to the Xbox 360 release, Crave confirmed that this Wii game would not feature any of the additional content developed for The Mexican Flu. Instead it would feature all new content and a less controversial storyline.

On top of the Wii version of H1N1 2009, Crave also confirmed the existence of a port for the Sony PSP. Not only will this game feature all of the content from the Wii game, but it will also allow gamers to play a Risk-style board game via both ad hoc and infrastructure WiFi. Better yet, H1N1 2009: Extended Season would allow you to literally infect other PSP consoles, regardless of whether they were playing the game or not. This feature is similar to what we saw in Majesco's 2005 action game, Infected. Unfortunately the PSP version of the game due out until early 2009, several months after the Wii release. This meant that by the time Sony fanboys got their hands on Crave's newest game, Nintendo fans around the world would already be on to their next fix (probably MadWorld).

For the first time in months it felt like there was a definite plan to get this Swine Flu game out on the market. Sure it won't have all of the controversial stuff and the Wii graphics were a little wonky, but at least we finally get the game, right? Sadly the neutered version of Swine Flu failed to live up to expectations on the Wii and was ultimately canceled for the PSP. To this day nobody seems to remember H1N1 2009, almost guaranteeing that Crave won't release H1N1 2010 later this year.

Thanks to terrible reviews and poor sales, many game analysts predicted that this would be the last we would see of the Swine Flu franchise. They were wrong. No more than a month after learning about the horrific sales of H1N1 2009, Crave announced that they would be showing off a newly renamed version of The Mexican Flu at the 2009 GDC. Game journalists everywhere predicted the name and wondered out loud if Crave would have the guts to keep all of the controversial content intact. Would they stand up for themselves and dare the ESRB to give them the dreaded AO rating? Would they throw caution to the wind and fight for what they think is right? Would they keep the Swine Flu name alive?

No! Instead of being courageous, Crave announced Bird Flu 2: Flies Again, the sequel to the less-than-exciting PlayStation game. In interviews Crave Entertainment claimed that this game would not be as controversial as their previous attempts, aiming for a respectable teen-rating. They then showed us the cover art, which looked an awful lot like a masked Barack Obama standing in front of the White House getting ready to kick some bird ass. My reaction, much like everybody else's, was pure astonishment. While the cover may ruffle a few feathers, the game promises to be an incredibly patriotic look at the United States kicking the ass of every infected bird from here to China. Crave claimed that there was nothing controversial about that, and we tend to agree. So expect Bird Flu 2: Flies Again to hit store shelves sometime this summer. It just goes to show, good things come to those who can outwait Swine Flu.


Did Critics Like Duck Tales in 1989?

From Night Trap to Corpse Killer!


Thimbleweed Park

Persona 5

Delicate Duplicates

comments powered by Disqus