A Game, a Gadget and an App: Tom Standage sketches with a finger, makes his morning coffee, and tries to wipe out the human race…
From INTELLIGENT LIFE magazine, September/October 2012
GAME Plague, Inc
Tired of saving the world in video games? This one's for you. You are the plague, and your aim is to wipe out the human race by mutating to make yourself easier to spread, harder to kill and deadlier to your human hosts. The action takes place on a world map that changes colour as you infect more people. But make yourself too lethal and you'll kill your hosts before you've circled the globe. Those pesky humans will be trying to develop a cure, and will shut down sea and air routes to contain you. A news ticker provides darkly humorous updates as governments struggle to cope. The game was created as a hobby by a management consultant, James Vaughan, who made the underlying simulation as accurate as possible. The good news is that it was much too hard and had to be made easier, suggesting that a single pathogen is unlikely to destroy us. "Plague, Inc" aims for fun rather than accuracy, but manages to inform and forces you to think about global trade and inequalities in health care. Whether you see it as educational, cautionary or a critique of other video games, it is an entertaining game that has already been downloaded a million times, despite the lack of marketing. So, yes, "Plague, Inc" has gone viral.
Plague, Inc for iPhone and iPad, 69p
GADGET AeroPress Coffee-Maker
Confession time. We've had two happy years together, but lately I've been cheating on my Nespresso machine. My new squeeze is the AeroPress, a beautifully simple coffee-maker that looks more like a chemistry experiment than an item of kitchen equipment. Slot in a paper filter, sit it on top of a mug, add some ground coffee, pour on the not-quite-boiling water and then depress the plunger, gently squeezing out the coffee beneath a cushion of air. Finally, fire the grounds into the compost bin with a neat and satisfying pop. The Nespresso still can't be beat when it comes to cranking out half-a-dozen after-dinner espresso shots, but for my morning coffee ritual I now reach for my AeroPress. Things have got so serious, in fact, that I'm even taking it on holiday.
Aerobie AeroPress around £25 from creamsupplies.co.uk
APP Paper by FiftyThree
Of the many drawing apps on the iPad, Paper is surely the most elegant and attractive. Its minimalist, gesture-driven interface, explained in a quick tutorial video, means there's no on-screen clutter. The drawing tools react to the speed of your finger, resulting in beautiful lines from the ink pen and realistic pencil shading. You flip pages reminiscent of a virtual Moleskine notebook, and an ingenious "rewind" gesture lets you undo mistakes. Best of all are the gorgeous and realistic watercolour effects. The basic app is free, but you have to pay for additional tools such as the pencil and watercolour brush. You'll want the whole set.
Paper by FiftyThree for iPad: free, but £4.99 for the full set of drawing tools
Tom Standage is digital editor of The Economist and author of "An Edible History of Humanity"