A new computer game called Big Pharma takes you into the exciting, lucrative and ethically perilous world of the pharmaceutical industry. You start with a small factory space, and over time you build it into a thriving empire in the disease-curing businesses, discovering for yourself along the way what kind of moral maneuvering is necessary to get there.
"To succeed, you'll need to master both engineering and your conscience," the game says in its trailer. After all, in the real pharmaceutical industry, the 10 largest companies control over a third of the market. It's a competitive world.
While you attempt to master the SimCity-style logistics puzzle of building your factory and curing new diseases, you also get to develop your own sense of the sinister side of the pharmaceutical business. Your competitors will begin to maneuver against you in the marketplace, and slowly you'll discover the temptation to develop less effective cures so that better drugs don't hurt your bottom line.
The game's creator, Tim Wicksteed, told STAT that players "start off trying to make the best cure possible and realize that's not going to make the most money. They start thinking in different ways."
There's even a mod for the game Wicksteed calls "Martin Shkreli's Mod," which jacks up the medications for AIDS, malaria and HIV by 5,500%.
Big Pharma is starting to get a bit of attention in the medical and academic community — it's been reviewed by a medical journal, and STAT reports that there are Harvard fellows interested in exploring the game as part of coursework. But the game could still use some mainstream love — it's not as if doctors don't know the realities of their own business.