I'm up late working, so figured I'd go ahead and post it.
Borrowing from the idea of the Pluspora Check-in get some tabletop conversation going. If you have any questions that you want to get on the list to be asked, let me know. Also, if you'd like to be added or taken off the list of participants, let me know.
There are a few games funding right now on crowdfunding platforms about the current crisis. This is not the only time that has happened. In all honesty, World War I and II, Vietnam, etc are the same sorts of products. Is it just good business, or tacky? Is there a difference between types of events that make it OK or not? Or maybe time? When is it OK to release games about events?
I think it depends on the event, the timing of the product, and the delicacy in which it is handled. There was an event that White Wolf used (before Paradox decided to just farm everything out) where the terrors that were currently happening were based on supernatural forces rather than the evil that exists in the hearts of certain men. That was definitely tasteless. To base events on certain other atrocities even if you didn't do that would still be tasteless. But wars themselves- after a time when the populace is not going through them is fair game IMO. During Desert Storm/Desert Eagle I worked in a game shop and GMT (and others) released war games about the ongoing conflict. I thought that a bit too soon.
I think it depends on how the game handles the theme. A game is always a point of view on something, and I think it's easy to see when an author is trying to profit from a tragedy, when they are trying to enrich the world with their game, or when they're just being tactless and/or naive. There are games about war that celebrate the violence, and those who criticize it and make you think. I recently played a video game that among other things talks about depression, and it does so in a very believable way. I have some friends who struggle with depression who found playing the game to be eye-opening on how their illness looks from the outside. But it's a very delicate theme and it can be handled poorly, and becoming offensive and hurtful. The choice of the event a game is based on and the timing of the game imo fall under the broader concept of delicacy, how you say.
There's one scenario for Advanced Squad Leader that many players refuse to play: Mila 18, which is between the SS and the Polish resistance. I think the latter are unarmed, even. The scenario is basically replaying an act of genocide. Playing the Wehrmacht is no problem. Playing the SS in combat is fine. But replaying SS atrocities is clearly not, in the eyes of many wargamers.
But pandemics? I believe there's a rise in the popularity of Plague Inc. My son is interested in it, and I'm fine with that. I've personally been thinking about how I could use a pandemic in the Shadowrun setting.
There's definitely a line, but there's plenty you can do before you get close to that line. But it's absolutely a matter of how you handle it. But I also think it's hard to impossible to clearly define where that line is. I think you can have very good and valuable games close to that line, but it's easy to cross it if you're careless. Make sure you do the subject matter justice, and look at it from different perspectives. But don't be too afraid to use it either.
I'd argue you need to have the whole arc of a real-world event in the rear-view before you begin working up games for it. I also think that the more death and societal harm, the harder it is to make a game of a thing without being disrespectful of those who died.
I feel like maybe there are too many 1st person shooter WW2 games, for example.
So yeah... gaming coronavirus seems tacky at best right now.
I think current events sometimes do require the critical eye of art to provide perspective, and that includes game design. I'm particularly reminded of the game War On Terror, released in the wake of 9/11 and the Iraq War: a Risk-like world conquest game where you can fund terrorists to fight your opponents, but if everybody does it, the terrorists win. Clearly a jab at how Al Qaeda was originally trained by the US to fight the USSR in Afghanistan.
Maybe the issue is: does the game have a relevant point to make about the issue it's about, or is it merely turning other people's misery into entertainment. Then again, to get back at my previous comment, Mila 18 probably is the only ASL scenario that has such a point to make, and yet that's the one that horrifies everybody.