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A new video game lets players experience what drug companies do to turn a tidy profit.

"To succeed, you'll need to master both the engineering ... and your conscience."

What's it take to run a gazillion-dollar drug company?

Chances are, you don't know the answer to that. And it's OK because most of us don't work in C-suites. But it doesn't mean we can't offer something relevant and helpful like, for instance, basic humanity. (Don't laugh just yet.)


All images via Twice Circled.

The video game "Big Pharma" invites players to get cozy in the CEO's chair and call all the shots.

But winning the game isn't as straightforward as most games you've played.

The object of the game is to get a drug factory up and running.

You have a very clear goal: make and sell drugs. And you have a budget for buying equipment and supplies and hiring people to make those drugs. Simple, right? Well, it gets hairier.

Along the way, you're also challenged with tough ethical choices.

Like any real-life pharmaceutical company, your foremost priority is to generate a profit. As a business simulation, the game factors in market competition and even fluctuating demand, which will affect how your drugs are priced.

And as in reality, the more sophisticated your equipment, purer your ingredients, and labor-intensive your process, the more expensive are your drugs. Therein lies your first dilemma:

To cut corners or not to cut corners?

Each ingredient in your product has both desired effects (e.g., pain relief) and undesired side effects (e.g., nausea). The best possible version of a painkiller, for example, is one that does nothing more than relieve pain.

But creating the ideal painkiller requires fancier equipment, more personnel, and rarer ingredients that can end up significantly driving up your costs. So do you settle for selling a drug that relieves pain but makes patients want to barf? Your call.

The game also shows you geographically where various diseases exist and where you stand to make the most money, which raises an even larger ethical question:

Do you follow the money or do you follow the greatest need?

In an interview with Motherboard, the game's creator, Tim Wicksteed, gives an example of the sort of choice players might face:

“A cure for hair loss is a relatively small market but is highly valuable to the rich Westerners who demand it. Whereas an antimalarial drug is in very high demand but can't sustain such a high price, because most of the demand is coming from people living in poorer countries."

The key is in finding balance. But is balance truly possible?

There is a fundamental tension between the financial interests of a giant drug company and the human interests of disease sufferers. Wicksteed notes as much to Motherboard:

“People are incentivised to make decisions for the good of the company or themselves to the detriment of patients. This is very human. ... The problem with this in the pharmaceutical industry is that it can lead to human suffering, or worse, death.

It's because of this that I try to avoid overtly demonising the industry in the game, and prefer to simply place the player in a position of power and ask 'what would you do?'"

That's what sets "Big Pharma" apart from other games trying to deliver a real-world statement. We often come at complex topics like this in simplistic ways: good vs. bad, right vs. wrong. But reality isn't always so simple.

The game illustrates that companies (all institutions, really) need smart, savvy, and ethical people calling the shots when the consequences are this far-reaching. If I were a drug kingpin CEO of a pharmaceutical conglomerate, I like to think I'd do the job with honor and empathy. But like Wicksteed, it's not my job. So I'll take his cue and pass on the gazillion-dollar question:

If you were faced with a decision to honor your humanity or turn a profit, what would you do?

Check out the "Big Pharma" beta release trailer:

All images provided by Bombas

We can all be part of the giving movement

True

We all know that small acts of kindness can turn into something big, but does that apply to something as small as a pair of socks?

Yes, it turns out. More than you might think.

A fresh pair of socks is a simple comfort easily taken for granted for most, but for individuals experiencing homelessness—they are a rare commodity. Currently, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. are experiencing homelessness on any given night. Being unstably housed—whether that’s couch surfing, living on the streets, or somewhere in between—often means rarely taking your shoes off, walking for most if not all of the day, and having little access to laundry facilities. And since shelters are not able to provide pre-worn socks due to hygienic reasons, that very basic need is still not met, even if some help is provided. That’s why socks are the #1 most requested clothing item in shelters.

homelessness, bombasSocks are a simple comfort not everyone has access to

When the founders of Bombas, Dave Heath and Randy Goldberg, discovered this problem, they decided to be part of the solution. Using a One Purchased = One Donated business model, Bombas helps provide not only durable, high-quality socks, but also t-shirts and underwear (the top three most requested clothing items in shelters) to those in need nationwide. These meticulously designed donation products include added features intended to offer comfort, quality, and dignity to those experiencing homelessness.

Over the years, Bombas' mission has grown into an enormous movement, with more than 75 million items donated to date and a focus on providing support and visibility to the organizations and people that empower these donations. These are the incredible individuals who are doing the hard work to support those experiencing —or at risk of—homelessness in their communities every day.

Folks like Shirley Raines, creator of Beauty 2 The Streetz. Every Saturday, Raines and her team help those experiencing homelessness on Skid Row in Los Angeles “feel human” with free makeovers, haircuts, food, gift bags and (thanks to Bombas) fresh socks. 500 pairs, every week.

beauty 2 the streetz, skid row laRaines is out there helping people feel their beautiful best

Or Director of Step Forward David Pinson in Cincinnati, Ohio, who offers Bombas donations to those trying to recover from addiction. Launched in 2009, the Step Forward program encourages participation in community walking/running events in order to build confidence and discipline—two major keys to successful rehabilitation. For each marathon, runners are outfitted with special shirts, shoes—and yes, socks—to help make their goals more achievable.

step forward, helping homelessness, homeless non profitsRunning helps instill a sense of confidence and discipline—two key components of successful recovery

Help even reaches the Front Street Clinic of Juneau, Alaska, where Casey Ploof, APRN, and David Norris, RN give out free healthcare to those experiencing homelessness. Because it rains nearly 200 days a year there, it can be very common for people to get trench foot—a very serious condition that, when left untreated, can require amputation. Casey and Dave can help treat trench foot, but without fresh, clean socks, the condition returns. Luckily, their supply is abundant thanks to Bombas. As Casey shared, “people will walk across town and then walk from the valley just to come here to get more socks.”

step forward clinic, step forward alaska, homelessness alaskaWelcome to wild, beautiful and wet Alaska!

The Bombas Impact Report provides details on Bombas’s mission and is full of similar inspiring stories that show how the biggest acts of kindness can come from even the smallest packages. Since its inception in 2013, the company has built a network of over 3,500 Giving Partners in all 50 states, including shelters, nonprofits and community organizations dedicated to supporting our neighbors who are experiencing- or at risk- of homelessness.

Their success has proven that, yes, a simple pair of socks can be a helping hand, an important conversation starter and a link to humanity.

You can also be a part of the solution. Learn more and find the complete Bombas Impact Report by clicking here.

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