August 31st, 2007

Both Kotaku and Wonderland have linked to this New York Times article about using the fall-out of World of Warcraft’s Corrupted Blood plague to predict how people might react in a real-life outbreak. On the one hand, I join my fellow bloggers in saying, “Duh.” On the other hand, I stand behind my earlier claim that game plagues would actually be more useful for understanding the spread of a disease than people’s reactions to it. I mean, this passage from the Times article says it all:

“As the virus spread, very real challenges emerged, such as the failure of quarantine measures, further transmission by character’s pets and the existence of ‘immune’ characters, who act as carriers, passing the virus to others while failing to succumb to symptoms.”

The fact that the game mimicked all those means of transmission, down to the frickin’ pets… Call me morbid, but that’s somehow awesome. Now if we set things up with conditions based off real-life data, we’d have a veritable modeling system for contamination. Or, we could use the system to go backwards. Disease dorks may know that there’s a debate at the moment over whether Black Death was actually bubonic plague. (It totally wasn’t, but that’s okay.) We could use a game to simulate certain conditions in medieval Europe, and then see if bubonic plague could actually have spread as rapidly and as far as it supposedly did.

To actually accomplish that, alas, would require some skills I seriously lack. But still, that would be something to write a New York Times article about…

P.S. Scott just pointed out to me that I had an extra word up in my first paragraph. I have to admit, pathetic as it is for a writer, I’m bad at both spelling and editing my own work. I blame the dyslexia (which is another word it just took me three tries to spell correctly). My point being, if you, helpful reader, ever see an error like that in a post, feel free to speak up. I’d rather know and have it fixed than parade around with typos on my blogging forehead. Did that make sense to anyone else?

Tags: disease, mainstream media

6 Responses to “Game Plague and Real-Life Disease”

  1. darkpen Says:

    huh… having never played WoW, this is the first I’ve ever heard of this plague phenomena/game design quirk. Too bad Blizzard didn’t turn it into an event and make some sort of cure quest XD

  2. Bonnie Ruberg Says:

    It’s pretty interesting stuff, actually. It happened about two years ago (September, 2005). There’s more general info here.

  3. Phalligator Says:

    This makes me think of Sociolotron. I wonder how closely the dynamics of STD spread in the that game mirror reality. I’m guessing they didn’t have any epidemiologist consultants…but maybe they did.

  4. Bonnie Ruberg Says:

    I’m just remembering back to a comment dialogue with Cybersexy on the topic of STD’s in Sociolotron. I feel like the mechanics are skewed for the recreation of actual STD spread, but it’s a great idea in theory… Contaminate a few users in a sexually active online social environment (what online social environment isn’t sexually active) and see how things turn out. Could be really useful, and really interesting.

  5. Cybersexy Says:

    It’s always nice to be remembered. ;)

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