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Gaming’s most memorable epidemics


Our final epidemic was actually noted by the international scientific community as an interesting and potentially useful simulation of disease models.  The disease was called Corrupted Blood, and it first appeared in a 2005 WoW update which introduced a new area, Zul'Gurub, and its boss Hakkar, who cast the contagious spell.

Initially, the spell was meant to be contained within Zul'Gurub, but players quickly found a way to release it into the greater world. NPCs caught the bug, and while they didn’t receive any damage, they were contagious and aided the rapid spread of the disease.


Above: A Corrupted Blood graveyard 

Surprisingly, players acted relatively in line with what you’d expect from a non-virtual human population. Some ran from population centers, others offered help, and others used the disease as a weapon, infecting other players intentionally. The curious ran toward the source of the infection, which has been noted as being similar to journalists converging on disasters. This, of course, only helped the infection take hold. Eventually Blizzard had to reset the servers, but the outbreak lasted long enough to provide some interesting insight.


Above: PLUGSH! PLUGSH! PLUGSH! That’s the sound of death

Multiple researches have suggested that similar (more intentional) in-game outbreaks could help us better understand how people react to epidemics. Epidemologist Nina H. Fefferman, Ph.D joked that she could use gamers as “her guinea pigs.”

In a sense, virtual worlds are already grand sociological experiments. We’ve already tested diseases, economies, society building, teamwork and gender roles. With a bit more care in isolating variables, MMO research could help us cut off the spread of infectious diseases, teach us new ways to structure our government, and give us other new and exciting insights on the human condition…that, or they could just be games about orcs and stuff.

May 6, 2009




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36 comments

  • breadlord - May 12, 2009 7:30 p.m.

    Oh man, i wonder what WoW would look like if that sever kept the disease going into WotLK, and infected the King himself. Some should try it :D
  • killemall - May 11, 2009 9:02 p.m.

    Don't eff with nerds... they'll DESTROY you!!! ReCaptcha: whens Rican
  • BurntToShreds - May 10, 2009 9:58 p.m.

    Ugh, typhoid was what killed me the most on the 'Trail. Maybe that 5000 pounds of animal meat I shot had to do with it....
  • CAPST3R - May 10, 2009 8:31 p.m.

    @MOOMAN; awww, don't kill the kittens. but kill the adult cats, i'm allergic to them. and kill the plants too, they give me hayfever. i will not be held responsible if he turns out to be a nutcase and actually does this. it is a joke. how the bloody hell are you supposed to write this recaptcha? it's 1/2 in 1 symbol! i'm changing it.
  • phoenix_wings - May 10, 2009 2:49 a.m.

    Ho hum. I'm watching a show on TB. Apparently, the number one killer of people who have HIV is TB. That's probably why HIV and AIDS haven't made it into video games. See, pixilated people dying of dysentery and invasions of giant penises, zombification and the like is kind of humourous (I suppose the Cursed Blood can be similar....) but AIDS/HIV is not. Plus, in looking at AIDS/HIV you generally have to look at the causes of it, which most video games really don't want to get into. Also, if people started transforming into gigantic floating penises, I'd consider myself significantly worried. But it's only Second Life, and that was hysterical.
  • noobeater - May 8, 2009 4:23 p.m.

    i never played wow, tho iv played some other mmorpg but that blood thing on there sounded really interesting, oh and funny coz noobs probably died, lots
  • Lucretiel - May 8, 2009 1:06 a.m.

    Not Left 4 Dead's Plague? Ah well. The WoW thing fascinates me to no end
  • Ded - May 7, 2009 6:07 p.m.

    Aw! You didn't mention the Zombie Plague intentionally released before WoW's latest expansion hit. Started off with a few infected bugs and crates, which spread to players. When the plague counted down to zero, you turned into a zombie, and could infect other players, friend or foe :D
  • StarbucksAssassin - May 7, 2009 11:01 a.m.

    Great memory with the Oregon Trail game. Who could forget dying of dysentery. Awesome!
  • Romination - May 7, 2009 3:13 a.m.

    a definite, glaring one that is missing! I'm sure Carolyn is going to start kicking your ass about it. The Pokerus from Pokemon! http://www.serebii.net/games/pokerus.shtml so there
  • big rudy - May 7, 2009 1:23 a.m.

    hey, *I* like luigi (referencing first dr. mario pic.)
  • Armyofnone - May 7, 2009 12:23 a.m.

    I think it's amazing how Goonswarm is being directly related to a virus. Awesome.
  • FlyinHawaiian13 - May 6, 2009 11:40 p.m.

    @fattestninjaever its more frightening now because virus names with mixed numbers and letters usually lead to the zombie apocalypse
  • Mavarious - May 6, 2009 11:26 p.m.

    I don't think there was an intentional pandemic put out with the 3.1.1 Ulduar patch, unless I missed it which I doubt because I've played for at least a half hour every other day.
  • GoldenMe - May 6, 2009 11:22 p.m.

    I live in Oregon. I don't get dysentary or snake bites. I'm fucking god.
  • Unoriginal - May 6, 2009 9:41 p.m.

    @Cyberninja That makes three of us. You, me and Good 'ol Luigi.
  • helix92 - May 6, 2009 9:39 p.m.

    lol. cool article, i'm pretty sure that there was a perposefull virus pandemic on WoW recently. To coincide with the newest expansion. Not 100% sure though, that game bores me
  • Corsair89 - May 6, 2009 9:25 p.m.

    I always died of dysentary in Oregon Trail.
  • Cyberninja - May 6, 2009 9:14 p.m.

    i like luigi so now im no one
  • Demonflare - May 6, 2009 8:33 p.m.

    Hahaha! The livin dead yo!

Showing 1-20 of 36 comments

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