Gaming’s most memorable epidemics

Let things get out of hand and the next screen will tell you that Angela is dead. Dead, dead, dead, and it’s all your damn fault. Because the trail doesn’t take any prisoners - it’ll f-you-up with snake bites and typhoid and dysentery and fires and all the shit you aren’t afraid of because you live in a cotton-candy coated suburb. Stupid-ass kids.

Oregon Trail made otherwise normal third-graders to talk about dysentery, typhoid, and measles. That’s why it’s in this list.

What happens when the infection doesn’t attack the players, it attacks the game itself? Second Life, like EVE Online and other MMOs (especially free MMOs), is particularly susceptible to griefers. In such an open environment, however, the griefing goes beyond the typical “HAHA ur ghey” nonsense that we put up with on Xbox Live.

One of the most memorable moments was the invasion of floating phalluses during CNET’s interview with Second Life mogul Ailin Graef. While funny, that wasn’t nearly the most damaging bit of grief the game has experienced.

Above: Oh no! Flying pink tubes!

“Grey goo” is a sci-fi term which refers to an apocalypse scenario in which self-replicating robots, left unchecked, consume the entire Earth, converting its matter into “grey goo.” In an open-ended virtual world like Second Life, it’s not too hard to imagine how this scenario could be tested with a sneaky bit of code.

Above: The infection spreads…

In 2006, a golden ring epidemic required the game’s servers to be shut down to contain and destroy the infection. The rings were awfully similar to those collected by Sonic, and they multiplied every time a player interacted with them. This attack, while one of the most talked-about, wasn’t the first time the world of Second Life was infected with a self-replicating disease. Apparently Second Life hasn’t been taking its vitamin C.

Associate Editor, Digital at PC Gamer