May 21, 2008

The Real Life Lessons Of WoW's Corrupted Blood One of the game's bosses infected players in his immediate vicinity with a disease called "Corrupted Blood," intended merely as a short-term, short-range annoyance - but afflicted players were able to teleport back to large population centers, effectively starting a quick-spreading epidemic, leaving central hubs littered with bones and covered in blood as players dropped dead left and right. Normal gameplay was massively disrupted. Players panicked, both in the game and on message boards, wondering whether the outbreak was intentional or an accident. It mirrored real-world epidemics in numerous ways: it originated in a remote, uninhabited region and was carried by travelers to urban centers; hosts were both human and animal, such as with avian flu; it was spread by close spatial contact; and there were asymptomatic individuals - in this case, invulnerable NPCs.

Though it may seem a particularly video game-like behavior, griefing is something with unfortunate real-world parallels. There was the infamous "AIDS patient zero," who slept with as many people as possible and single-handedly pushed the AIDS epidemic up by some ten years, as well as "Typhoid" Mary Mallon, who infected 47 people with typhoid fever over the course of her career as a cook despite continued warnings and forced quarantines.

  • I don't see Blizzard ever letting this happen again for the sake of a study, which is too bad. But it's a commercial enterprise. Fefferman should fine some free MMO to try it out on.
  • Second Life might entertain the concept.
  • Second Life is a disease.
  • I know cause I played it once and it weirded me out.
  • Fascinating. I know students who've done sociology papers on their MMORPG experiences, but I never considered this angle.
  • All your base are belong to pus
  • Never heard of that before. Quite fascinating, especially the parallels to real-life. One day, modern avatars are going to "laugh" at such pre-historic nonsense.