The accidental virtual pandemic that ‘World of Warcraft’ experienced in 2005 and that served as a study for epidemiologists

It may seem like a foreign world to many, but the truth is that Go Sims They are not the only video games that can show what the human behavior in real life. Massively multiplayer online role-playing games like World of Warcraft, with millions of players behind them, are the perfect example of this, since this title launched in 2004 even has had its own pandemic.

This virtual disease known as the Corrupt Blood incident started on September 13, 2005 and lasted until October 8. It all started with a new dungeon that had a final boss, Hakkar, who cast a very contagious spell called Corrupted Blood that drained the life of players.

The disease lasted for a limited time and was only supposed to have an effect inside the dungeon, but due to a programming error, some pets of the players yes they kept the virus and they took him out of the area.

This generated a virtual pandemic that spread throughout the game and that, although it did not have serious effects for the high-level characters who were supposed to be able to face that boss, they began to spread lower level players what they died in seconds.

Hakkar, the ‘World of Warcraft’ boss who started the pandemic.
BLIZZARD

Lot PNJ, o non-playable characters as salespeople or others who gave missions, they began to contract the virus and, Although it had no effect on them because they did not die, they infected it to the players.

At that time, World of Warcraft it had more than two million players globally and at least three of its servers were affected. In fact, many are those who highlighted the image of the game streets full of corpses of low level characters all over. Fortunately, death was not permanent in the title and everyone was resurrected afterwards.

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Voluntary quarantine

Curiously, players began to take this event as a real danger to their physical integrity and the response was varied, but perfectly extrapolated to what is happening today with the coronavirus. Some users with characters with healing abilities offered help; low level players escaped to uninfected areas; others began to ‘have funinfecting on purpose; and others directly they avoided playing until it was fixed the problem.

The latter was what the company requested Blizzard, a voluntary quarantine that he could not get ahead, well many people did not take it seriously. Therefore, the developer was forced to make arrangements for the pets so that they could not be infected by the Corrupted Blood, and thus prevent more players from continuing to remove the virus from the dungeon. And, after a forced restart of some of their servers, they managed to eliminate the pandemic.

A very realistic virtual life

During the time that this happened, the open and less populated areas began to be the safest places. The most important cities of World of Warcraft they were abandoned, urban centers always full of players that now only accumulated piles of bones, leaving a desolate panorama with completely white streets.

This incident became a historical event, the first time that a disease spread in a video game. Users didn’t know if it was an intentional global event or a bug, but Blizzard started getting complaints of all kinds.

The Corrupted Blood opened the door to endless theories about things that no one had ever imagined could happen, but today it seems much more real than it did then. And it is that, extrapolating it to the coronavirus, it has all the ingredients: imposed quarantine, risk groups (the lowest level players), asymptomatic (the NPCs), people who do not mind infecting others, users who help with their healing skills (health workers), criticism of the Government (Blizzard), etc.

Virtual pandemic of Corrupted Blood in 'World of Warcraft'.
Corpses during the Corrupted Blood incident in ‘World of Warcraft’.
BLIZZARD

So much so that in 2007, the epidemiologist Ran D. Balicer, from Ben-Gurion University of Negev (Israel), used this phenomenon in World of Warcraft in an academic work in which the importance of this incident to study propagation models infectious diseases.

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After this project, many others used it to analyze these types of pandemics and the behaviors of people in similar situations. This is the case of Nina Fefferman, professor at Tufts University (Massachusetts, United States) or Eric Lofgren, epidemiologist who fights against the coronavirus and who carried out an investigation on Corrupt Blood, who spoke with PC Gamer about the similarity of this virtual phenomenon to the current health emergency we are experiencing.

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