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World of Warcraft and Disease Propagation

World of Warcraft, a popular multiplayer game, suffered from a glitch where a virtual plague spread quickly and decimated the server population. This started when Blizzard, the game developers, released a boss who would cast the spell “Corrupted Blood”, which would drain the life of the effected player over the span of a minute. In addition, this spell was communicable, so anyone who came close to an infected player would also receive the disease. However, instead of this disease ending after the boss fight was over, players teleported to large cities and give the disease to lower level players they passed by in the city.

This resulted in a large crisis that modeled what would happen in the real world. Safe zones were set up and guarded to prevent the spread of disease (but still infiltrated), terrorist attacks were conducted by contaminating low level areas, and many could not respawn because the disease killed them as soon as they spawned. Major towns and cities were abandoned and players quit the game until a patch fixed this glitch. Epidemiologists have studied this incident in depth to model how we might act if a plague breaks out in the real world. An interesting parallel is that new players would visit deliberately visit infected areas to see the infection, then quickly leave, much like how news reporters only stay long enough to get a story. Security experts study the terror attacks caused during these incidents, and note how safe zones can be erected such that there is a minimized risk of infection within the area. This incident thusly helps us model how diseases are spread throughout the population and how their harm can be mitigated.

 

http://www.securityfocus.com/news/11330

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/4272418.stm

 

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