World of Warcraft “Corrupted Blood” Incident Accurately Predicted Our Pandemic Behavior


World of Warcraft “Corrupted Blood” Incident Accurately Predicted Our Pandemic Behavior

Dhruv Bhatnagar
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At first glance, you wouldn't think World of Warcraft has much to teach us about real life.
However, thanks to a coding error, the game offered us insight into human behavior during a pandemic.

Humans are the ultimate wild card when it comes to a global pandemic. That makes it incredibly hard to create mathematical models accurately to predict how the progress of the disease will play out. We've seen how Coronavirus has played over in the last three years, with people panicking and hoarding food, hand sanitizer, and even toilet paper. While others clung to denial and defied the calls for "social distancing”. 

However, World of Warcraft was a game truly ahead of its time. The game's players experienced the effects of a pandemic more than a decade ago. World of Warcraft’s  "Corrupted Blood Incident" gives an oversight of people's behavior during a pandemic. 

The Corrupted Blood Plague in World of Warcraft

In Blizzard's World of Warcraft online game, the disease that was introduced and spread throughout the game in 2005 was called "Corrupted Blood." This introduced disease was originally intended to be confined to a particular area of the game world as a "debuff" spell to be used by Hakkar the Soulflayer to pose an extreme challenge to players. 

However, the developers were caught off guard when the features of this virtual world, the nature of the introduced disease, and the unexpected behavior of the parents led to the spread of this infection to the wider game. Players were unknowingly transmitting infection to their animal companions and infecting other players.  

World of Warcraft “Corrupted Blood” Incident Accurately Predicted Our Pandemic Behavior

Developers at Blizzard didn't expect that the panicked players would travel to huge distances to heavily populated areas and spread the infection there. Players started displaying altruistic behaviors, rushing to help their allies and becoming infected in the end. The disease was spreading widely and quickly.

Some individuals were intentionally spreading the disease for no obvious reason. The game saw a full-scale pandemic with high rates of infection and disease. Conspiracy theories formed about how developers engineered the virus on purpose and placed the blame on individuals with pets as the cause of the epidemic. This mirrors all the rhetoric surrounding COVID-19 today. 

Given the extent to which gamers inhabited their virtual personas, the phenomena provided a basis for researchers to speculate the game's pandemic might be a way to gain insights into human behaviors during a pandemic.

According to researchers, all the data derived from observing players' behavior in World of Warcraft in response to an introduced virtual disease threat could be used for real-world disease models. They suggested the data could be used to understand the unpredictability of human behavior during a pandemic like COVID-19. 

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