Using online games to map pandemics

Virtual plague offers a valuable tool for researchers

A virtual plague that decimated the denizens of an online gaming community four years ago is giving researchers invaluable insight into how a real-world population could react when confronted with the threat of global pandemic. According to the Ottawa Citizen, World of Warcraft “found itself at the centre of the world epidemiological community in 2007” after game creator Blizzard deliberately released a a programmer-generated virus into the wild. Although originally designed to target only the most powerful player characters, the virus soon raced out of control, infecting “any nearby character, regardless of its relative strength.” Blizzard attempted to impose mass quarantine, but was roundly ignored, the Citizen reports. “Eventually, more than four million of the game’s six million players worldwide were infected, and millions “died.” 

Ottawa Citizen

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