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What World Of Warcraft Can Teach Us About Swine Flu

imageSwine flu mania has people searching for information on the outbreak with Twitter, on *Google* Maps — and now — even in World of Warcraft. Disease experts and researchers are turning to a 2007 study of a virtual plague that swept the massively multiplayer online (MMO) game, reports, in order to gain insights into how to increase the effectiveness of tactics like mass quarantines.

Rutgers University assistant professor Nina Fefferman co-authored the study, which appeared in the Lancet Infectious Diseases Journal; the research focused on how the viral outbreak affected World of Warcraft’s society and economy. Fefferman told that entities including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and health researchers from around the world have consulted her about the study because it sheds light on the one variable that most other research (including computer models) hasn’t been able to: human behavior.

For example, during the outbreak, World of Warcraft’s programmers imposed a quarantine, but many players ignored it — and ultimately two thirds of the game’s entire population (six million players at the time) wound up infected. Others tried to flee infected cities, while some players spontaneously developed immunity. “That’s exactly what we worry about in real-world epidemics,” Fefferman told “The little behaviours that we don’t tell people to do or not to do, because we have never seen this happen before.”

Photo Credit: juanpol

3 Responses to “What World Of Warcraft Can Teach Us About Swine Flu”

  1. I'm not sure this would actually be an accurate study of human behaviour during a real plague. I think given that it's "virtual" in nature, certainly not a real case of life and death, it's not strange that players would ignore the quarantine (maybe it made it all the more exciting that they could continue playing and see if they would be infected). Assuming most people will react the way players did in this study would be to draw the conclusion that humanity has lost its sense of direction and what it means to fight to survive.

  2. Hagan

    What does this possibly tell us?

    A) Health officials are idiots.
    B) That despite their positions and wage bracket, researchers will find any excuse to play WoW.
    C) That 4 Million people (those who broke rules and go infected) can be wrong?
    D) That any research on a problem, no mater how loosely based it may be, will be brought in to justify/prop up an argument.
    E) That even important officials will do anything, say anything, and ask anyone for irrelevant data just so they don't have to think for themselves.
    F) Common sense is dead.
    G) Weeping for future generations is pointless, we should be weeping for ours instead.
    H) That using the link between gamers and ill health choices to demonstrate word infection rates is just a little insulting.
    and finally…
    I) That games have usurped motion pictures as the entertainment medium for "Public Education of Global Disaster Situations". The writers strike of 2007 did indeed do something useful after all…. it got rid of bad writers in the industry , and allowed video games companies to do a proper job.

    I thank you for your time.