A couple of sources (notably Wonderland and GamePolitics) have taken note that a forthcoming paper in The Lancet Infectious Diseases will be taking a look at the World of Warcraft 'Corrupted Blood' plague of 2005. Their purpose? To see how virtual models of epidemics can help real-world research - and they got the perfect case in the WoW plague. Eric Lofgren (Rutgers University) and Nina Fefferman (Tufts University), the two researchers who worked on the paper, say in their abstract:
Simulation models are of increasing importance within the field of applied epidemiology. However, very little can be done to validate such models or to tailor their use to incorporate important human behaviours. In a recent incident in the virtual world of online gaming, the accidental inclusion of a disease-like phenomenon provided an excellent example of the potential of such systems to alleviate these modelling constraints. We discuss this incident and how appropriate exploitation of these gaming systems could greatly advance the capabilities of applied simulation modelling in infectious disease research.
According to the article in the Times, "As the virus spread, very real challenges emerged, such as the failure of quarantine measures, further transmission by character's pets and the existence of "immune" characters, who act as carriers, passing the virus to others while failing to succumb to symptoms." With the never ending onslaught of negative press, it's nice to see games like WoW getting some pretty good positive press - and interesting, to boot. The paper will be in the September
How a computer game glitch could help to fight off global pandemic [The Times via Wonderland & GamePolitics]
The untapped potential of virtual game worlds to shed light on real world epidemics (abstract) [Lancet Infectious Diseases]