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On Sept 13, 2005, an estimated 4 million players of the popular online role-playing game World of Warcraft - Blizzard Entertainment, Irvine, CA, USA (currently 10 million players – this would be the largest peer-to-peer network in the world) encountered an unexpected challenge in the game, introduced in a software update released that day: a full-blown epidemic.
Players exploring a newly accessible area within the game encountered an extremely virulent, highly contagious disease. Soon, the disease had spread to the densely populated capital cities of the fantasy world, causing high rates of mortality and, much more importantly, the social chaos that comes from a large-scale outbreak of deadly disease.
These unforeseen effects raised the possibility for valuable scientific content to be gained from this unintentional game error.
Patch 1.7, released on Sept 13, 2005, contained access to an area known as “Zul’Gurub”. Which was intended for use by players whose characters had achieved a sufficient level within the game to be considered “relatively powerful”. The centrepiece of this area was a combative encounter with a powerful creature called “Hakkar”.
Occasionally, one of the players facing this massive winged serpent would be purposefully infected by a disease called “Corrupted Blood”. This infection, as intended, then rapidly began infecting other nearby players. To the powerful players who were battling Hakkar, the infection was just a hindrance, designed to make this particular combat more challenging. However, several aspects of the disease caused this minor inconvenience to blossom into an uncontrolled game wide epidemic. The ability of many characters to transport themselves instantly from one location to another was the first factor in the game that unexpectedly set the stage for the plague. This type of travel is frequently used to return to the capital cities of the game from more remote regions for reasons of game play. Many victims of Corrupted Blood thus reached heavily populated areas before either being killed by or cured of the disease, mimicking the travel of contagious carriers over long distances that has been the hallmark of many disease outbreaks in history — the Mongol horde and the bubonic plague, or the cholera outbreaks of Europe during the mid-19th century. The highly contagious disease then spread to other players outside the intended, localized combat area near Hakkar. The second factor that sustained the epidemic was that the disease could escape its origin in Zul’Gurub via interspecies transmission from player characters to animals and then back. Many players in the game have “pets”, non-player animal characters that assist them in the completion of certain functions within the game. The penalty assigned by the game for allowing a pet to die was prohibitively high, therefore players commonly dismissed their pets rather than subjecting them to dangerous effects such as disease. Dismissal temporarily removes the pet from the game, keeping them in stasis until they can be healed or otherwise safeguarded after the dangers of combat have gone. These pets, therefore, acted as carriers of the disease and also served as a source of disease by causing new outbreaks when brought out of stasis—even if their owner had recovered and was no longer infectious. Based on player accounts, pets, as opposed to the infective characters themselves, seem to have been the dominant factors for the disease. Players would return to densely packed capital cities and retrieve pets that, being infectious, immediately triggered an outbreak. The density of susceptible characters within a specific radius was, therefore, the only apparent limit to transmission.
“Simulation games have proven excellent tools for training people in manual skills; for example, X-Plane, a flight simulator that runs on home computers, has been certified by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Virtual environments are safe platforms for trial and error. The chance of failure is high, but the cost is low and the lessons learned are immediate.”i
“Some 60 schools and universities have set up shop inside Second Life some 90 Harvard law and extension school students taking the course, called "CyberOne: Law in the Court of Public Opinion," can receive real college credit. But anyone on Earth with a computer connection can also take the course for free. Students are participating from as far away as South Korea and China.
Other classes using SL include undergraduate English composition courses at Ball State and Central Missouri State universities, an education course at Pepperdine University, and a medical course on hypertension at the University of Tennessee.”ii
b.) “Using World of Warcraft and Other MMORPGs to Foster a Targeted, Social, and Cooperative Approach Toward Language Learning.”iii
“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 behaviors. In a recent (Sept. 2005) incident in the virtual world of online gaming (WOW), the accidental inclusion of a disease-like phenomenon provided an excellent example of the potential of such systems to alleviate these modeling constraints.”
Maybe if we made changing the world fun and challenging we can let the gamers who spend billions of years collectivley playing, actually accomplish something real!
how this can be turned into a real working and accepted model
Originally posted by LordBucket
Implementing "game-like" features into real life. For example, in WoW, getting your epic mount is a strong motivator to level. If everybody who exhibited the behaviors we wish to encourage were all given game-style rewards, it would be very easy to generate behavior.
Want to reduce teen pregancy? Give every girl who makes it to age 20 without becoming pregnant a lamborghini, and you won't see many teen pregnancies. Want to reduce pollution and dependancy on oil? Hand out $10 cash per day to every person who doesn't own a car.
These would be game-style rewards. And they would be extremely effective.