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Zombie Apocalypse: A Case Study

wow_1Early in the lifecycle of World of Warcraft, a disease, designed to work only within the confines of a particular raid instance escaped containment. Players carried the disease into the major cities within the game. Whether they did this intentionally or unintentionally is still subject to debate. For the result, check the photo.

Yes. Those are bones littering the streets. In game, players heard rumors of the escaped, deadly plague. They then did one of three things:

  1. Ran AWAY from the carnage
  2. Ran TOWARD the death and destruction just to see it for themselves
  3. Meandered into the death zone to report back to fellow players and/or to attempt to heal the infected

Blizzard patched the code to fix the ‘bug’, but the several days of mayhem garnered the interest of a number of researchers. Here’s the Reuter’s article about the game plague and the subsequent research if fueled. At one point, rumors circulated in game that the CDC had even taken an interest in the psychology behind people’s responses. The accidental release of an imaginary disease in an imaginary world that some of us still pay good money to play in turned out to be the pandemic model researchers had always wanted, but could never develop. After all, how do you program in irrational human behaviour? Several million gamer geeks gave it to them. In spades.

The episode also inspired a zombie invasion/apocalypse later in the game, but that’s another story.

What about me? In this world, in my life, with my current skills, would *I* survive the zombie apocalypse? HAHAHAHAHAHA! No.

Yeah. Sorry. Lame in one leg. Asthmatic. I’m a gimped zombie snack pack, even if I live on a boat (which is a pretty sweet platform for survival).

But in World of Warcraft? I’m a 3 1/2 foot tall bundle of gnomish ingenuity and fireballs – all of which survived the in game apocalypse. By sheer, dumb luck which, I suspect, will how any of us survives anything.

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