Corrupted Blood Conclusions

Some blood, yesterday.

Kyle Orland has posted a moderately interesting WoW-related story over on Gamasutra, reporting on Nina Fefferman’s speech at the Games For Health conference: the real life lessons of WoW’s corrupted blood plague. Fefferman details her findings on studying the virtual epidemiology of the event.

“One trait was particularly enlightening: curiosity, something epidemiologists did not generally build into their models. Some players attempted to enter infected areas to witness the chaos, then rush out before contracting the disease themselves. This behavior has real-world parallels, particularly in the case of journalists, who must rush towards a problem to cover it, then rush back out.”

What’s most interesting about what Fefferman talks about, however, is how the sheer mass of interactions taking place within an MMO becomes worth studying. “Fefferman wants to design new diseases to be introduced into the game, perhaps non-deadly diseases. She could then study how risk is perceived, how rumors spread during such situations, and so on,” says Orland. This is as much about having ways to analyse and describe human behaviour as any serious epidemiological modeling. Games, by virtue of the the esoteric way they bring people together and create unique situations, become computational systems far more complex that anything we would otherwise be able to program. Which is something I’ve talked about in my book and also here.

Perhaps what’s most interesting from the point of view of the Games For Health conference, however, is that Fefferman’s talk demonstrates that medical sciences can learn from gaming, rather than simply benefiting from or adapting the technologies of gaming for therapeutic purposes. Much of what Games For Health has so far highlighted involves a practical application of games, rather than theory. Fefferman shows us that with a bit of lateral thinking games can be used to give us new angles on the sum of human knowledge, as well as making our lives easier and more fun.

“Gaming can help save the world,” says Fefferman. Damn right.


  1. Alex says:

    Keeper Orland!

  2. Jonas says:

    Once EVE gets around to implementing their new walkaroundonable stations and such, I imagine that game could be much more interesting to use for a study into large-scale epidemology. Since it’s all one shard with a much grander and more player-driven infrastructure :)

  3. phil says:

    This is one of the reasons I play games – fascinating situations arising that are impossible in any other medium.

    It also touches on another reason why I play games – a morbid fear of germs trapping me inside my vacuum sealed house.

  4. po says:

    So what next? WoW cooties?

  5. Marcus says:

    I have not personally read her articles but it would be interesting to see how or if they argue that player behavior in an MMO actually can be used as some kind of model for human behavior in “real” situations.

    I am personally very skeptical that this is the case since most MMO:s lack what the real world has in abundance: real personal risk. How do you think players would have reacted if the disease not only killed their characters but also deleted them?
    Their behavior would obviously be very different and until MMO:s start including real risk (like EVE does to some extent), I think that their use for modeling real life situations are very limited.

  6. alphaxion says:

    demonic herpes!

    sores erupt on your characters face that spawn little creatures in an almost gremlins like scenario.

    would make hanging around a city that much more fun ;)

  7. po says:

    Or maybe something embarrasing that usually only affects boars/bears, for those who spend far too much time around them ;)

  8. Nimic says:

    I am personally very skeptical that this is the case since most MMO:s lack what the real world has in abundance: real personal risk. How do you think players would have reacted if the disease not only killed their characters but also deleted them?

    I don’t really know much about this, but I can speculate that while there’s obviously reduced risk in this game-related instance, there’s also increased incentive in real world instances. She uses the example of journalists who journey into these areas knowing that it’s dangerous. He or she’s got much more to lose than any game player venturing into dangerous territory, but he’s also got much more to gain from it.

  9. spd from Russia says:

    wow needs a real plague!
    interesting article thnx

  10. andthensobecause says:

    I would actually enjoy MMO events that had plagues. New bosses are great and all, but give me a nice plague to mess things up and I would maybe consider WoW again.

  11. Noc says:

    Also, not all diseases kill you; a great many just make you feel shitty and inconvenience you tremendously. And having a game character constantly contracting and being killed by the disease is, if nothing else, a tremendous inconvenience.

  12. phuzz says:

    In the article they do mention the possibility of intentionally introducing diseases to WoW, now I can’t see Blizzard introducing another deadly disease, but something that mutated your character, perhaps alphaxion’s Demonic Herpes, or maybe something that just slows you down a bit.
    Either way it would be fun to watch…

  13. Malibu Stacey says:

    There’s plenty of stuff in the EVE Online backstory which would lend itself to something like this being introduced to the game such as Mind-Lock and the Jovian Disease. It’d be an interesting thing to add to the game since people can defend themselves with force from people carrying a disease plus the size of the “unsharded” galaxy would give it a nice twist.

  14. Professor Pyro, Ph.D. says:

    Ultimately, I think that this whole research article is kind of absurd. Part of the fun of playing games is the lack of real life repercussions, and therefore, when playing games, you don’t mind (much) being killed, seeing as it only causes a minor inconvenience anyway. So using Corrupted Blood as a measure for real life events is kind of strange. Seeing as if you were, for instance, to be infected with the Black Death, you WILL die. So anyone short of an idiot would stay the hell away from any infected areas unless they must.