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World Of Warcraft predicted the coronavirus pandemic 15 years ago


You couldn’t make this up (Pic: Blizzard)

World Of Warcraft once had a pandemic of its own, one that bore a lot of similarities to the current coronavirus epidemic.

With
most of us forced to quarantine ourselves as a result of the coronavirus, we
can always count
on video games to help us pass the time
and briefly forget our worries.

But not even games are exempt from a crisis such as this. In fact, it was recently realised that Blizzard’s own World Of Warcraft dealt with an almost eerily similar pandemic back in 2005.

As reported by Wired, a certain enemy that could be encountered in the Zul’Gurub area infected players with a disease called Corrupted Blood, which drained health and could be passed on to other players.

The intention was to make the fight much harder, but Blizzard didn’t account for players using fast travel to quickly return to cities to stock up on supplies, which resulted in the disease passing on to more and more players. It even infected non-player characters like shopkeepers, who were capable of spreading it further.

One
player, Eric Lofgren, was also an epidemiologist (someone who studies diseases)
and wrote up a paper in 2007, alongside one Nina Hefferman, that detailed the Corrupted
Blood outbreak, believing it could provide insight into how people would react
in the face of a pandemic.

‘Traditionally when we do computer-based simulations we know everything about the world,’ reads the paper, which can be read in full here, ‘The people in those simulations only act the way we tell them to act. Here we get the full view of human irrationality.’

In
many ways, the Corrupted Blood incident bears many parallels to what’s
happening right now regarding the coronavirus. In World Of Warcraft, powerful
players who were barely affected by the disease continued to walk about and
help spread it to more vulnerable players that quickly died from it.

Others
tried to help cure the disease by healing other players, only for themselves to
contract it, much like what has happened now with healthcare workers attempting
to treat and cure those with the coronavirus.

More disastrous than Warcraft 3:Reforged? (pic: Blizzard Entertainment)

There were even players, upon hearing about the disease, who logged into the game to fully understand what was going on and/or to see it for themselves, deliberately choosing to risk being infected.

‘We
are also seeing some people not taking it seriously, and wilfully ignoring the
risk, which is parallel to intentionally spreading it,’ wrote Lofgren, another similarity
to what we’re seeing at the moment, with many people
ignoring
instructions to remain inside
because they don’t want their daily lives
disrupted.

At
the time, Blizzard made attempts to try and prevent the spread of the disease,
with players going into self-isolation to protect others and a request for
infected players to flag themselves in order to warn the non-infected.

In the end, though, because the more powerful players continued to ignore instructions, the disease couldn’t be stopped, forcing Blizzard to reset the entire server.

Many
countries have been quick to address the coronavirus and help slow down its
spread, with China now reporting that there are no new cases at the epicentre.

But the accuracy of this random incident from a video game is almost terrifying and, unlike World Of Warcraft, Earth doesn’t have a reset button to push should things become irreversible.

Email gamecentral@metro.co.uk, leave a comment below, and follow us on Twitter.

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