World of Warcraft: The first recorded case of a digital epidemic

World of Warcraft: The first recorded case of a digital epidemic

Skeletons in a place of the epidemic

Virtual life could become so similar to real life that it is still impossible to assimilate everything that this implies. We see with the passing of the decades of the new millennium, that it seems as if everything is moving to the cyber world.

This matter similar to the matrix is so amazing, that a true digital epidemic even occurred and it was possible to appreciate what would happen in real life, if a global pandemic happened, only on a much more evolved and magical scale. On this occasion we present the true story of the first digital epidemic recorded in the history of humanity.

World of Warcarft, abbreviated simply WoW by its fans, is a virtual reality game in which people create a virtual character, an avatar, and use it to navigate various locations, complete missions, fight enemies, and generally interact with others. thousands of other players who have their own characters there.

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This is one of several multiplayer virtual role-playing games (MMORPGs) that have become popular in the last two decades. Because they allow interaction with other people in the game, these programs end up replacing the “real life” of many people and becoming veritable addictions that absorb all their time and energy.

But we are not here to talk about addiction to video games, but about a particular phenomenon that occurred in this game in 2005, generating the first “virtual epidemic” on record.

The Corrupted Blood Incident

In the game people have characters, which in turn can have pets and enter dungeons to fight. A new dungeon called Zul’Gurub was created in September 2005, in which a new character named Hakkar had the ability to cast a disease that constantly drained players of life. The “disease” (more like a battle curse) affected players and their pets for a set amount of time, as well as other nearby players, and was supposed to end when the character died or when they exited the dungeon.

But it happened that due to a programming error, some pets ended up with the disease even after leaving the dungeon. They transmitted it to their owners and these to other characters. Those with high levels and more health could resist the disease, but those with low levels died immediately. And although in WoW the characters revive after a certain amount of time, dying is bad for the avatar and makes it lose items or points.

What followed was a fascinating case of a society’s response to an epidemic, because even when it was in a virtual world, the response was very similar to what a real society would have had.

The consequences of the epidemic

In addition to players, “automated” characters in the game (like animals, or enemies that spawned around, or things like that) could also get sick, but they never died. For practical purposes, this made them asymptomatic vectors, which could make others sick without being cured themselves.

This generated “quarantines” in the affected areas and a massive migration of players from the cities, moving to less dense areas where it was more difficult to get infected. High-level healing volunteers helped the sick, while low-level volunteers (who could not help in epidemic areas) were dedicated to diverting traffic from affected areas so that more people would not get infected.

And of course, a large number of individuals dedicated themselves to digging through the remains of dead characters to see if they could get anything of value.

Epidemic models

The issue was finally fixed with a couple of “outages” to restart the game’s servers and several months of working on the code.

But in 2007 the issue came up again, this time from the field of science. That year an Israeli epidemiologist named Ran D. Balicer published an article in which he described the similarities of this incident to epidemics of bird flu and SARS (a particularly strong variety of pneumonia that appeared in Hong Kong at the turn of the millennium). Several other researchers carried out comparative analyses, and the conclusion was that digital models of this type could have some kind of utility in predicting the impact of an epidemic.

However, up to now no epidemics of this type have been carried out to “prove” the operation of these models.

There are several epidemic video games, some of the best known include:

Plague Inc. – a strategy game in which you have to develop and spread a deadly disease in the world.

Pandemic – a cooperative game where you have to work with your partners to stop the spread of various diseases.

Outbreak – An adventure game in which you must escape from an infected city while trying to discover the cure for a deadly virus.

Pathologic 2 – an RPG in which you have to fight against a deadly disease that is affecting a small town.

These video games can be fun and educational, but they can also be disturbing and sensationalize the reality of epidemics. Therefore, it is important to consider the age and sensitivity of the person before playing.

Bibliography ► (January 31, 2023). World of Warcraft: The first recorded case of a digital epidemic. Recovered from