Operation Dark Winter, simulation based on The Division

English - March 8, 2016

  • Operation Dark Winter was a simulation in which the United States was prepared against a possible bioterrorist attack.
  • the Division is It inspires in that context, in which the poxvirus extends unstoppable the world.

Year 2016. You are patient zero of an epidemic called to destroy humanity. It is infected with smallpox, but does not know yet. Within days, the deadly virus will spread from the center of Madrid to the rest of the planet. The rapid and unstoppable contagion will cause more than 1,500 million infected and 734 million deaths. These figures proposed Collapse, the first simulator “the end of humanity” created by Ubisoft for the launch of The Division.

smallpox it killed 500 million people in the twentieth century. To be prepared against a bioterrorist attack, the US organized Operation Dark Winter These frightening data are part of the advertising campaign to promote The Division. But there is no doubt that the simulator contains a question that has intrigued us for decades. How soon virus completely destroy humanity? The question is not trivial, since smallpox killed over 500 million people in the twentieth century. Its erradicación, achieved in 1979 was a turning point in the defense of public health and an example to follow in the fight against diseases such as polio.

The long shadow of smallpox, however, still planning on our planet. And it is that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, for its acronym in English) of the United States and the Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology harbor Russia, respectively, 450 and 150 samples of smallpox. Two years ago, six abandoned with the virus vials were found in a US laboratory. Samples that, if stolen, could become terrible biological weapons as proposed by the simulator Ubisoft. What would happen in this case? Are we as a civilization ready to face the return of smallpox? To answer these questions, American researchers conducted in June 2011 the Operation Dark Winter. This simulation has served precisely to inspire the creators of the game.

Who designed the simulation?

Four institutions were responsible for designing the game that is based The Division. The Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Strategies , in collaboration with the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), the Analytic Services Institute for Homeland Security (ANSER) and Oklahoma National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism , developed a simulation to study the responses that might arise before a bioterrorist attack.

Syda Productions | Shutterstock

Twelve participants of Operation Dark Winter interpreted to members of the US National Security representing people who worked or had worked in political office or high-level military. In the simulation, Sam Nunn, former senator from Georgia, and Frank Keating, governor of Oklahoma, acted as if they were the US president and the leader himself Oklahoma State. In addition, five journalists worked as observers Operation Dark Winter, also participating in a fictional press conference. Finally, also they attended approximately fifty people who had anteriorly operational responsibilities or policies related to the control and prevention of bioterrorism.

What was Operation Dark Winter?

As explained in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases , the simulation consisted to raise a fictional scenario to participants. In that sense, the spread of 3,000 people with smallpox virus have occurred after three simultaneous attacks on three separate shopping centers Oklahoma City, Philadelphia and Atlanta. Previous estimates had indicated that one gram of extract smallpox virus would be enough to infect a hundred people. According to these calculations, with only thirty grams of smallpox virus could recreate that fictional scenario. Simulation of Dark Winter has inspired the creators of The Division

the aim of the simulation was therefore propose political strategies to carry out if there was an attack with biological weapons. And it is that the challenges are extremely complex: not exactly known transmission rate, most people under 30 are not vaccinated against smallpox and doctors have not seen cases of infection against this virus. Based on these challenges, Operation Dark Winter suggested that more than 228 million US citizens were likely to be infected.

Where contagions were developed?

Three separate and unrelated Oklahoma City malls, Philadelphia and Atlanta would be simulated attack scenarios where this would take place. An attack would cause the initial spread of fifty people but, as shown in the following maps, go spreading unstoppably. The situation is similar to that proposed advertisers The Division with the simulator Collapse, as seen in the following images:

at the first meeting of the simulation, participants were met with a scenario in which fifty people have been infected smallpox. Source: Tara O’Toole, Michael Mair and Thomas V. Inglesby

Six days after the first meeting, a total of two thousand people have been infected with the virus., forty times the number of infected in the first session of crisis. Source: Tara O’Toole, Michael Mair and Thomas V. Inglesby

More than sixteen thousand people infected with smallpox in less than a week. Source: Tara O’Toole, Michael Mair and Thomas V. Inglesby

When the simulation took place?

Operation Dark Winter was developed between the 22 and 23 June 2001. The dates attract your attention, because the simulation was organized three months before it took place the September 11 attacks on the Twin Towers (New York) and the Pentagon (Washington DC). In these attacks, perpetrated by Osama Bin Laden died 2.977 people.

Marc Liyanage (Flickr)

After the tragedy of 11-S, various bioterrorist attacks by post followed. The agent used was Bacillus anthracis , the bacterium that causes anthrax or Anthrax, which was introduced in letters to editors of media such as ABC News , CBS News , NBC News and The New York Post . As a result, 22 people were infected, of which five died. Two more envelopes were collected by senators, in a bioterrorist attack that caused no damage provided by Operation Dark Winter but anticipated that the fight against biological weapons would be complex.

Why and how organized?

the objectives of the simulation that inspired the Division were clear. “Bioterrorism is no longer cause for games or futuristic themes”, noted the researchers Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Strategies . The threat was, and still is, real. Hence the organization of such a game, which was designed following a detailed guión 44 pages. Operation Dark Winter left several lessons for governments may be prepared against an attack with biological weapons

Operation Dark Winter, commented after the bioterrorist attacks, also left several important lessons. On the one hand, political leaders know the keys to the attacks with biological weapons, their choices and consequences. Their decisions depend on the data and the advice of medical experts and public health, but this information often are not sufficient or are not readily available. The current lack of vaccines or treatments against a disease like smallpox is a threat. And the estimated mortality rate of this virus is 30% but in cases such as ebola href=””> can reach 90%.

Everett Historical | Shutterstock

In addition to health systems, as reflected well on the simulator Collapse, they can not meet the public demand that would in case of a bioterrorist attack of this size. Several lessons learned from a simple simulation that not only inspired one of the most anticipated video games, but also allow us to improve our security.

The Division is a game third-person action with RPG dyes for PS4, Xbox One and PC set in New York devastated by one biological attack and a subsequent pandemic. All game content is based on the Dark Winter operation described above and in the universe of Tom Clancy novels.