WORLD OF WARCRAFT Server Runs In-Game COVID-19 Experiment

As the COVID-19 pandemic weighs on hearts and minds around the world, people from all walks of life continue to do their best to improve the situation. That includes gamers, of course. Gamers like the admins of the World of Warcraft server Elysium. They ran an in-game COVID-19 simulation to show people just how quickly diseases can spread from person to person. Or Human to Night Elf.

Kotaku reported on the experiment, which Elysium ran over the course of a single weekend. Elysium is a free WoW server that’s been around for seven years. It’s dedicated to keeping the “vanilla” version of the game alive. That means the original version without any of the subsequent expansion packs.

The server’s admins dubbed the experiment “Pandemic in Azeroth,” and they ran it without any warning to the 10,000-15,000 people who log into the server on a weekly basis. Rain, the lead admin, presumably gave the featured “virus” the same kind of spreading mechanisms that researchers suspect are at play with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. It’s unclear how exactly Rain decided on its parameters. Nor do we know whether Rain has a background in medicine or virology.

The experiment began with the server’s admins placing the virus on an in-game object, which was then touched by one particular player, referred to as “patient zero.” After touching the infected object, patient zero began to spread the virus among other players. Twenty-four hours into the in-game epidemic, the virus infected 7,000 players. The infection affected them with a 5% stat reduction and 10% decrease in movement speed.

WORLD OF WARCRAFT Server Runs In-Game COVID-19 Experiment_1

A screenshot from the below video outlining Elysium’s purpose. Elysium Project

Fifteen hours into the disease’s spread, Rain announced its existence. They told players the experiment was being done in two phases: One in which the disease would be spread without any kind of social distancing encouragement or other recommended preventative measures and one with them. Once Rain informed players about the disease and the measures that could combat it—including the use of “hand soap,” an in-game symptom checker, and self-isolation—the percentage of infected players dropped from 88%to 42%.

The event ended when players were finally able to kill a preexisting WoW boss, Noth the Plaguebringer—a holder of “ the cold cage of undeath.” But the experiment really aimed at a different big bad: misinformation. “I know that we have a lot of players who are young or don’t have access to the information I do—or at least the same amount of information,” Rain told Kotaku. He added that “I felt like I had an ability to inform people and help out in this time.”

Rain’s experiment is especially fitting when you look back at a virtual outbreak in World of Warcraft. The 2005 “ Corrupted Blood Incident” ended up helping inform epidemiological models.

Featured Image: Blizzard 

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