When a mistake in World of Warcraft in September 2005 caused the debuff "Spoiled blood"Spreading from Zul'Gurub via Azeroth and wiping out the population of entire servers, no one would have suspected that this incident could once again be of great benefit in the real world – apart from a small research group around Dr. Eric Lofgren.
Lofgren, who is now an epidemiologist at the University of Washington State on coronavirus, wrote in 2007 a scientific paper on the Zul'Gurub disease and the possibilities to use them as a model for future real existing epidemics. The researcher spoke in one Interview with PC Gamer (via Wowhead) about how this essay and its epidemic experience in World of Warcraft (buy now for € 26.99) influence his work in the fight against the corona virus.
The Zul'Gurub epidemic as an epidemiological model
The initial outbreak of the Zul'Gurub pandemic in Azeroth was due to a bug with said Debuff Corrupted Blood that Boss Hakkar had on the players. If the players were close to each other, the debuff spread from one character to the next.
The problem: The debuff also affected hunter and warlock pets. By releasing the pets and later summoning them again, the plague of Zul'Gurub reached the rest of Azeroth on September 13, 2005, such as the main cities of Orgrimmar and Ironforge. There the debuff then jumped over to other players and killed particularly low-level characters particularly quickly because the damage of the DoT spell was designed for high-level heroes.
The even bigger problem: The debuff was also spread to NPCs, who did not die because of their high health, but instead infected other players. As a result, hundreds of characters continued to die in the capitals while players tried unsuccessfully to revive and leave the infection zones.
Blizzard eventually had to hard reset the servers to get the problem under control.
Lofgren's observations of the Zul'Gurub plague
an epidemic in a safe environment. In his research, he identified the low-level characters with people who would be particularly at risk if an epidemic broke out in the real world, and compared the NPCs with organisms that carry the pathogen but show no symptoms.
In an interview with PCGamer, Lofgren explained how he applied these research findings to his work on the corona virus:
"For me, the Zul'Gurub disease was a good example of how important it is to understand human behavior. When people respond to public health crises, how those reactions affect the way things go. We often see epidemics as those things that just happen to people. There is a virus and it does things. But the truth is it is a virus that spreads among people and how people interact and behave and obey authority figures or not, all of which are very important things. And also (the Zul'Gurub plague showed) that these things are pretty messy. You can't just predict, 'Yeah, all right, everyone is going to quarantine. Everything will be fine.' No, they won't.
To come back to the Corrupted Blood analogy and something I've been thinking about – one of the criticisms we've received (in relation to our essay) from both gamers and scientists, relates to the idea of griefing. Namely that griefing has no equivalent in the real world. People don't deliberately make other people sick. And they may not really make people sick on purpose, but knowingly ignoring the possibility of infecting other people is pretty close. You can see people saying, 'Oh, it's not all that bad, I'm not going to change my behavior, I'm going to the concert and then I go to see my elderly grandmother anyway.' Better not do that. That's the most important. Epidemics are a social problem. Playing down their seriousness is a kind of real griefing. "
Anyone wanting to learn more about Lofgren's research and the role of the Zul'Gurub pandemic in corona research should take a look at the Article by PC Gamer throw. Zul'Gurub himself will also be returning to WoW: Classic soon in April – but presumably without the plague and at the status of the following patch.
Otherwise: stay at home, wash your hands and stay away from real griefing – and above all: stay healthy!
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