Virtual plagues

Alice Taylors Wonderland blog mentions a virus that is spreading through the World Of Warcraft game. Apparently it is mimicing the behaviour of a real (ie human) virus.

According to another blog Alice quotes, the plague spreads through corrupted blood, and “Some servers have gotten so bad that you cant go into the major cities without getting the plague “.

Comments on Alices blog wonder when real epidemiologists may use MMORPGs to model the spread of epidemics. Well, possibly in a way they already do (a multi-agent simulation is a multiplayer game, if not always as massively so as the big MMPORGs.) Also Im not sure how representative the MMORPG players are – are they really a statistically random selection? Im also not sure how well the rules of WoW – ie their model of reality corrspond to the rules of real life.

One interesting aspect of this plague is that the rules of WoW must be similar to the rules of real life, since the plague seems to behave quite like a real epidemic.

Also, its another example of how simulated and real worlds are blurring. Here is a computer virus (is it?) behaving like a real virus, infecting avatars, which in turn means that people who are playing the game at low levels (it doesnt kill strong characters) are losing their lives – although for the human players this is only a financial loss, since presumably they then have to re-register and start again.

Lastly, it reminds me of how many alternative worlds there are out there: people for whom this imaginary world (based on real interactions by real humans) is as real as the world outside my window is to me. I dont share their world, nor they mine. I fell mine is more real, since I can see it even when my PC is turned off; on the other hand, they are as upset by this virus as I might be if one of my the vines in my garden died.

WoW is published by Blizzard Entertainment, which in turn is a subsidiary of Vivendi. Blizzard is based in Calfornia and employs 150+ people. The companys games also include Diablo and Starcraft.

WoW claims:

subscriber base/peak concurrency/area
750,000+/250,000+/North America.
?/100,000+/Korea
380,000+/180,000/Europe

Does this really mean that at some moments, over 500,000 people are roaming around the imaginary WoW world?

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