Prof. Nina Fefferman of Rutgers University commented:
Suddenly, there did exist [in WoW] an experimental framework to watch how people would behave during an epidemic. That’s exactly what we worry about in real-world epidemics — the little behaviours that we don’t tell people to do or not to do, because we have never seen this happen before.
For those who don’t play WoW, or didn’t back in 2005, here’s how the game’s virtual pandemic went down:
Blizzard Entertainment decided that some players’ characters had become too powerful, so they created a virus — called "Corrupted Blood" …The virus quickly infected any nearby character, regardless of its relative strength.
The programmers imposed a mass quarantine, and expected players to take it seriously because "death" can cause their characters to lose items, strength, weapons and armour they had accumulated over many hours of play.
Yet many players ignored the quarantine, spreading the virus. Eventually, more than four million of the game’s six million players worldwide were infected, and millions "died."