Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Plague Management in a Virtual World

Corrupted Blood Plague in Action

In September 2005 Blizzard released Corrupted Blood Plague into World of Warcraft and thousands died. If the previous sentence was a cause for panic or confusion, don't worry the plague has been removed after it spiraled out of control infecting huge numbers of avatars in the massive online game WoW.

"At first the "patch", as new elements such as the disease are called, worked as expected: experienced players shrugged it off like a bad cold, and weaker ones were left with disabled avatars.

But then things spun out of control. As in reality, some of those carrying the virus slipped back into the virtual world's densely populated cities, rapidly infecting their defenceless inhabitants."SMH

Now to the interesting bit, epidemiologist Eric Lofgren from Tufts University in Boston, was playing the game when the plague struck. He and Prof Nina H Fefferman have just published a paper based on the Corrupted Blood Plague incident:

The untapped potential of virtual game worlds to shed light on real world epidemics
Simulation models are of increasing importance within the field of applied epidemiology. However, very little can be done to validate such models or to tailor their use to incorporate important human behaviours. In a recent incident in the virtual world of online gaming, the accidental inclusion of a disease-like phenomenon provided an excellent example of the potential of such systems to alleviate these modelling constraints. We discuss this incident and how appropriate exploitation of these gaming systems could greatly advance the capabilities of applied simulation modelling in infectious disease research.

Most interesting I think. Further related to the The Untapped Potential of Virtual Game Worlds to Shed Light on Real World Epidemics, today is the day I got a copy of Persuasive Games: The Expressive Power of Video Games by Ian Bogost. I think I will read it with great pleasure:

Videogames are both an expressive medium and a persuasive medium; they represent how real and imagined systems work, and they invite players to interact with those systems and form judgments about them. In this innovative analysis, Ian Bogost examines the way videogames mount arguments and influence players. Drawing on the 2,500-year history of rhetoric, the study of persuasive expression, Bogost analyzes rhetoric's unique function in software in general and videogames in particular. The field of media studies already analyzes visual rhetoric, the art of using imagery and visual representation persuasively. Bogost argues that videogames, thanks to their basic representational mode of procedurality (rule-based representations and interactions), open a new domain for persuasion; they realize a new form of rhetoric.

Bogost calls this new form "procedural rhetoric," a type of rhetoric tied to the core affordances of computers: running processes and executing rule-based symbolic manipulation. He argues further that videogames have a unique persuasive power that goes beyond other forms of computational persuasion. Not only can videogames support existing social and cultural positions, but they can also disrupt and change those positions, leading to potentially significant long-term social change. Bogost looks at three areas in which videogame persuasion has already taken form and shows considerable potential: politics, advertising, and education. Bogost is both an academic researcher and a videogame designer, and Persuasive Games reflects both theoretical and game-design goals.

No comments: