With all the recent news stories about WoW ruining lives, destroying children, supporting terrorism, etc., it's nice to see the media reporting on the positive aspects of the game. But this WoW-positive article has a surprising source -- the prestigious Lancet medical journal.
As reported by the BBC, Nina Fefferman and Eric Lofgren, both from the Tufts University Inititiative for the Forecasting and Modeling of Infectious Disease, have published an article in the Lancet about how virtual worlds can provide models for human behavior in real-world epidemics. The duo specifically focused on the "Corrupted Blood" epidemic of fall 2005, which virtually wiped out Orgrimmar and Ironforge on many servers.
The BBC article states, "Some acted selflessly, rushing to the aid of other characters even though that meant they risked infection themselves. Others fled infected cities in an attempt to save themselves. And some who were sick made it their mission to deliberately infect others." Fefferman added that since it's impossible/unethical to "cause" an epidemic in real life and see how human behavior influences its spread, virtual worlds may be the best model for this type of research.
However, she admitted that people are likely to take more risks with disease in-game than in real life, which sounds about right. Dying to tuberculosis is unlikely to cost you a mere five-minute corpse run, and I don't tend to see many people hiding incredibly infectious animals in bags and then pulling them out in the middle of a crowded shopping center, which is pretty much what happened with Corrupted Blood.
What do you think about this study? And, taking a broader view, does people's behavior in WoW accurately reflect their behavior in real life?