Epidemiologists sow doubts as to the widely reported studies of WoW and COVID.
WoW Wednesday: World of Warcraft’s Corrupted Blood Incident Didn’t Aid COVID Research
We may have even believed that scientists around the world used WoW to directly help with fighting the pandemic. We are, after all, locked in an age-old struggle to prove the positive impact of gaming to ageing naysayers who find every excuse to pin the earth's inevitable downfall to video games.
But while there are valid comparisons to be drawn between the behaviours of humans during the real-world pandemic and the great Corrupted Blood incident of 2005, the notion that scientists were relying on the virtual phenomenon to help deal with the devastating pandemic in the real world might have been slightly overblown.
According to epidemiologists writing for The Conversation, the data acquired from virtual pandemics such as the Corrupted Blood incident "was not used in any meaningful way" in disease modelling for the COVID-19 pandemic. After all, for every similarity between how people react to a pandemic in a video game and IRL, there are still some stark differences. Such as the distinctly graver consequences of wilfully spreading a deadly virus to a living population rather than one that can be immediately resurrected.
An expert in game design for learning further compounded this idea back in May of 2020, suggesting that there are three core areas that should be considered before jumping to certain conclusions. These include quality of information differences, unlimited and unequal choice sets, and differences in the experience of self-isolation.
But that's not to say that the similarities between WoW and COVID were a complete nonstarter. There definitely were instances of researchers using their knowledge of the Corrupted Blood incident to help with tackling the pandemic, suggesting via bonafide scientific papers that such virtual pandemics can be beneficial to planning for the unfortunate eventuality that we have all been recently experiencing.
It is just that the magnitude of the research put into disease modelling during COVID probably prioritised other more real-world-appropriate sources first and foremost.
And that's OK with us. After all, WoW and its ilk helped in many other ways during the last two years by helping to combat feelings of isolation and boredom in equal measure. And that's not to mention how great it was, and still is, at keeping us indoors.