Year after year of heroic (and let's face it, very often American) movies have taught us that in the face of adversity, there'll always be a lone hero to save the day/the country/the president/the world. Of course as exciting as it feels to watch it happen, it's only a movie : until the early 21st century, it was hard to get actual data on how people - you, me, everybody - would react in the case of a pandemic : information that would prove invaluable to scientists and health professionals all over the world to better plan emergency response, to better know of the potential help they could receive in a crisis situation from the local population and through what means...
And then 2 games happened.
We often quote World of Warcraft as the epitome of MMORPGs, but in 2007 it also became a major provider of information about the reaction of civilians during a health crisis, "thanks" to the Corrupted Blood incident
. At first a curse locked in a specific area of a game, it accidentally escaped into the WoW world because of a glitch exploited by players and spread on to the next victim, and on to the next victim.
One could have thought that, much like in Max Brooks' books Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z, people would have massively fled the contaminated areas, getting away from harm..And unknowingly spreading the disease. However, in the midst of this wave of disease exilees also appeared a minority of people who set up help, informed others, organized free health services to treat their fellow avatars - all this witnessed by Tufts University assistant research professor of public
health and family medicine and University of North Carolina
graduate student Eric Lofgren. Fefferman even expressed the possibility to design more virtual diseases to study their spread and evolution in this virtual environment.
In 2009, alternate reality game Coral Cross
scheduled to prepare the Hawaiian and worldwide population to the onset of avian flu pandemic through gaming, became a life-size experiment and monitoring of that same disease. Run for the Hawaii department of health, it also had the scientific validation that World of Warcraft's Corrupted Blood incident, because of its entertainment-oriented nature, couldn't completely claim. In Coral Cross as well, appeared categories of "players" that would isolate themselves from the community to prevent the disease from spreading, others that would assume the roles of information carriers helping tame the panic movement and keeping others informed.
Both taught us a lot about the unpredicatability of the human nature in the face of crisis, at least in some of us. Not lone heroes, but together with the help of a connection to each other and resources like those of the Network, teams that could save lives and contribute to turn a tide.
And you, what will you