When it comes to containing the spread of disease, educating the public about good hygienic practices is one of the most effective ways to reduce its transmission. Public broadcasts and posters can quickly attract a large audience to warn and guide the populace. One World of Warcraft fan server known as Elysium Project, however, sought a different avenue for educating people.
Elysium Project runs an earlier build of World of Warcraft, letting players relive older patches in their heyday. Several weeks ago, Elysium Project hosted a one-weekend event that sought to teach players about social distancing and flattening the curve. Contagious pathogens such as the novel coronavirus can cause the number of cases to rise exponentially. Avoiding large gatherings, practicing good hygiene, and self-isolating when feeling sick are all tactics used to reduce the spread of illnesses ranging from the common cold to influenza and Covid-19.
Along with the other staff at Elysium Project, Rain, an admin, designed an event specifically to teach players the importance of following social distancing guidelines. While the in-game plague only represented a minor stat and movement speed debuff, players were tasked with duties that mirrored real disease-fighting methods. Several quests asked them to disinfect objects and NPCs, wear face masks, and check for symptoms with a robot helper. TechRaptor reached out to Rain to discuss the event two weeks after its conclusion.
When asked about any unusual player behavior during the virtual plague, Rain commented that little surprised the team, apart from how uninformed some players were when it came to basic hygiene such as washing one's hands. During World of Warcraft's unintentional Corrupted Blood incident, players adopted a variety of behaviors. This included tending the sick, warning players away from infection epicenters, and even griefing and deliberately infecting others. Many of these actions have been observed in real pandemics, and the Corrupted Blood incident still serves as a case study for epidemiologists today.
I expected a variety of behaviors - trolls who wanted to cause chaos and spread the disease, die hard achievement people who want to be on the 'best' at protective health practices, people who were oblivious to what was happening around them. We saw all of that." —Rain, Elysium Project Admin
Some time after the event, Rain also noted that most of the server was business as usual. This was specifically because the administrative team could switch off the event in an instant and completely purge the virtual virus from the server. It was easy to tell if a character was or was not infected. The "testing" was 100% accurate and automatically "performed" on everyone, unlike Covid-19 and its infectious incubation period. Real diseases, of course, are difficult to scour from the face of the earth. Even smallpox samples occasionally turn up in testing labs. A frequent subject of debate is whether to destroy them or retain them for research.
As for repeating the event, Rain said that it was on the table, though most likely only if a second wave of cases swept the globe. Rain mused that some players were unhappy with the movement speed and stat debuff, but whether a virtual disease without any repercussions would have the same impact. Some content didn't make it into the final version of the event, either. Some quests were cut for not fitting into the universe or mini-storyline. Admins also considered a gigantic slime world boss that players would need to hunt down and kill together, but this was also scrapped in lieu of using Noth the Plaguebringer.
Three groups attempted to bring Noth down, and two of them succeeded. After their victory, they began distributing the cure to both Alliance and Horde players. Jaina Proudmoore and Vol'Jin accompanied Alliance and Horde players, respectively, into the boss fights. Rain estimated the raid took 1-2 hours each for both sides to defeat Noth.
Once the event concluded, Elysium Project posted the results up on their Twitter page. These featured leaderboards and images celebrating the Guilds that completed the raid. Though Rain didn't have a chart for the initial outbreak numbers, Elysium Project did release some graphics for the final tally. "So we went from 88% with no PPE - to 42.20% once the server was reset and PPE was available after 24 hours - to 37.82% by the end of the event," Rain added after sending the images via Discord.
If you're interested in trying Elysium Project out for yourself, the server has extended their Triple-EXP event until May 13. As for the water in Goldshire, Rain claims it's safe, but not to touch anything inside the Lion's Pride Inn.