Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Possibilities..

I found the article The untapped potential of virtual game worlds to shed light on real world epidemics by Eric T Lofgren and Nina H Fefferman to be extremely interesting. I have never been one for gaming. I get too frustrated and have never been interested enough to learn. However, I have always enjoyed watching others game because they were actually good. I spent my childhood watching my brother play, which suited him fine because he never had to share the controller. This was all before online gaming, which opens up a new world, both for the players and for researchers. Not only can researchers observe how the game is played but also can now observe how players all around the world interact.

The case study of the World of Warcraft and the Corrupted Blood epidemic is now offering researchers a new arena to study human responses to epidemics without having to actually be infected. I can remember vividly the news reports from the SARS epidemic and the H1N1 epidemic last year. The images of people wearing masks, attempting to escape 'hot zones' of contamination were very real. And to think, these real life reactions to epidemics could be replicated in an online world is amazing. The fact that this was also unplanned, led to the very real reactions of the gamers. As the authors state, for many of the gamers this virtual world is a very real part of their own worlds. (p. 627) I think that there are endless opportunities for researchers to use online worlds to replicate real world scenarios and issues such as epidemics. Since the article was published in 2007, I wonder if any researchers have begun to devise plans to complete research in online worlds.

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