World of Warcraft and the Era of Corrupted Blood
In the present crisis there are many videos and resources revisiting this incident. Two channels I enjoy, Extra Credits and Game Theory, made solid works I feel worth sharing. I’ll restate the facts of the event here.
On September 13, 2005, the World of Warcraft released an update that introduced a new Raid, an instanced battle scenario built to be a challenge for groups of players at the top tier of progress. Bosses are often the toughest enemies in these settings, bringing to bear unique mechanics and challenges to overcome. This was no different and came in the form of a debilitating status effect called Corrupted Blood.
By design, when Corrupted Blood tainted a players’ character, a burst of damage would occur and smaller hits of damage would continue to occur over time until the effect expired or it was cured. Additionally, whenever the continual damage took effect nearby players could be infected too. This was not so severe as to immediately knock a player out. But front line fighters would have to mind their spacing and damage taken. Ranged attackers may be able to avoid it entirely. Healers would have to mind health pools a little more. And overall, people would have to be wary not to be re-infected once the effect had (been) cleared. But once beaten people could leave the dungeon with bragging rights and various loot.
However, an oversight existed. Some player classes could summon Pets, and these companions could be infected with Corrupted Blood too. As a standard, all players’ statuses returned “Normal”, and at the very least had pesky debuffs picked up in dungeons removed. Unlike player characters, however, Pets’ negative status effects were not cleared upon leaving the Raid. Thus when they were summoned in a town the infection began.
Players at the maximum level of 60 had little to worry about. Without the rigors of a draconic personification of pestilence bearing down on them, they may just need a single healing technique when Corrupted Blood’s timer expired. A gap in which their store of MP would have refilled naturally. But at even level 40, death would come if the player was caught unawares. At 30, survival was… possible perhaps once, but the resources to sustain the effort were not there. And at level 20 the initial damage would incapacitate characters.
And as Corrupted Blood was not intended to exist outside the Raid zone, once it got out into the world every character was vulnerable to it since no one foresaw a need to program immunity to it. Non-player characters are those designed to do naught but a programmed task. Often times they are ever-present, 24/7, to facilitate player needs. Stand around doing naught but buying player refuse, auctioning off goods, and similar player-centric tasks. These NPCs became asymptomatic carriers, as they showed no signs of infection and could not die. Thus once infected, they could not be interacted with safely and there was no way of knowing if they were infected until it was too late.
After this became widely known, player reactions varied. On the altruistic end, higher-level characters of all stripes went into the hotbeds to try to figure out what was going on and, more importantly, if it could be stopped. Healers often tried to cure the infected, setting up quarantines, but put themselves in the infections’ path.
Some were just concerned with playing the game. They would go into towns with their pets to sell goods or ready themselves for Raids and get infected. But, uncaring, would break the quarantine lines and infect the populace. Some took more care and concern, trying to venture further afield to rarely used outposts or smaller towns, but it was not perfect.
And yet some decided to be trolls. They would willingly get infected either in the Raid or in a town, stow away their Pet to smuggle them outside of quarantine and seek out safe bastions to upend them. Rather than staunching the spread, they promoted it.
Returning to the real world, I didn’t need to be cajoled into compliance. I’d lived through pandemics vicariously thanks to video games. In real life, I can remember SARS and bird flu. My first job was at a retail pharmacy chain and I can remember winter sicknesses, summer colds, and spikes in allergies. I can also remember times in which people went absolutely nuts with hand sanitizer and wound up leaving themselves vulnerable by killing too many of the bacteria that we cohabitate with. I abide by my experience to do what I can for people. My knowledge base isn’t specialized, and that is why I surprised by pushback. Even prior to preschool I can remember being told to cover my mouth when I coughed to keep from spreading germs onto others. To wash my hands to kill harmful germs and prevent their spread from touching everything. But in the adult world, we have to use our hands. I found wearing a mask to be a solid compromise. You keep your mouth and nose covered and your hands-free and cleaner. But that isn’t a Proof, it’s a Ward.
I also hear the quips about it being too hard to breathe in a mask. I have asthma. It’s severity comes and goes. I haven’t had issues with it all calendar year but this time twelve months ago I couldn’t go four hours without taking a few puffs from an inhaler. When it first resurfaced after forgetting I had it after fifteen years without incident I lost the job I had as phone-based tech support. I talked like Stevie, the best friend from Malcolm in the Middle, taking audibly deep breaths taken in places of commas, periods, and other major punctuation. When not speaking I was very much a Darth Vader after he threw Palpatine into the Death Star core. Sleeping was not possible because breathing became something I had to actively mind. Decades of meditation and singing exercises came into play as I found ways to stay alive by adjusting my breath.
I have also been diagnosed with a hyperactive immune system. But rather than thinking “Ah, I’m safe!” I go “Ah… I’m more likely to be asymptomatic.” In my earlier years at least, medicines given to me had to be accompanied by immunosuppressants because my body views medicine as foreign and will completely counteract it. Even though COVID compromises breathing, which would be atop my asthma, it is possible there would be no noticeable effect if I did catch it. So short of infecting myself, there is no way to know. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure in many cases. If I prevent myself from getting sick in the first place I don’t need to worry about another round of fallout.
The lack of socialization has not affected me as it has some. I can be terribly introverted. Being stuck in my house gives me the opportunity to write, to game, to just relax, and the quarantine gives me a Get out of Society card for the now unforeseeable future. The truth is that I still see people. I’m just careful. Talking about COVID uses the same consideration as talking about STIs. “Are you safe? Who’ve you been around? Are they safe? If you’re not sure, can you get tested?” And even if I don’t interview someone prior to a meet-up I am mindful enough to keep myself away from people long enough for potential symptoms to manifest before I opt to see people again. Which… is a little different than me staying away from people for a time after a particularly demanding social engagement.
Plus, I lean towards nocturnal to boot. All the stores and restaurants I visit have always been open twenty-four hours, and I normally don’t hit them up until well after nightfall. I had the method down pat to be in and out of a store in twenty minutes, significantly less than if I didn’t dawdle and browse for impulse buys. If I wanted pizza, burgers, tamales and similar fare all my favorite places are still open, just drive-thru only if they weren’t overnight already.
And, perhaps more damningly, I cut a really fine budget. Even amidst living paycheck to paycheck I did manage to save a fair amount of money. But it alwayg got eaten up in lean times or when my vehicle needed attention. $40/week for food was my baseline. My one indulgence of video games pans out to a dollar a day. Sure, that $365 dollars could have been used somewhere, but as much as I enjoy writing even I am hard pressed to do so ceaselessly without any respite.
Oh… and due to social tensions I have lived life as though I was in quarantine my whole adult life. But that’s an article for another time.