Digital Epidemic: World of Warcraft’s Corrupted Blood Incident

Andreas J. Pratama


In 2005 the world-famous online role-playing game played by more than 10 million players world wide suffered probably the world’s most studied model of epidemic in its digital gaming world, the corrupted blood incident. It is no secret that in the real-world viruses and bacteria are quite responsible for many of the sufferings and ailments human kinds have gone through in this world. The term Virus also made its way into the computer world and had been detected since the year 1945 when computer was used primarily for national defense purpose. However, these viruses were primarily made for the purpose of disruption and utterly intentional. The corrupted blood incident was one unique example where such an event in the computing and gaming world bled out of its intended parameter thus disrupting nearly everything the outbreak can get ahold of.

Depiction of Hakkar The Soul Flayer

It is baffling to think that something programmable can be made to act in an organic way. In 1949 John von Neumann theorized of the possibility of a self-replicating virus in which it continues to propagate itself therefore “infecting” various sectors and hard drive storage completely disrupting it and damaging the data storage before the major wipe-down. Warcraft’s corrupted blood outbreak was unintentionally made to spread with the help of exploiters – those named as “terrorist” (due to their ability to disrupt the well-being of the MMO franchise, therefore damaging player to server performance and revenue stream)

The world of war craft’s corrupted blood incident became a resurfaced model talked about recently especially after the initial outbreak of corona virus (Covid-19). Like its real-world counterpart often viruses are called as “unstable” and “everchanging” in its method of dissemination in which they are quite capable of adapting to myriad of mediums. The corrupted blood incident was initially made to be a debuff, in RPG gaming term this would mean a negative status effect ailment impacted on the character made to last only for a period of time, within a specific applicable space. The map of Zul’gurub was the intended geographic boundary intended for the debuff to be active. To the surprise of many, this debuff began to infect others beyond the unintended parameter.

The unintentional outbreak quickly reached players not currently residing in the map or servers where initial infection happened. Some individuals referred to as the terrorists interested in exploiting the debuff found a way to make this debuff to tick up endlessly causing the life of each character infected to drain endlessly. The infection began when a pet brought into the raid was cast with corrupted blood, when the pet was put away it continued the ailment in background. While being re-summoned the programmed spread of the ailment began to connect even to nearby playable and unplayable characters alike effectively ruining the game. 2 of the servers were infected, some characters was left under suspension some areas of the map became quickly rendered under lock down – a similar predicament we are facing today under the thread of corona virus.