Yes, I played Dungeons and Dragons as a kid.

I still recollect some of my most incredible memories playing D&D with the harbor Dungeon Master (I grew up on a boat) named, Ned, and the other salty harbor kids. What a world, and an escape for me and my Stand By Me-like gang of harbor kids.

What can D&D teach us about 2020?

Let us all travel back in time to 2013 and look at what happened when gameplay goes bad.

A band of adventurers was tired and low on health after battling a gang of Orcs in the southern jungles. They tried to find refuge by entering an abandoned troll city. Yet, danger awaited them there as they ran into the menacing winged serpent, Hakkar the Blood God.

The adventurers would soon realize they were no match for the massive winged beast and his sorceries. Hakar cast a spell on several of the group and they soon became infected with an incurable disease called Corrupted Blood. Some panicked and teleported away taking the infection with them to far-off lands. Others simply ran. Yet others died on the spot.

This band of adventurers was patient zero. From them, the disease started spreading throughout the world. Some tried to prevent the spread while others scampered to remote locations and hid.

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Others took advantage of the situation to purposely travel to enemy lands and infected them.

Some stood by confused.

Chaos and bewilderment prevailed.

The date was September 2005. The location was World of Warcraft, and the first virtual global pandemic was in full swing.

As the Washington Post reported in April 2020:

“On September 13, 2005, Blizzard’s incredibly popular massive multiplayer online role playing game World of Warcraft (WoW) experienced an unintended event that mimicked the spread of a viral infection throughout its playerbase. A damaging effect, called Corrupted Blood, ravaged thousands of players, and left lower-leveled characters in an unavoidable death-loop. The effect, known as a debuff, was a temporary condition, but one that could spread to other players if they stood close enough to each other, just like a real virus.”

Game developers had no idea that their small creation, meant for some advanced players and an isolated adventure, would get out of hand and unleash chaos.

The programmers tried everything they could, including a voluntary quarantine. Nothing worked, people behaved emotionally and irrationally.

Finally, Blizzard had to reset and restart WoW to stop the disease from spreading out of control.

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Welcome to 2020.

Blizzard’s virtual simulation was so real that the CDC approached Blizzard to analyze the data and learn from the event.

Let’s take a look at how this virtual reality event shares similarities with the real world of 2020.

Probably the most concerning to me is that Chinese leadership knew about this WAY before the world did.

“Travel to faraway lands to ensure your enemy suffers.”

Wuhan was the center of the outbreak and is also home to the Chinese Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Coincidence?

It seems at least reasonable to suspect something accidentally went wrong and got out. I have a hard time believing that this was an intentional leak. But could it have been accidental? I’d toss my coin in that hat for sure.

There’s a strong argument to be made that China knowingly infected the rest of the world to serve its own interests because when you play scenarios out, this is a win for China in the long run. Just look at their economy now and the fact the world was still rubbing sleep dirt out of its eyes when the virus was in full swing in China with flights in and out at maximum strength. Hundreds of flights from Wuhan to America and Europe continued weekly long after Chinese officials knew they had a full-blown pandemic on their hands.

China always plays the long game.

Unfortunately for America, we are forced into shortsighted thinking driven by a four-year election cycle. Our politicians think in terms of single-digit years. China looks 100 years out.

So unleash the pandemic on the global economy and the Chinese come out ahead when the train slowly screeches to a stop.

Something else that I find interesting to think about: Step back and take a look objectively at different forms of government, controls, and healthcare systems. There is a lot to learn in doing that.

What regime structure is best suited to deal with a pandemic?

Well, which is it for you? Please comment below.

To conclude, I think we can agree that roleplaying games can and will be helpful as we face other future challenges, like rising oceans, and resource scarcity. And as a fan of D&D, it was cool to know that a game like World of Warcraft was helpful in figuring out better solutions for a real-world pandemic.

Interesting times indeed.