WoW helps to catch terrorists? But videogames are evil!

Suck on this, Jack Thompson and Co: according to a recent Wired article, it seems that virtual terrorists within World of Warcraft are providing an interesting parallel to the types of activities real world terrorists engage in, making for some fascinating studies and really making you consider some of the frightful potential of MMOs. From the article:

Scientists have already noted World of Warcraft’s usefulness in studying how diseases spread. The game’s network of 10 million players — each capable of making decisions, either logical or illogical, rational or irrational — gives scientists a ready-made virtual world to scrutinize that’s not based on computer models or artificial intelligence. The game could be an invaluable tool not only for counterterrorists and epidemiologists but also sociologists and economists.

Gamers doubling as Bioterrorists? You bet, at least as much as they can be within WoW. The deputy director for Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies, Charles Blair, has commented that he thinks these studies can make leaps and bounds in learning how terrorist cells come together and successfully execute their plans. A little bit more from Blair himself:

“The main strength is that [Warcraft] involves ‘real’ people making real decisions in a world with some kind of [controllable] bounds,” said Blair, who said studying players’ actions could prove useful to military intelligence analysts. “To put it academically, you have both dependent and independent variables.”

It’s boggling the more you think about it, but likely the average WoW player doesn’t think about it — ever. Blizzard is a bit uncomfortable with the entire thing, stressing that WoW is first and foremost a game and was never designed to imitate reality. But does that mean it can also be a tool? Yes, it seems so. Is this scary to you as a gamer, or do you find yourself mostly unfazed by it?

[Thanks, Justin]

Colette Bennett