Hey, I had that idea second!

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Well, I don't know if I should be glad that I'm not the only one to think video gaming environments could be interesting test beds, or sad that I wasn't a visionary pione...heh. Yeah. I could barely type it with a straight face, let alone read it.

Anyway, from a fascinating Marketplace story, I heard about attempts to train emergency responders with video game technology. A brief mention is also made to "massive multiplayer" environments. The Christian Science Monitor had a similar story a few months ago. The Serious Games Initiative is sponsoring the Games for Change conference, and has some interesting references on its site. (I find the subject fascinating, even though I tend to cringe at things that say they are explicitly working for "social change". Society tends to change pretty well on its own; earnest proponents of further change usually imply that the change happen in ways they prefer, whereas I would prefer the change come up more spontaneously. This page urges us to join to help foster "positive social change". Positive, eh? Perhaps I'm too skeptical, but...)

Of course, the Army has been using simulation technology for years, and have even released games that are little more/less than the tools they use for training. The important differnce, and the one I think is key to this whole issue of MMO environments is that both sides of an interaction are being controlled by a human. That is to say, both the affected and the emergency response team could see online representation of reactions that bear striking resemblance to those we might see in the real world. Or, at least, closer to true than the programmed versions might ever get.

Why not get those training in emergency response help deal with those people who currently experienced a rapidly spreading plague?

UPDATE: Now it's even on NPR! If you didn't get a chance, this is a decent story on the World of Warcraft plague, including a chat with someone who works on modeling infection disease outbreaks.

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I would be very interested to see how grade school students manage the federal, state, and local emergency response to a rapidly spreading plague (the Sim-flu?).

I don't want to train the students on how "to do" emergency response, but to see how flexible young minds deal with a Kobayashi-Maru scenario, without them knowing that there is no way to win...

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