“The moment when I realized virtual interaction could be more than simply fun and games happened around 15 years ago, during what some long-time players of World of Warcraft might remember as the Corrupted Blood Incident–where intrepid adventurers coming back from an excursion into an unexplored jungle with their animal companions ended up unleashing a lethal pandemic into the virtual world.”

“At the time, the cause and mechanism of transmission of Corrupted Blood were unknown, with even the developers having little information on why this was happening, as this wasn’t something they had planned. Fear and uncertainty were rife, with many fleeing cities (which had become virtual graveyards, littered with the corpses of the dead), and others volunteering to go into hot zones to save who they could, despite the risks. Corrupted Blood happened in an online game, but the scenes that it evoked could easily have been lifted from the real world, cosmetic trappings aside.

Katrina had hit New Orleans just a month ago at the time, and the news footage of what had happened in that city after the levees broke was very much in the public consciousness at the time. With a virtual disaster so close on the heels of one in the physical world, it was easy to see that regardless of the medium across which you interact with people, they remain—and respond like—people, especially when faced with fear and uncertainty or confronted with something bigger than themselves that they lack the ability to face themselves.

And if people remained people, regardless of the medium or platform, and nursing was about holistic care and treating the whole person, why not treat people in these other worlds and media as well?”

— Matthew Lee, Nu’14, Gr’20, University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing