Sunday, 12 July 2009

Your Warcraft is in my college education!

I have been playing World of Warcraft for a while now. Just as with everything in my life, I try to tie it somehow to librarianship. I've thought about ways that I could look into and write about the information seeking behaviours of WoW players, what a service providing information in-game would or could be like, or the imagery and perceptions of books, libraries and librarians that exists within the game.

There are others connecting World of Warcraft (and other games or virtual environments) to something academic. had an interesting interview last month with a professor of anthropology at the Inver Hills Community College in Minnesota who has created and offered a class entitled: "Warcraft: Culture, Gender and Identity". Beyond teaching students about some important cultural concepts in an environment they all know and enjoy already, this course also provided a chance to show how a gaming world like WoW can be used in teaching, which seems to be a slowly but surely growing trend.

What do you think? Is this an appropriate connection? Do games and software like these provide enough complexity or an appropriate venue to learn from?

(For those of you who may not have "got" my poor attempt at humour in the title, watch this.)


Jennifer said...

Sure they do. I mean I started playing LOTRO a couple years ago and my ability to read maps has increased greatly. I scoffed when my husband suggested that I could learn real skills in an MMO but I have. I don't often find myself turning left instead of right any longer as I did many, many times before I started playing.

MMO's provide their own economies, social structures and even fashion. I'm sure many people who play WoW and other MMO's understand the importance of large shoulders or feathery helmets.

Just take a look at economics for example (it's the first thing that comes to my mind). What happens to the economy in game when a new piece of gear or a new crafting item is introduced into the game? The price on that item goes up and then stabilizes as it becomes more common. Other prices dip and rise accordingly. Sort of like in real life...well not sort of, exactly like in real life. "Back in my day light hides were only 10 silver each!!!"

There's a lot that could be studied in an MMO. How to communicate the complexities of a boss fight using only text. What makes one person a leader and others a follower. What makes a guild grow and prosper while others crumble. What makes some guilds self-implode. What about the behaviour of individuals playing the does it differ in game from out of game? How do people identify with characters.

I think there's a lot about life that can be learned through MMO's. Given the hobbies of today's younger folks (and even us 30 plus-ers'), I think it's only natural that educators start looking at the games we play to help educate us. Haven't people been using sports as "life lessons" for a long time?

Jennifer said...

An after thought...try to explain that a video game can be anything but a waste of time to people of my parents' generation. It's like beating your head against a wall.