Yes, I’m playing WoW… it’s for school

We don’t teach a communication course focused on gaming — at least not yet. So many U of Scranton students may be surprised to know that computer games are indeed a valid subject of study in the field of mass communication.

The Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, which is the major accrediting body in the field, has an interest group devoted to “Entertainment Studies.” Video game research covers everything from the blow to self-esteem that comes with death in a video game to the way that games portray gender or handle violence.

Today the topic is “Understanding the Gamer Disposition: What gamers can teach us about learning in the 21st century,” the title of a presentation given at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication.

Just last week, I created a Facebook discussion thread for USC gamers who want to join a Trojan clan for the upcoming release of Halo 3. According to Douglas Thomas, this action is a tremendously significant one: I’ve taken the first step towards creating an online space where like-minded gamers exchange knowledge and knowledge resource locations.

If that sounds like jargon, it probably is. Monday’s presentation at Annenberg, “Understanding the Gamer Disposition: What gamers can teach us about learning in the 21st century” was largely an obfuscated statement of the obvious… that gamers like those who play World of Warcraft (WoW) are early adopters of online communities and use them in unexpected ways.

[Continue reading The WoW Factor]

Speaking as someone with a couple Level 70 WoW characters of my own [retired], I agree that massively multiplayer game communities have a variety of lessons to offer for gamers as well as scholars.

Gamers absorb the value of teamwork (teams succeed where individuals fail), helping others to help themselves (selfish players soon discover they lack the friends to get things done themselves), the value of a good reputation, how to function in a group and even leadership skills.

For scholars, it’s more a question of the players and the online communities themselves. How do people communicate online? To what end do they communicate? What methods of communication work best? How do the communities police themselves online? How do in-game communities branch out to other forms of communication — Web sites, blogs, email, face-to-face meetings, and so on. How do they learn?

There are more than 9 million players subscribed to World of Warcraft alone. Video games represent a multi-billion dollar industry. They are an interesting subject of study unto themselves. But as a model for future online communication, they present a fascinating laboratory as well.

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This blog is maintained by Dr. Matthew M. Reavy as a service to journalism students at the University of Scranton.

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