I recently had the opportunity to spend an extended amount of time in World of Warcraft. I can definitely see why some peoples’ real-world lives disintegrate while they rise to higher levels in this absorbing digital world. Even someone like me, who is all thumbs (not in the good, gaming sense) can enjoy WoW. And when I lost my sword and shield, I still figured out how to beat the Nightsabers in 2 out of 8 bouts using only my bare hands. For me, a 25% success rating approaches my personal best when it comes to gaming.
Of course, the question is: “”What is the educational value?”. For me, this gets extended to “How can this be used in medical education?” I’m not sure there would be much value in teaching our future doctors how to treat for bites from those huge yellow spiders, or to repair the damage inflicted by the rather severe weaponry in WoW. For medical students, this will probably never serve as more than a time out during studies.
And while I’ve heard of economics and geography being taught using WoW, I’ll leave it to people who ar more knowledgeable about, Economics, Geography, and WoW. But, I do see it as having possibilities for strengthening critical thinking skills and providing team-building experiences.
Of greater importance is what WoW offers educational game developers. WoW has a very concise, but highly effective introductory overview. And the in-game help is easily accessible and not a cryptic or clouded as Second Life. And, of course, there are tons of fan-based and commercial online and in-print supports.
Research has shown that while excellent graphics are nice, it is the story that engages users. Research has also shown that users don’t care whether the story is fact or fiction. Which leads me to believe that it’s possible to create knock-your-socks-off educational gaming.
Why can’t game developers share code in partnership with educators so that educational servers become available in WoW, with quests geared toward stated objectives, based upon accepted learning theory, and driven by a well-thought-out pedagogy? Educational game developers will never have the deep pockets that commercial developers have. But, if they could license popular games from the developers they would get a lot of the costly work done & paid for; having saved both time & money, they could create truly meaningful games in environments already familiar with students. And the commercial developers would get free advertising every time a student entered the educational environment of their online game.