Online, multi-player games like Second Life and World of Warcraft have attracted some authentic popularity in the form of subscription-paying registered users and a disproportionate amount of hype from techno-utopian bloggers, the-next-big-thing media futurists, and sociology professors turned computer geeks. So much hype as a matter of fact that New York University Professor Clay Shirky has frequently questioned the real number of returning visitors to Second Life as well as its potential as an influential communal space and educational tool as the Internet grows up.
While some university professors, like Harvard Law School's Charlie Nesson, have been exploring the potential of multi-player online games within the academic setting, other big name bloggers like Joi Ito, Cory Doctorow, and Global Voices co-founder Ethan Zuckerman have been critical of the proprietary nature of how content is stored in the games.
While the pros and cons of multi-player games continue to be debated by cutting edge commentators, a well known Chilean author, blogger, and senator has expressed [ES] his interest in establishing a “guild” within World of Warcraft composed of multidisciplinary users from around the world.
Among North American internet aficionados, Fernando Flores might be best known for his book Disclosing New Worlds: Entrepreneurship, Democratic Action and the Cultivation of Solidarity, a passage of which became the “corporate philosophy” of Ludicorp, the original creators of Flickr before it was sold to Yahoo!. But for Chileans, Flores is a political legend whose own life mirrors the trials, tribulations, and resilience of their country. He was Finance Minister under the leftist administration of Salvador Allende, political prisoner during the Pinochet dictatorship, Silicon Valley entrepreneur in exile, and now once again a politician based in Santiago who was most recently lauded for withdrawing from the scandal-ridden Party for Democracy. You can learn more about the Senator/Blogger in Rosario Lizana's two part interview featured here on Global Voices. For now, I leave you with Senator Flores’ post and proposal regarding World of Warcraft:
“World of Warcraft” is a creation of the North American company Blizzard, which belongs to Universal Vivendi and last week announced that this game has already surpassed eight million registered users (paying subscription) throughout the world but mostly in the United States, Asia, and Europe.
The purpose of the game is to adopt the role of a virtual personage who must interact with other personages (players) and situations in a fantasy world. And the idea is that we will develop the personage that we adopted according to our tastes.
[Players] can belong to one of the two factions by which the game is divided. One is The Alliance, where a “race” must be chosen (Elf, Dwarf, Gnome, or Human). And the other faction is The Horde, where the races to choose from are Tauren, Undead, Orc, or Troll. Later, one must choose the gender that the personage will have and the class it will belong to, while also specifying other characteristics like skin color, hair style, face structure, and finally, choosing his or her name.
Then, with these previous steps complete, we are inside and we can begin to play. The purpose is to ascend levels, passing through different zones with their respective challenges that gradually increase in difficulty. An inexperienced player begins at level 1, which means a long path ahead if she wants to surpass the barrier of level 60. With the pace in which she advances, the completed missions provide not only experience, but also objects to survive (weapons, food, etc.), so that the greater our level, the more difficult it is to skip to the next one.
Furthermore, in this game it is possible to train and specialize in certain tasks, first learning a talent and then a skill. In this way it is possible to advance more efficiently.
However, one of the most attractive aspects of World of Warcraft is that it offers the option of facing challenges in a group along with other players who are playing simultaneously, especially for those missions with a greater difficulty.
This aspect is important because it builds team participation so that a diverse but cohesive group can be very useful. Imagine working together on challenges with different classes, each one with its characteristics, but all working together since the deficiencies of some classes can be the strengths of others and vice-versa.
This is how the game invites us to cross its geography and look for other players to form a group, thus creating a “list of contacts.” Within the game you can chat internally and even converse with audio.
As you can see, World of Warcraft offers us an ample range of content, where playing is equivalent to learning, socializing, and managing.
For that reason, and to further explore this area, I am thinking of forming a multidisciplinary group with people from several countries to participate collectively in the game as a laboratory in which we can analyze certain type of life scenarios.
If somebody is interested in this game, I await your comments.
For now, I request your patience because I will pick up this project again in March.
What do you think? Is World of Warcraft a viable way to make learning fun again? Would it promote team-building and cooperation in schools or merely subject students to violence and an unhealthy spirit of competition. Should Senator Flores choose World of Warcraft, which charges its users, or a lesser developed, but free and open-source alternative like OpenCroquet? Here's your chance to influence the thinking of an individual with the political capital to make things happen.