This WoWLearning Project forms the basis of Michelle A. Hoyle’s doctoral research at The University of Sussex under the supervision of Dr. Judith Good. I am a long-time member of the IDEAs Lab in the School of Informatics at Sussex as well as a course chair/author and associate lecturer at the The Open University. You can get in touch with me using WoW.Learning AT sussexDOTacDOTuk or Eingang AT ssusexDOTacDOTuk.
Coming from a background in higher education via distance education and online communities, I am interested in the link between people’s motivations and the learning that comes from building communities of practice (Wenger, 2008), particularly in the 26+ demographic where 75% of the Open University’s new students originate. In this multi-year project, I am exploring the motivations of World of Warcraft players and examining the learning that takes places in their guilds and alliances, both in game and out.
Where does the learning come from? Learning is everywhere in the game. In order to contribute to a team effectively, people need to learn to play their characters well. Each character has specific abilities and learning to play well requires a substantial time investment. Other people are interested in more effectively killing things and devote hours outside of the game to reading about their character’s role and how to improve on it, often in very tiny increments. Forum discussions abound about the best equipment for particular classes and models are constructed of how in-game equipment will perform under certain conditions.
Organization of The Honourbound Alliance on EU-Thunderhorn depicting the participating guilds on the top and specific adventure teams from the participating guilds on the bottom. Source: Hoyle, 2009
The initial research into motivation will be through a set of online surveys. The first survey, intended for about 50 participants from the EU-Thunderhorn server (see Figure 1), will collect some primarily game-related demographic information and allow participants to express in their own words why they enjoy playing the game and why they belong to a given guild. This initial, open-ended survey will be used to develop a set of motivations which will then be used to develop a closed survey to be administered to a larger sample at a later date.
Later research will take an ethnographic approach, relying on existing social capital gained in the game to interview and observe the interactions of players in their guilds, while they adventure together, or while they have fun. Interactions will take place both in game, as experienced directly by avatars, and via discourse analysis of postings in public and private forums. This requires careful risk management and considerations regarding where informed consent is required. I am guided in our interactions by best practices in the area of virtual world studies.
Hoyle, M. (2009) WoW! Roberts & Susans Game Learning, [online] Slide presentation. SlideShare presentation. (Accessed February 21, 2010).