So, I met a fellow researcher in Second Life tonight–very cool–Melanie McBride. We agreed on many topics, but, there is something I’m not sure about. What I have heard and read through my new friend Melanie, Gee, Steinkuekler, and others, is how strong the learning communities are in WoW (World of Warcraft). WoW, and games like WoW are open, friendly communities of practice, inviting, but…I never played myself. Next best thing? I purchased WoW for my son, with the caveat that he would continually blog about his experiences in WoW after he played (needless to say, it didn’t last long; he blogged maybe 4 times about the game!). What he tells me is that he was extremely bored in the lower levels, and many of the people he meets in-world are hyper-critical and insulting, as if they are making up for feelings of inferiority in RL, misplaced bullying if you will. He kept up the playing, and joined groups, but still, there was a sense of cut-throat competition, like Korean Wang-tta. He began meeting up in-world with a friend who was further along, and when face to face, this friend would publicly ridicule my son’s lower WoW level. It could all be symptomatic of my son’s competitive nature, but this was the gauntlet that made him stay up late, trying to improve and level-up on his own. He tells me people are more interested in looking good within the game than in the game itself.
This story is merely anecdotal, but contrary to common gaming studies, WoW is about hierarchy and social capital.