As an avid World of Warcraft (WoW) player and a teacher of philosophy, I’ve occasionally wondered: How might WoW serve as a learning tool for a course in philosophy? What ethical, metaphysical, epistemological, and even social-political issues arise that merit consideration and that connect to traditional and contemporary philosophical ideas and theories? I’ve decided to explore these questions and, over the summer, post what I learn.
Practical matters. Affordability and fairness were my initial concerns. We’re an open-access, two-year college in a largely rural area; as such, some of my students only have dial-up service and some don’t have computers powerful enough for the game. Moreover, right now I’d say that fewer than 15% of my students are playing or have played WoW. Then there’s the fact that downloading the game onto campus computers (including my own) is not currently possible. It may therefore be best to make WoW one of several options for covering the same objectives; I’ll need to give this more thought. As for affordability, I can limit activities to those found in various starting zones (levels 1 through 12 or 13) so that students can play the free WoW Starter Edition online (which goes through level 20).
Getting Started. My plan is to create new WoW characters, level them through their starting zones, and keep a journal on their experiences and the potential philosophical issues that arise. Ideally I’d like to go through all of the starting zones, but I’ll be happy if I get through five or six that offer opportunities for philosophical reflection and that connect to issues and theories often encountered in an introductory philosophy course. I’ll begin with character races and classes that I don’t currently play. In fact, I’ve already begun by leveling a worgen druid through the starting zone and will reflect on this experience in my next post.
A few questions for you. Are you using WoW as a teaching and learning tool or have suggestions for using it? If so, how do you or would you deal with the matter of affordability and fairness to all students? What suggestions do you have for a project such as mine?