Wednesday, October 5

Games and simulations as social research environments

We often talk about designing games and simulations for instruction, but NPR had an interesting story today on doing social research within a multiplayer game. A bug in World of Warcraft unleashed a deadly virtual "plague", and epidimologists and sociologists noted how game-player's reactions closely mimiced reactions to real-world disasters.

There may be a planned illness outbreak in World of Warcraft so that sociologists can study and document player's reactions from the start. This is the converse of how we often use games and simulations: instead of creating an environment to evoke a specific response, it's creating an environment and documenting participants' emergent behaviors.

1 comment:

Ben Watson said...

I am a big believer that we have yet to tap into the power of large, multiplayer environments for learning. As you mentioned, games and simulations often seem to have an endpoint whereas a carefully crafted environment (what Jay Cross would call a learnscape / garden) ensures that the learning never ends. The challenge is that training/learning is often designed to accomplish specific goals or outcomes where as continuous multiplayer games are based on a more reactive 'surviving and adapting' approach (an analogy very much suited to today's corporate environment).

Of course all of this is just talk. Only a few companies and even fewer vendors have embraced this notion. I am still amazed for example that the majority of LMSes do not show who is logged in (a prime requirement to promote interaction) or have 'Top 10'-style lists to promote ranking and 'competition'.