Multitudes of Smoke

The thoughtful ramblings of a space goat and his alts.


Posted by Smokimus on January 28, 2011

Today, I was listening to the most recent Raid Warning podcast. In the show the hosts get into a discussion about how WoW is being used by some teachers/professors. This topic fascinates me.

I’m not sure that the virtual world that is Wow has a great deal of relevance to the “real” world. However, there are certainly areas that I can see would be of interest when studying micro-environments. The WoW economy and the very basics of supply and demand (keeping in mind that it is a world of infinite supply), comes to mind. Social interaction and group dynamics would also seem to be an area ripe for study.

I think the major area where teachers can get help via WoW is as an example of getting people who otherwise aren’t interested in doing various tasks to do them and in some cases get very excited about doing them. Specifically, the reward systems inside the game that gets players to keep playing and paying their monthly subscription fee. What rewards?

  • Ding – Every time you reach a new level, a bright light effect surrounds your character and, now, you are informed of what new spell you can learn or that you have a new talent point. It is a noticeable effect for everyone around you and is frequently noted by other players around you with a “grats”. There are players who play for the “ding” and the social recognition of advancement.
  • Achievements – New with Wrath, the achievement system drove people to fish, cook, explore, quest, and many other activities that were previously too “dull” to bother with. These didn’t become any less boring, but they provided another means of demonstrating advancement in the game. More glue to keep you coming back.
  • Titles/Mounts/Pets – The system of rewarding you for a long grind whether it be for reputation, puging, raiding hard modes, heroic dungeon feats with a title, a mount, a pet or all of the above encouraged the entire community to go gaga for activities that many previously ignored/dreaded.

I’m sure there are more, but you get the point.

My oldest child did 500+ math (a subject she dislikes in the extreme) problems over the recent holiday break. She did this to get a special charm that she can display on her backpack and certificate from her teacher. Without this seemingly trivial inducement there is no way she would have done 10 problems without some serious consternation. Yet she did these problems eagerly.

The minor psychological rewards offered in WoW keep the players coming back for more. Similarly, minor rewards and public recognition can keep pupils engaged in subjects that they may otherwise disdain.

What happens when the frequency of rewards taper off? (See May – October 2010 in WoW)

What is it really appropriate to reward?

If you reward everything, do you really end up rewarding nothing?

What say you?


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