World of Warcraft makes people better scientists

A News Lite article reporting on academic research indicates that WoW makes the world more scientific:

They looked at a random sample of nearly 2,000 discussion posts to see what types of conversations took place, such as social bantering versus problem-solving, that classified as scientific reasoning.
It was concluded that the forum and game-based learning could supplement textbooks and science labs in fostering scientific thinking and problem-solving ability.

The article seemed a bit light so I figured finding an article by the authors would help:

In MMOGs, individuals collaborate to solve complex problems within the virtual world, such as figuring out what combination of skills, proficiencies, and equipment are necessary to conquer an in-game boss monster. As part of developing efficient and effective solutions, players are customarily expected to research various game strategies and tactics by consulting on- and offline manuals, databases, and discussions and by using such knowledge as the basis for in-game action. Thus, as part of standard gameplay (particularly beyond the beginning levels), individuals share their own hypotheses about what strategies work by proposing models for solutions, justifying their “theories” with evidence (such as tabulated mathematical results aggregated across multiple trials), and debating the merits of conflicting hypotheses – not as aimless contentious discussion (although there is a bit of that as well) but rather as part and parcel of the collective intelligence (Levy, 1999) amassed through patterned participatory consumption (Jenkins, 1992) the hallmark of interactive“entertainment” media such as games.


This 2006 piece, I believe, is the preliminary study that only looks at one particular thread that details answers to a particular problem while I am guessing a later article does the random sample to correct for the bias in the initial sample (if someone finds it, do post it and I will put it in the blog post).  However, there is probably some cause and effect selection bias still present.  Those posting on the threads they evaluate may already be familiar with the scientific method given the large amount of college students and beyond that make up the 10 million subscribers – however, I doubt all members of the community are.  Instead, it is possible that the expansive user base brings to the table several scholars who then impose such standards for the sake of valid comparison.  As the standards become socially reinforced, then others learn to imitate them.  Thus, I wouldn’t be surprised that the underlying norm of science is implicitly observed while many individuals may not actually be able to articulate the process theoretically.This can be coupled with Freakonomics posting on studies that argue beer consumption may be bad for science scholars.  So, if we learn anything from today, it would be to play more video games and to drink less beer.  Or do both to even things out.

Michael A. Allen

About Michael A. Allen

Michael is an Assistant Professor in Political Science at Boise State University with a focus in International Relations, Comparative Politics, and Methodology (quantitative and formal). His work includes issues related to military basing abroad, asymmetric relations, cooperation, and conflict. He received his Ph.D from Binghamton University in 2011.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.