Revisiting MMORPGs in Support of Learning: Changes in the Last Decade

Revisiting MMORPGs in Support of Learning: Changes in the Last Decade

Bodi Anderson
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 28
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7987-8.ch010
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This enhanced chapter revisits a previous literature analysis of research on the potential educational benefits of the use of massive multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPG) by considering both changes in the medium itself and recent trends in research. Initially, a working operational definition of MMORPGs in education is considered in light of research to date with a focus on how MMORPGs differ from most video games in terms of types of player-game interaction, levels of player-player interaction, and environments in which interaction occurs. Next considering previous and current theoretical and empirical studies on MMORPGs from a variety of disciplines, including education, psychology, and linguistics, a conceptual framework for the use of MMORPGs in support of learning is created. Finally, an overview of current research trends in MMORPGs is provided, concluding with suggestions concerning future research of the use of MMORPGs in support of learning.
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Video games continue to increase in popularity worldwide and are the dominate earners of the entertainment market, making more than movies and music combined (Foote, 2018) with top games almost doubling the earnings of Hollywood's biggest blockbusters (Griffith, 2018). By now the concept of Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (or MMORPGs) is known to many in the general populace, thanks much in part to the success of World of Warcraft, the highest grossing game of all time, earning over $9.23 billion in revenue since its inception in 2004 (Fredrick, 2017). Now in its fifteenth year of release World of Warcraft has also spawned the highest grossing video game movie of all time and still enjoys a multi-million subscriber base (Gadgets 360, 2018).

Given the popularity of MMORPGs, and the continued use of video games in support of various learning contexts, educators began using MMORPGs in instructional settings in the mid 2000s. Instructors from various academic disciplines ranging from childhood education, communication technology, psychology and computer assisted language learning began to experimentally investigate the use of MMORPGs in instructional settings. For instance, the virtual world of Second Life is home to a multitude of K-12 classes and over one hundred virtual university projects and campuses including Harvard, Stanford and New York University, all of whom have ongoing virtual classes taking place within the MMORPG (Second Life, 2018). Furthermore, an educational institution within the game also controlled by Linden Labs (the creators of Second Life) is maintained to offer potential educators advice and pedagogical rationale for the creation of lesson plans and virtual campuses within Second Life (Waters, 2009).

Since 2010, research into the use of MMORPGs as an instructional medium has fluctuated, and while it has ultimately increased, it remains a focused subfield of game based learning and serious game research.

Naturally, each specific academic discipline is driven by different purposes, pedagogy, and field specific theoretical issues. Likewise, each discipline has particular needs for both instructors and students. For instance, a study by the Instructional Technology Council (2008) determined that disciplines such as foreign languages, hard sciences, and nursing faced many great adaptive challenges in distance education when compared with other subjects. This understood, in the conceptualization of a general definition of distance education, and thus in part MMORPG research, Deshler and Hagen (1989) suggest the pressing need for an interdisciplinary and multidimensional approach noting that anything short of this would be short-sighted and end up being either discipline restricted or capable of producing misrepresentative results in terms of any research done. However, MMORPGs, while being a distinct medium of distance education, also fall equally under the umbrella of game based learning and serious game research, another field that has a large body of research across many different academic disciplines. Thus, in order to understand their full implications for the use in support of learning, MMORPGs must be viewed in light of both current distance education and serious game research standards.

Key Terms in this Chapter

MMORPG: Massive multiplayer online role playing game. An online video role playing game where thousands of users can play together on a single server.

CRPG: Computer role playing game. A video game genre in which players controls the actions and choices of character(s) in a well-defined fictional world.

PVP: Player vs. player. A mode of MMORPGs in which players compete against each other often in violent clashes.

PVE: Player vs. environment. A mode of MMORPGs in which players work collaboratively to defeat computer-controlled AI opponents.

PnPRPG: Pen and paper role playing game. A game such as Dungeons and Dragons in which players assume the roles of characters in a fictional setting and act out the roles within a partially improvised narrative.

Serious Game Studies: The study of the educational benefits of games designed for purposes other than entertainment.

Applied Linguistics: Research into language with relevance to real-world issues and often a focus on second language learning.

Sandbox: A style of MMORPG in which quests and stronger narratives are lacking and free exploration of the virtual world is encouraged.

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