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How one of the largest MMORPG can be an Immersive/Interactive Learning Tool

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Night Elf

You have chosen to be a Night Elf. Click on the video below to learn your origin story.

If you are interested in learning more about your race, click here

There you have it … your purpose, your identity, your own epic narrative. You are a member of a race and faction with a clear mission in this world, a known enemy, an origin mythology … in other words, you’ve been given purpose and motivation for why you are in this world. What you do with this new identity in the game is up to you!

Now, you might still be thinking “what does this have to do with learning?” What the above video demonstrates that narrative can be a powerful motivator. For a good educational game, there are three elements that need to be covered: game design, challenge, and an engaging story line. Most educational games cover the first two, but manage to apply narrative as an afterthought. This results in a lot of dry educational material with a seemingly unrelated but supposedly appealing element applied to it, i.e. chocolate-covered broccoli. The power of narrative as a teaching tool is something that needs further investigation, and I think MMORPGs are a great place to start.

Don’t believe me? Well, let’s rewrite the WoW script. What if instead of an intro telling you about your race and faction, the homeland you belong to, and what your motivation and purpose is … all narrated over sweeping camera shots …

Imagine you are on the deck of a ship, setting sail from Europe to New York Harbor. It is 1910, and you are one of the surviving members of your extended family. Your mission is to survive the streets on New York City once you have landed at Ellis Island. You have the choice to survive as a law-abiding citizen, or taking risks for the survival of your family be becoming a criminal. The choice is up to you which path you take. Along the way, you will make allies and enemies, and learn what it was like to be an immigrant in the New World.

Like WoW, you would be given a purpose, mission, and an identity. Everything within the game is directed by the choices you make, and the open environment is rich in elements based in history. While this might cause some players to get a one-sided point of view of events, like WoW the player has the freedom to choose another viewpoint to play from, namely creating a new character. There is no limitation to how many viewpoints you can test out in the environment. In addition, you are able to interact with other players in the game and collaborate on missions. The tasks you are given fit to the level of your ability. Non-player characters in the game are available for you to ask questions and to learn more about history, or they will direct you to where you need to go. By engaging in a simulation of history, you have an opportunity to learn empathy for the plight of immigrants in this New World.

If we are able to harness the potential of a massive immersive environment like WoW, we might succeed in designing an immersive learning experience that would lead to some Epic Wins for education.