Writer’s Guild in WoW
I came a bit late to Andrew B Watt’s post wondering how to structure a game-like experience that would guide students through the progression of writing skills necessary in learning the formal academic essay. He’s prolific enough (much to my jealousy) that it slid into his archives rather quickly, and I thought the idea was worth exploring a bit more. As a warning, I wrote this as a gamer and it’s steeped in WoW language.
Consider a WoW-esque MMO where as part of the turn-in process for any quest, you also need to write a sentence or two about some aspect of your recent adventures.
So F’nordallon wants a description of the mountains near Ironforge, or one of the gather quests asks you to describe how to reach the target zone from the NPC’s current position, or an orphaned child wants a description of how their valiant parent died. As characters level, the writing requirements grow as well. By the time you’ve hit 60 most major quest lines are requiring some focused and specialized paragraphs. The Battlefied (PvP) unlock questlines involve writing propaganda pieces for your faction. The range of opportunities here are really endless. Anyone who complains about the repetitive nature of MMO quests only focuses on the “verbs” of gameplay (go, kill, fetch, speak). In terms of story, especially in a lore-rich game like WoW, quests are incredibly diverse as you progress through levels, zones and especially factions.
The problem, of course, is that evaluating writing requires human eyes, and reasonably attentive eyes at that. I’d love to see a game built around this, so that part of the requirements once you’re at level cap (and thus have demonstrated your own writing skills) is to evaluate and approve the writing submitted by the new players. Only after approval would the new player get the full XP reward. Editing and mentoring new writers would be it’s own form of end-game content, with the same sorts of rewards that you’d expect from raiding or PvP. How awesome would it be to run around decked-out in a Tier-? set of Purple Editing Gear! This is what we’re talking about when we say Ed-MMO’s don’t need content. They are content!
OK, so a full “writer enabled” commercial MMO is a pipe dream. But with a bit of foresight, you could set up a guild to this in and current game . There’s no way to reward via XP, but you could easily do gold or crafting materials, and certainly tie the player’s writing to their guild advancement. If the game is scriptable enough, you could write a UI-addon to display the “writing quest” alongside the standard quest test and a submission form that takes the response and delivers it to the first available editor.
If this would work at all, it’s because MMO’s can harness the enthusiasm and expertise of real people, packaged as small moments of leisure. Every time I see Ed software that tries a “computer-only” solution to a problem like this – teaching young people who to strengthen and express their ideas – I laugh. We’ve already built a great system for that — participation in a social world where your voice matters.