Tie And Jeans

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.


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7 thoughts on “Writer’s Guild in WoW

  1. I love this idea. I have done something similar with the elementary level virtual world Secret Builders. You can send students on quests to interact with and learn from a variety of historical figures. I have students write about their experience and then compose a newspaper article about the historical figure as if they had interviewed them. Until this sort of game has the writing piece built in, why not have your students start a blog or wiki where they detail the game and play?

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  3. Got to this post from your more recent one. I just thought I’d add something as a seasoned Rp server vet.

    There IS a way you could grant “Xp” for a Writer’s Guild, so long as it didn’t need to be something official. A popular addon for Rp guilds is “Gryphonheart” they have a number of small utilities available in a suite, one of those being a player-created reputation mod. If everyone has the add-on, they can have a reputation bar that you can grant rep to in lieu of Xp.

    At that point you can decide if certain rep levels would come with other types of rewards, etc.

    Even better, In-game mail has a character limit, but with Gryphonheart Items you can create entire books, trade them with other players, and make copies of them.

    And now that Classic-Wrath is free to level 20… Well, things are getting more and more feasible! :)

    • tieandjeans on said:

      Thanks for the link to GHI ! A player-controlled reputation bar is a HUGE step towards managing the writer-rewards economy. Looking over the mod, it seems like there’s even support for various styles of vanity items and buffs, which would be a great asset as well. While I love the dream of an epic Writer’s Set, working within the 1-20 range could make this into a manageable short unit.

      Everyone draws some backstory prompts out of the hat, then we all spawn new toons at the same time. Each hometown has a adviser in place to walk new players through both the initial race/class quests and the writing process. Oh! Unless sub-20 gear has had some sort of massive price spike recently, outfiting and entire class of kids in moderate level twink/reward gear would be well within the recreational budget of most levelcap characters.

      Man, now I want to reroll on an RP server and start planning this. I don’t think this would be very popular on Horde-Stonemaul.

      • If you do, try checking out what server/faction combos Dramatis Personae tends to use. They frequently have very Rp friendly communities on them!

        Earthen Ring has a very active rp community that can be hard to see when one is sitting in trade chat, but http://earthenring.net/ helps you find friendly faces and resources. I also find that Feathermoon (Alliance side) is Rp-friendly; Horde tends to have very dedicated Rp-ers, but they are much harder to find and most of the population doesn’t realize they’re there.

        I know that other Rp-ers aren’t really necessary for what you are thinking, but a friendlier atmosphere always helps. Don’t want students getting publicly mocked, after all.

        If you do happen to do anything with this, I’d love to know how it goes! Personally, I’ve considered doing the same thing…but science oriented. Someone on the Dev team has a streak of geomorphic nerdiness running in them… From the layered strata of the Barrens to the ice-wedge polygons in Borean Tundra. So many things in Azeroth make me want to have students critically examine them as models of the phenomena.

        Anyway, if nothing else, it’s a pleasure to geek out with someone who also likes both gaming and education!

  4. tieandjeans on said:

    Have you read Neal Stephenson’s REAMDE yet? There’s a core plot point about a WoW successor named T’Rain where every aspect of the geography and economic model stems directly from their geologic model.

    I’ve always struggled with the use of game world items for scientific study. In some ways you can use it as a text to analyze and respond to (is there anything like a viable ecosystem in Mulgore? Do pre/post Cataclysm Barrens make sense as the same place?), but my experiments down that line have quickly outstripped my students’ level of persuasive scientific writing. Hence the need for a Writer’s Guild!

    My basic belief is that MMO worlds are dense with content, and that almost any field of K12 study can find some fertile ground inside them. The challenge is manipulating the world to reveal that content without requiring days of /played, or building long-term learning into that process.

    (Dear god, this theme is horrific for nested comments!)

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