Thomas Brown

If you don't know much about virtual worlds then this will be a useful paper. Even if you do, I think it is useful because of the arguments it rehearses about the learning and related activities that occur.

This is a significant paper not for the usual hype that is associated with what these technologies might be good for or can be used to do but because of the observations around the kind of learning that a player/avatar is confronted with. Anyone that has played a massively multiplayer online game (MMOG) or even recall the first time they wandered about in 2nd Life will have some sense of what they are writing about.

There is always a touch of romanticism in any promotional piece (which this is) and the notion of a networked imagination is interesting. Ask yourself what would such a beast look like or is it just a hyped version of the pooled imaginations (via actions of avatars) they are talking about?

The relatively rich account of what goes on inside and then beyond the games is a useful indication for folk who have not dabbled. But, like a lot of these developments there were virtual worlds that had massive numbers of players around in the days when the best you could do was share lines of texts1. Compared to the kinds of interactions and sophistication of the graphics these earlier worlds are primitive but some of the basic interactive elements/role play and so on were still evident. Sherry Turkle's 1995 book, Life on the Screen2 is a useful and interesting account of the complexities of these kinds of worlds.

It's worth thinking about their take on situated learning and the claim about the inversion of learning about, to learning to be. Much to be said here. You should be making good use of your developing Internet sleuthing skills to follow some of these ideas away from the text.

The networked imagination - when they spell out what they mean is worth thinking about. What other environments might induce an imagining? Maybe what you do in a classroom, if you teach, creates a kind of world for the student who has to imagine what to do? I don't mean to trivialise the experience of these spaces but they often remind me of that old teacher/student game of having to guess what the teacher is thinking. Something you are probably doing right now as you read this text. :)

One of their key arguments is the notion of Guilds in WoW and related structures in other games. What do you make of their claims, even without first hand experience of what these are like?

There has been a resurgence in physical card-based games upon which some of the game logic of WoW has been built. Role playing games (RPGs) are common in digital culture as well as in non-digital spaces.

I think the most useful analysis occurs when they talk about related attempts to build more serious games but that have something on the MMOG logic.

What do you equate player agency to in terms of your particular focus?

If we simply take these ideas as informants to simple, basic pedagogical practice. What might be an equivalent to Turner's conceptual blending?

How useful is the distinction made about virtual worlds and traditional or conventional games? Is it as sharp as they argue?

Like the authors, I too was really impressed when I first watched young boys play in these online spaces, doing missions and so on. What impressed me was the networking that occurred around the game, the support, help and advice that was negotiated between players, often using back channels while playing the game. The kind of activity a teacher would kill to obtain in his or her classroom.

But is what they are describing really anything new or is it that the medium in which this is happening is?