Tobold's Blog
Thursday, November 16, 2006
This blog is now required reading

Sometimes I check out what sites link to this blog, because usually sites that link to here are about MMORPG games, and thus interesting to me. But my latest link discovery nearly caused me to fall from my chair, I was laughing so hard. The link came from the University of Minnesota. I'm the last link (of just 4) in the required reading material for the week of November 14, labeled "discussion of issues in MMORPGs". This is for the Fall 2006 course "Creating the Social Web" of the IT Labs in the Computer Science & Engineering department.

I find that extremely silly. I'm just an ordinary bloke playing computer games and writing about them. And suddenly some professor is sending his students to read my blog as an example for "the Social Web"? This Web 2.0 craze is getting ridiculous. What's next? Google buying my blog for $50 million? (Hey, I'd take the money.)
As someone in the class, I sure hope that this blog justifies the time I'm going to have to spend reading it. ;-)
Well, if you like MMOs, it's definately good. =D
i wish i had to read mmo blogs for school O.o
Take it as a compliment. You write well, reply to comments, and ask intelligent questions.

That's already got you better than 90% of the blogs out there....
"discussion of issues in MMORPGs", eh?

I wish Lum the Mad was still up. Now that would have been an education.
"I'm just an ordinary bloke playing computer games and writing about them."

You cannot be "ordinary" in terms of MMORPGs - you can spell, you appear to have some grasp of the long-forgotten art of punctuation, I have yet to see you refer to anyone as a "m8" and you don't measure your social standing by who you managed to "pwn" in PvP (I think it has already been established that you suck at PvP, which might be the answer there).

An ordinary bloke blogging about WoW would simply list of the size of the crits he achieved that day.

Your humbleness is very much a relief in the world of blogs that are more self-serving then anything.

but dont sell yourself short. you had a huge following on MTGO for quite sometime (where i found you and started stalking) and i imagine you were visible on another forum before then. your well educated and give a good perspective on what you are playing at the time.

keep up the good work!
It makes you wonder if the professor is a WoW player.

By the way, perfect timing for this topic - I was just considering the term "Web 2.0" today, and decided that I would post something when I got home, only to find that you had a similar topic that served perfectly to start my post off with.
As someone in the class, I sure hope that this blog justifies the time I'm going to have to spend reading it.

Well, define "justify". I do think that I write an entertaining blog. But if you'd want to impress your professor with having read a blog which actually has some academic merit, I'd recommend Terranova instead. You might want to head there for extra credit. :)

I wish Lum the Mad was still up. Now that would have been an education.

Lum the Mad is now not so mad any more, and his blog is called Broken Toys. But I totally agree that the original "Lum the Mad" site would have been very educating in this context, being basically the first MMORPG blog, long before the word "blog" even existed.
What's next -- professors requiring "Barrens chat"? :P
That is interesting news. Particularly on the tail of your post about using web resources for free -- has this professor offered you 'compensation'? $$ ;)

Seriously, though -- Good blog!
You've definitely brought up issues that concern the MMORPG community, like gold farming, the future of the game, the impact of the expansion, etc.

Who knows, maybe Blizz will read your blog too!
Maybe they'll even listen!
Or would that be too much to hope for...?
I really enjoy this blog, and think it is useful reading for a class studying MMORPGs. That being said, there is a real dearth of interesting commentary on MMORPGs out there. Millions of people play them, but the amount of criticism and analysis is significantly less than for almost any movie, tv show, album, or book. This despite the fact that WOW players outnumber the readers of almost any book and must approach the number of fans of a number of movies.
This will probably change, certainly if WOW continues with strong subscriptions numbers and at least a few of the next gen games have similarly wide appeal.
This is about the only blog I've seen that discusses the "bigger picture" when looking at WoW. Most blogs are infrequently updated accounts of what the person did that day ingame -- there's nothing to learn from them. My feeling is that most authors lack the critical facilities to do bigger picture stuff anyway.
Tobold, I just want to reiterate what's been said above - I'd take it as a compliment. You're well-written, you have a terrific perspective that leads to interesting observations, insight and discussion. Really, don't sell yourself short. There's a good reason yours is the only MMO blog I check on a regular basis.

I also second your TerraNova suggestion. TN is excellent for purely academic considerations. That being said, I generally find TN to be a little *too* academic in their take on MMOs.

Thanks everybody for the kind words. But my point was not that this isn't a blog worth reading, my point is that it this blog is a form of entertainment (just like WoW is a form of entertainment), and that treating entertainment as a serious subject of academic studies isn't something that I can support. I'm certainly trying to discuss World of Warcraft in an intelligent way, but in the end a discussion of how tradeskills could be improved in WoW, however intelligent you lead that discussion, is not something that really has a big effect on the real world. The best possible real world outcome you could hope for would be some game developer reading the discussion and actually making a better game. So for a "game developing 101" course, reading my blog might actually be not so bad; at least it gives you the players perspective on things.

As object of studies of the "Social Web", I don't know if I'm a good example. This isn't exactly MySpace or YouTube. There is some feedback and discussion, which I personally value highly, but the main feature of a blog is always a single guy telling his personal opinions on usually rather narrow issues. It isn't fundamentally different from listening to the monologue of that half-drunk guy in the bar. Everybody has opinions, many people like to share these opinions, and a blog is just a newer and more public way to tell other people your opinions. Is this really creating a "new society"? Is there serious money that can be made with that? I'm afraid that the Web 2.0 will be the next crash, because people are overestimating the impact and financial value of ordinary people exchanging ordinary opinions on unimportant subjects like World of Warcraft.
Weren't "classic novels" considered entertainment when they were first published? Now they are the basis of many literature courses. Many forms of entertainment have been used to promote education as it makes what normally could be a dry subject more captivating. I think that games and the discussion about them will be more and more incorporated into Social Studies as time goes by.

I think you're being too humble :) You're on my list of daily reads, and I'm just a jaded gamer, heh.
I am one of the students that was assigned to read this blog :)
"And suddenly some professor is sending his students to read my blog as an example for "the Social Web"?"
I think it was assigned not because it is an example of a Social Web, but mostly because it talks about MMORPG that we are covering now. In any case this blog is "Social Web"- people are contributing the content, people are discussing...
Another class member here...

As a upper-level special topics course, this class is indeed quite different from many others. Rather than a simple lecture format we spend a lot of time both in and out of class (via a wiki) discussing the aspects of the Internet as it is developing. We have used all kinds of sources, ranging from detailed mathematical papers (that were over my head) to YouTube videos. Regarding "Web 2.0", we have had discussion regarding the usefulness of that buzzword that as well. We more or less consider it to be the developing features of the Web that seem to be of particular interest now. Systems that are continually improved, rather than "released" and "upgraded". Systems where most, or all of the content is user-contributed. And so on - so while Web 1.0 would be Microsoft Encarta, Web 2.0 would be Wikipedia.

MMO(RP)G's are are topic for this week, and are an important part of the Internet today. While for most people they are simply "games" and not directly applicable to real life, we can think of examples where people do actually make a living by contributing to an MMOG. (probably Second Life more often than WoW, but still...) More importantly - MMOG's provide an interesting way to research interactions between humans - a sort of petri dish of social psychology if you will (due credit - the above mentioned TerraNova). The debates regarding intellectual and virtual property and appropriate behavior provide another interesting asect.

I do admit it is funny to think of a blog regarding online gaming as being required reading. No doubt we will be discussing that today in class...
I'm also in the class, thought I'd give you a better picture at how you fit in ;-)

We're looking at MMORPG's and how they influence/create online social interactions. If you think of the web2.0 as social, community-created content, then behavoirs in WoW are under this domain. Your blog has already discussed several issues in this area, thus your blog is a quick skim to create awareness of several of the issues. Don't worry, nobody is declaring you an authority on the topic.
I remember the first media studies course being started when I was at University in the mid-80s.

Oh how we laughed at their floppy hair, the paucity of the A level results, and their Mickey Mouse lectures.

Oh how they laughed when we had been struggling with some horrible bit of maths all day, and they had been making a radio show.

Much as I would like to believe, as an MMORPG player, that I am part of some new social phenomenon, that my version of the Interweb is an upgrade on everyone elses ... I am afraid I would rather think running around killing orgres in a variety of new and interesting ways whilst is just, well, a game. No more, no less.
You know, if the class is just doing MMORPGs for the week and this is one of the handful of sources the professor has given then that is rather flattering.
...treating entertainment as a serious subject of academic studies isn't something that I can support...

Whoah... There go a lot of cultural studies departments!

I usually find a lot to agree with in what you write, but this is Daily-Mail-reader nonsense!

Our current means of entertainment are, indeed, games, television, movies, magazines and more, and many may seem vapid and insubstantial to you. But even those most transitory ppublications can tell us a lot about the people who consume them, the society that creates them, and more.

And as razor suggested above, it is not so very long since novels were similarly decried, while Solon, on seeing one of the earliest Athenian tragedies, is said to have been similarly dismissive of the form that was to give us Antigone and the Persians.

I freely admit that WoW is no Seven at Thebes, but I imagine that more people have played it in the last three years (say 15 million, with only 100% accumulated churn to the current subs figure?) as have ever read an important comedy such as the Clouds and are alive today. The latter may be of far more intrinsic virtue, but which is currently having more impact on the world? That is why these games, and the social structures which build up in their vicus, are so worthy of study.
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