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Thursday, September 4, 2008

MMORPGs: Play or Work?

An interesting little piece from Games & Culture by Nick Yee at Stanford on how online games (MMORPGs in particular) blur the line between play and work.

I know from experience it isn't just MMORPGs that do this - Animal Crossing is an essentially single-player game that many people experience as walking that line. AC always felt fun for me, though, even when it veered into work territory - I recently bought Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life for my GameCube, and although I'm not far into it, it feels more like work than play so far. Even the DragonWars application I recently installed on Facebook feels more like a routine than a game... but I keep going back, because I want that most expensive dragon, darn it.

Also, as often as you see play referred to as "children's work," is it really surprising that the boundaries would continue to be blurred into adulthood? Is playing house really that different from playing at a career later? How can this fact (that play can often include the same actions as work, but retains some kind of difference motivationally) be used as an advantage in an educational context? If you convince a child to play at being a scientist, will the lessons learned during the game apply elsewhere? It's not obvious that they would - I doubt the people running pharmaceutical companies in Star Wars Galaxies are out thinking about new drugs in real life... but do they learn something about running a business?

Yee also has an article up on the risks and benefits of kids playing MMORPGs.

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