A Place of One's p0wn: Lessons for Teaching and Learning from Online Gaming Communities.
Beginning in October 2007 I became deeply involved in an online gaming clan I happened upon by chance. Over as short while, I rose through the ranks to eventually administer the clan’s Team Fortress 2 server and serve as a moderator in its forums. During this time I observed the clan’s changing role within an ecosystem of more than a dozen other gaming communities and witnessed its growth, decline, and eventual fragmentation into new communities. I likewise formed a number of lasting and meaningful relationships with other members which extended beyond my participation in gaming communities. Reflecting on this experience, I wish to explore a number of lessons gaming communities that grow up around dedicated servers for popular commercial multi-player games. I’d like to consider whether (and how) such communities might serve as rich new new spaces for teaching, learning, and community building.
Many popular computer and video games require dedicated servers for online play. For each game, there are thousands of servers that players join in order to play online with others. Players tend to return to servers where they can expect the type of gameplay and conduct they prefer and often become involved in the associated communities, which can grow quickly. Many servers, like the ones I administered, are affiliated with and hosted by gaming communities that have particular rules and expectations for conduct and communication both within game and in associated forums, VOIP servers, IRC channels, Facebook and theunder-acknowledged Steam network, with 30 million active users. Given the ubiquity of online games and, as James Gee has argued, the multi-modal communication that takes place within online gaming communities, I will suggest that community-administered gaming communities can serve as platforms for formal and informal teaching and learning and fostering engagement. I will explore the ways in which educators and others might work to build such communities collaboratively and will consider how the various forms of communication in gaming communities might be marshaled towards a curriculum for both formal and informal learning.
Mikhail Gershovich is the Director of the Bernard L. Schwartz Communication Institute at Baruch College, of the City University of New York where he also teaches courses in film, literature, and new media.