World of Warcraft (WOW) is a controversial game. Some people hate it, some love it, some love to hate it. But even those who’ve never tried it often have strong views on the game.
Obviously I’m biased, I love the game and so does Ryan, but I’m here to tell you why all of our children play WOW and why I encourage it. Today was the first day our girls got to play with friends that weren’t in the same room with them. It was EPIC!!!
I need to point out, even if we aren’t actively in the room while the kiddos play, we always talk about what they played, and we have a few rules in place that I’ll get into further down.
When first making an account, you’ll notice there is an age restriction. The game is not designed for children. There can be implied nudity (people can take off their character’s clothes and leave the characters in just their underwear), there is alcohol and characters can get drunk (the screen goes progressively fuzzier and the character has an increasingly difficult time walking in a straight line), there is killing (though the violence level is cartoonish and there is no gore), and women are all dressed in half the clothing the men are wearing.
Internet Safety First, we tell our children not to use their real birthdays when signing up for anything that doesn’t require their real information (we used the bank, government, or travel that requires a passport as examples of when to use real info – so not until they’re much older). We also told them never to use their real name or any part of their real name.
During game play they are not to accept requests from anyone we have not told them they can. The exception to this rule would be duels and pet battles. Game play that has a limited interaction. Some requests that happen include guild invites, group invites, and trade requests. These can be turned off in the system interface, we’ve only turned off guild invites because we do often game together as a group and trade cool items to our children.
We also close the chat window so they can’t accidentally see some of the filth that gets written there by other players.
It is never too early to discuss internet safety.
Basic Computer Skills Movement requires mouse work: click, move the mouse to change directions. Fighting uses ‘hotkeys’ keys bound to specific actions in game. Typically the second row on the keyboard 1 through =. During fights they might need to use their mouse to click other things, use Tab to switch their target, alt to target themselves briefly, plus their hot keys, and their mouse to move. For more advanced game play, they can even create macros – placing a list of related tasks into one order and binding it with a button. Ryan helped Ella do this to search for elite mobs in an area with good drop rates for gear that sells well on the AH (auction house).
Feminism Within a few minutes of game play starting the first discussion about clothing differences between the male and female characters begins. We often marvel at how hard it’d be to move, how little the armour would protect, and discuss why we think the game makers would have all the female characters portrayed in such ridiculous armour. It’s a conversation we come back to over and over again. When we first began playing the girls wanted to write a letter, but couldn’t write well enough to do it on their own (they also feel very strongly about doing things themselves and not having us do it for them). They now can write well enough on their own to write a letter. the topic hasn’t come up recently, but next time it does they’ll be ready.
Reading and Writing WOW is a reading heavy game. The quests, world information, spells and abilities, dungeon information and so much more all require reading. The quests give the reason why your character needs to complete a specific task. When they first began playing none of our children could read. In an effort to be able to play even when we weren’t available to sit with them, Ella taught herself to read. Agatha can now read as well, though still not well enough to read the longer quests on her own.
Along with reading WOW also offers some opportunity to practice writing. Basic commands allow the gamer to give the character commands, like /dance or /wave allow the character to move different than standard. If you don’t have sound set up, the chat window also allows children to chat with their friend while they game together (this is a different window from the trade chat that’s closed). This is also where in game speeches are displayed after the on screen bubble disappears.
Identity During game play some quests have requirements that seem distasteful (killing things or people that the game doesn’t give a good reason for killing). While playing we discussed what they gain from finishing the quest vs what they lose by not doing the quest. We also talk about what’s more important, gaining the reward, or being true to themselves. In game, we talk about what their character would do, and if/how that’s different than they would do something. There’s one moment when a character finds a bowl full of nuts in a home, the character has the opportunity to eat the nuts, or not. One character chose to eat the nuts because her character liked to eat and tended to eat and drink everything she found as soon as she found it. Other characters chose not to. There was no appreciable difference in game stats between the two characters.
Community When they get to be high enough level, they can join/form a guild. Personally, we’ll only allow our children in a guild made up of people we know. Which means they won’t be in a guild until their friends hit level 20 and we/they create one.
A guild is a community where all members can benefit. Every action within the game is tracked and can benefit the guild. When the guild benefits, the characters benefit as well, sometimes in special loot, tabards, or garrison banners other times just by being able to complete quests and dungeons faster and easier.
The guild also provides an opportunity to discuss strategy in the game, in writing. So many benefits! 😉
Planning and Perseverance Characters can choose up to two professions if they want. Most of them require tedious resource gathering in order to level up. If the professions are paired well, they can work together to level both at once. If not paired well, it’ll take a lot longer, and a lot more gold! Professions can be changed later, for a fee. Skinning paired with leather working requires the character to kill an animal, loot it, skin it, and then use the resulting leather/hide to craft new items. The profession levels, up to 700 currently, with each progressively harder recipe made. The best items can’t be made until profession level 700, but in order to get there the player will need to spend a lot of time gathering resources and creating items. It is possible to reach level 700 without planning, but it’ll be a lot more time and work. We watched our girls begin just playing with their professions, not caring what they created. But slowly we see them noticing the stronger more powerful items and wondering how they can make them. We see them creating a plan and working toward their goal.
Commerce and Math WOW has it’s own currency system built in. Items can be bought, sold, traded and auctioned for coppers, silver, and gold. At the beginning of the game each character begins with a small amount of money. Each quest gives them a bit of money and usually an item or better gear. But there are so many things in the game that can’t be found in as a quest reward. Right now one of our girls favourite items to buy are battle pets. These are companion animals that do pet battles similar to Pokemon battles. Many of them can be found all over the world, but some are rare and are easier to buy than find. Besides pets, you can also buy mounts, gear, items, and even more game play. (Right now that’s about 40, 000G for one month of game play – that’s a lot of gold!)
We’ve ran into the problem of wanting something they couldn’t afford on more than one occasion. They’ve created a savings plan to get what they wanted, they’ve bartered with each other to help get items, and they’ve gone without a few times.
When they hit level 60, they can learn how to ride flying mounts. But they need to have enough gold saved to buy the licence to fly (250G) at level 70, they can learn fast flying, but that costs 5000G. Their goal has been to learn to fly since they first started, but only good planning will allow them to save enough gold by the time they reach level 60.
Map Reading During game play the map is used a lot. There’s a minimal in the upper right corner of the screen as well as a much larger area map and world map by opening a pop-up window. The map does have a ‘you are here’ dot so that helps a lot, but a basic understanding of direction is still necessary. Theres also many times when a quest tells you to head ‘North of town’ or to head to a different area of the world. I’ve seen this translate into our day to day life when they discuss which direction our house is from where we are, or the direction the geese fly overhead.
Social Studies There are many different races in WOW, and they each have their own customs. Pandarens are a favourite here, they love to eat, drink, and they’re bouncy! Dwarves are gruff, and we learned, were created from the earth. We could take the game races and compare them to the different people on Earth. There are strong similarities, and also some differences. There’s different factions in the game. At first we said the good and the bad, but during game play we discover a hard truth. The Alliance isn’t always good, and the horde isn’t really bad. They’re different. So many moral and ethical discussions have come about because of this game.
There are so many things to be learned in the game, I’ve really only touched on the ones that I’ve seen impact my children directly. But I think it’s safe to say there is a lot to learn from this game. Though I do suggest following basic safeguards to keep children from being exposed to things you don’t want.