Greetings, fellow adventurers!
Are you ready to embark on a virtual expedition through the world of Guild Wars 2? During your journey, you will encounter the people and culture of Tyria. You will face dragons, battle-hardened warriors, and armies of undead. You will be an explorer and a hero, questing through uncharted territory. Join Anthropology 29003 at Lindenwood University and you will gain 3 credit hours for your valiant efforts. This class is completely online. Time spent sitting at a desk in a typical classroom will be spent within the game world. Game time will be used to explore anthropological concepts from our class readings through play.
So why study virtual worlds? The same reason we study anything else—to gain further understanding of the unknown. Virtual worlds, while composed of pixels, are immersive places filled with people from all walks of life. People, who choose to live or, in the very least, spend a large amount of their time within an alternate reality. Outsiders may see these temporary spaces as a form of entertainment. They are, after all, labeled as games. However, the high level of engagement and amount of effort required to deal with problems of collective life that mirror those of the real world, require us to look beyond labels. Indeed, if people are building communities, forming bonds, and making meaning that connects their identity to a virtual version of socially constructed norms, are we looking at something that is more than a game? Are these virtual places real worlds? And, if so, do they require special consideration as culturally significant spaces by those who choose to live their lives bound by the reality that they see as correct and true?
As we explore the world of Tyria this semester, I ask, who and what defines reality? Are game worlds, real worlds?
See you in game….