Friday, September 19, 2008

Professor gets $100,000 grant to study World of Warcraft

The National Science Foundation has agreed to give the University of California Irvine a  $100,000 towards studying World of Warcraft (WoW).  Now the only reason why I can imagine they would choose the University of Irvine is because the campus is closest to Blizzard's HQ.

Note: Blizzard's offices used to be literally within walking distance of the University until Blizzard recently relocated to expand their company.

I can't fathom why somebody would need that much money towards a game that costs about $70 + $15/month subscription.  Lemme break down the actual costs here:

  • World of Warcraft: Classic - $19.99

  • Burning Crusade Expansion - $29.99

  • Wrath of the Lich King Expansion (not yet out) $39.99

  • Monthly subscription cost: $14.99

TOTAL COST: $104.96 (not including sales tax into the equation)

So where else would the remaining $99,896 go towards?  Well assuming you don't have a computer (who doesn't now a days) you could spend about $2,000 for a respectable gaming machine that would have more then enough power to run the game at maximum graphical settings.

That brings it down to  $97,896.

Ok, ok.... Enough speculation, this is where the focus of the money is going...

According to the OCRegister, the money is going to be used to study the disparity including the cultural and institutional factors.  Nardi a WoW fan herself did some of her own studying and had this to say:
The vast majority of Chinese players are not ‘gold farmers’ (people who play to generate game gold, which is then sold for real money).  They’re ordinary players like anyone.  The media has blown that story out of all proportion. Many people think Chinese play for a job.  They play for fun.

Chinese people play the more challenging form of World of Warcraft almost exclusively.  They find the less challenging form of the game ‘boring.’ Here, about 50 percent play the challenging form of the game and there, about 95 percent do.

I would agree that the media has blown the whole "all people that play WoW are gold farmers" stories out of proportion, and at the same time I think Nardi's research is pretty damn accurate.  World of Warcraft currently has about 5 million players alone in China which equates to about half of WoW's subscription.

I think the National Science Foundation could have put that money towards a better cause... I don't think they're going to learn anything new that's going to benefit anybody.