Worlds of Wordcraft

Are the massively popular online games like World of Warcraft part of a new narrative art form? A structured rules-based environment? A colossal waste of time?

Jay Clayton and Matthew Hall, two Vanderbilt University professors, explore these questions and more in a quirky offering on iTunesU called Worlds of Wordcraft (iTunes). This course combines the study of literature with game design and lets students tell their parents, “I had to spend all that time playing computer games. It was a course requirement.”

The punning title notwithstanding, students in the class do not play World of Warcraft, but a different online role-playing game, Lord of the Rings Online, based on JRR Tolkien’s epic trilogy Lord of the Rings. They also read some serious literature like Spenser’s Faerie Queene, and spend time designing an original game. The iTunes audio is from the fall 2007 version of the class.  The audio recordings include class discussion as well as presentations by the professors. If you’re interested in the history of computer games, be sure to check out the Chronology of Influences on Gaming part 1 and part 2.: The current syllabus is here.

This entry was posted in Academic podcasts, Computers, Courses, Fantasy, Literature and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Worlds of Wordcraft

  1. Cliff Burns says:

    Hmmm…I dunno about this. Both my sons are fans of “World of Warcraft” but…is there enough depth to this game to warrant a class of this stature? I’m sure it will be a popular course…but what are its actual merits?

  2. Dara says:

    You have a good point. I’ve listened to a couple of class sessions, and I’m still not clear on whether this is a serious academic course that looks at an interesting facet of popular culture, or the academic equivalent of potato chips — tasty and filling, but not very nutritious.

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