Next time your spouse (or other nosy family member) tries to convince you that you’re wasting your time playing World of Warcraft, simply tell them that you’re training to be a better citizen. That’s what a university professor’s research suggests, at least. And if this research is good enough for the University of Wisconsin-Madison, then it’s good enough for us.
A professor there, Constance Steinkuehler, has concluded that the many aspects of the game reinforce what it means to be a good, productive citizen. For example, players learn to interact and communicate with people from all walks of life while playing the game; players can’t advance too far without the help of others. A quick visit to the game’s forums shows players discussing strategy, backed up with proper data. (Fox News-esque shouting matches don’t do anybody any good.) The game also reinforces scientific inquiry, in a sense: the game forces you to pursue knowledge (“how can we beat this guy, team?”) rather than merely looking for an easy answer. That’s what tends to happen to American schoolchildren in science classes. “I don’t care about the science involved here, just give me the answer so I can pass.” That doesn’t help you in the long run.
The only thing I have to ask, is what kind of degree is required to get paid for academic research in World of Warcraft? (Actually, it seems I’d need a Ph.D, since that’s what the good professor has.)