In several conversations I have had recently, the subject has come up of where technology is going and how those new technologies will affect how we impact the world for Christ. In my course on Internet ministry, I am purposely not planning on teaching specific technologies because of the fact that technology changes so quickly. But I am going to work with the students on understanding concepts behind technologies so that they can be ready to use new technologies as they become available.
It has been said that progress in technology is driven by the porn industry. While I am sure that studying the latest innovations in online sex would be insightful (eye-opening?), I am not ready to do that in my class at Biola. However, there is another driver for technological innovation: online gaming. Specifically, I am referring to that class of online gaming known as “Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games” or MMORPG. These games allow a player to take on the role of an individual within some sort of fantasy world and interact with dozens, if not hundreds or thousands, of other players. This shared experience leads to the development of culture, community, and even an economy. How does the experience in these games in the online world impact life of the participant in the physical world? What lessons can those doing online ministry learn from the way players interact online or physically?
Perhaps the most extensive gaming community applicable to study would be World of Warcraft (WoW), with over fifteen million (yes: 15,000,000) active participants in the US alone. I am, by no means, an expert on World of Warcraft or gaming culture, so if I intend on using WoW as a vehicle for study in my upcoming course, I will need to spend some time understanding it further and, yes, even playing it. I will also need to rely experts in this community to help me see how the study of WoW can shape and perhaps even influence what we do in Internet ministry.