Finding the future of Internet ministry in WoW

December 10, 2008 — 9 Comments

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?

WoW logo

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.

Dave

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Online ministry researcher and educator. Associate Professor and Director of Innovation for the Crowell School of Business at BIola University. Author of Ministry in the Digital Age.

9 responses to Finding the future of Internet ministry in WoW

  1. A recent Pew Internet research study suggested that 50% of people like playing some sort of computer game. I know that in UK expenditure on gaming exceeds that of buying movie tickets.

    There are several Christian ‘gaming clans’ I have heard of over the years, who do online multiplayer gaming, and try to build relationships through that means. There is a chapter on gaming in the book:

    UNDERSTANDING EVANGELICAL MEDIA
    The Changing Face of Christian Communication
    Editors: Quentin Schultze, Robert Woods
    IVP Academic
    ISBN 978-0-8308-2882-1

    I did have a page on gaming on the web evangelism guide, and am in the process of updating it – will soon be back at
    http://www.internetevangelismday.com/games.php

    blessings

    Tony

  2. Ahem… I don’t normally admit this but in addition to being a Church Geek I’m an avid online gamer. I don’t discuss it much in Church given the ‘classic’ view of Christians for D&D and all its derivatives.

    I began online gaming over 20 years ago, and have only been saved for 2 years and while I’m no expert I can certainly give you an insider’s perspective to the world of online gaming, if you’d like to shoot me an email.

    Thanks – I think you’re on to something here and good luck!

  3. I have been a WoW gamer for the last 4 years. My husband and I are officers in our WoW guild as well as being elders in a church we helped to plant. Our gaming expreince has led to real life friendships, job opportunities and a great way to meet up and rub shoulders with non-Christians. Something, that being in church leadership is sometimes hard to do!

    I was also a part of a large Christian gaming guild that required a statement of faith acceptance before admittance. They held Bible studies in-game and tried to come up with ways to witness in-game as well. It was an interesting concept, but I didn’t stick with that guild do to my heavy involvement elsewhere.

    I have had to defend my gaming hobby, hence a 3-part blog on the Christians and demonic activity in fantasy. To God by the glory! http://kbonikowsky.wordpress.com/2008/06/20/my-beliefs-about-demonic-activity-part-3/

  4. Dave great post! I attended the Virtual Goods Summit in SF this Fall and the focus was on online gaming as you observed. Most of the principles for building virtual communities and selling virtual goods are being extrapolated from that world.

    Don’t know if you’ve read Andrew Chen’s blog, but he is a maven of this world. The seminar he did during the conference is also posted on his blog.

    http://andrewchenblog.com/

  5. As a publisher it is amazing how the skills and technical understanding of the younger generation can be at least partially attributed to online gaming. Nice post

  6. I run a social network based on WoW… and have extensive in-game experience for years. :)

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