Well, I could hardly let today go by unmarked after all: at 00:01 this morning the latest World of Warcraft expansion, Wrath of the Lich King, officially launched. Currently played by over 11 million people worldwide, and by far the most successful MMO ever, the launch provided an ideal opportunity for the BBC to film girls dressed up as elves and turn concerns that a few people may deal with real life difficulties by becoming addicted to the game into a hand-wringing breakfast time piece featuring a ubiquitous, apparently publicity-addicted psychologist.
Despite the discredited claims of flawed studies, eccentric opinion pieces and extremist activists that computer games cause real life violence and social problems, there is significant evidence that they can actually improve skills and academic performance. JISC have funded a significant amount of work in this area, and it’s been a popular theme at our own conference. Multiplayer gaming, with the social and mental engagement it involves, seems to me to be a far more worthwhile activity than passive television watching, and as Mark Barrowcliffe says in his wonderful memoir, The Elfish Gene, ‘much less dangerous than horse riding or wind surfing, and no one seems to bother too much about those’.