MMOG info lit: don’t do it

Alane from OCLC left a comment on my post about the Gaming and Information Literacy program at ALA asking me to elaborate on why I think an info lit MMOG game isn’t such a good idea. A little bit of disclosure about my own background – I’ve been teaching library workshops and instruction sessions for around 5 years (counting graduate school). I’ve never taught a semester-long information literacy class. My only experience with MMOGs was briefly beta testing There. Here we go:

1) I don’t think a library or even a group of libraries would be able to put together enough money to hire someone to develop a MMOG that would end up being a really good, cutting edge game.

2) If part of the strength of MMOG is giving people a platform to develop a community, why would students want to gather around the idea of information literacy? And if you require students to play the MMOG or if it is closely aligned with an institution like the university or a library, how will they find it compelling enough to stay and explore? I think that the third places that students are naturally attracted to online are going to be sites that are more social than educational like ratemyprofessor (which has a find articles/research paper help section, isn’t that interesting) or thefacebook and not officially sponsored by or affiliated by a university.

3) What would it look like? I think the idea of a virtual library where you’d have student avatars walking around talking to librarian avatars is kinda lame, and not very effective since so much research now is not dependent on being in a physical library. I honestly can’t envision what the content of an info lit MMOG would be. I also think that students don’t want to linger over research. They want to find what they need quickly, so we should be developing tools that would make research more efficient. I’m not sure if the open, unstructured interactions of an MMOG are the best vehicle to help students find information quickly or pick up skills at the time of need.

4) Are the community building aspects of an MMOG needed when students are already living in a university community? Why would you go into a game environment to interact with other students when you can either instant message them, or meet over microwave popcorn in your dorm lounge?

5) I think it would be more interesting to focus on providing students with better tools to research and write papers. As it is now, a student might need to search the web, the library catalog, and a couple article databases to find materials. They might have the option of using a citation management tool like RefWorks to keep track of their citations. They are scattered all over the place with different interfaces for finding information and different tools for organizing information, and then they use another software program to write about the information that they’ve found. It would be better to devote some resources to bringing all of these activities closer together, making all the tools students use work together in a seamless, more usable fashion.

Good grief, I think I just made a good case for trying to turn myself into a software developer! The horror!!!!!!