Processing New Knowledge or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Play World of Warcraft


Are you one of the over 12 million players of World or Warcraft, or WoW? If yes, according to Dr. John Seely Brown, your game play may prove the concept of exponential learning.

For those not fluent in the online world of Azeroth, WoW is a massively multi-player online role-playing game, or MMORPG, that allows thousands of players to interact within an online gaming world, at the same time. Individual players form guilds that work as collective units to achieve advanced goals, such as going on raids within the fantasy world. The wildly popular game just released Cataclysm, the fourth expansion pack in the WoW series.

As an Independent Co-Chairman of the Deloitte Center for the Edge, and former Chief Scientist at Xerox PARC, Brown believes a major knowledge economy exists on the edge of the WoW ecosystem. He argues that so much knowledge is created within the game each day, without the collective guild structure, individual players would be compromised by the onslaught of information to process and learn from. On an average night within the WoW universe approximately 12,000 new ideas are created — a pace that outpaces even biotechnology, according to Brown.

Whether you’re a spell-casting mage or a healing druid, Brown claims successful guild members work together to process all these new ideas each week, and then distill this information into actionable ways in which to act in the future. High-end guilds even go a step further by doing after-action reviews following each raid. This form of play requires players to craft their own dashboards to measure personal performance, as well as comment on the performance of fellow guild members.

Watch the video for a deeper understanding of the knowledge economy within World of Warcraft.


  1. Asher Bond says:

    I think multi-player gaming has raised some awareness about the nature of humans, collaboration, and competition. These games are sandboxes and microcosms. My grandpa turned me onto the original Warcraft game in the 90′s. It was my favorite strategy game at the time. I bought him WoW the year it came out as a gift and he wanted me to teach him how to play. I helped him get his Human Warrior (Schmendrick on the U.S. realm Kul’Tiras) up to level 60, then rolled myself some of my own characters. I got an undead Warlock (Decayvid) through his third tier of epic armor… but only after having my rogue feared and health drained repeatedly by a Warlock that I’d rather join than beat… I did the same thing with a druid… after being frustrated in the arena when they kept rooting me, running away and healing. Multiplayer gaming (since MUDs) has helped me learn competitive social dynamics, collaboration dynamics (ever had the “raid-fail-flakeout-scenario?”) and quite a bit about commercial interactions…. but to really sandbox reality in the microcosm of MMO’s, you really have to run your own private game server. I’ve found that by experimenting and deisgning my own private WoW server, I can design my own weapons and set up challenges to see how people want to be challenged. In other words, if I set up a raid that is too challenging, how long will it take groups to dissolve? Having said that, I learned to type by playing games like Oregon trail on the Apple II and MUDs like Illusions. I’ve learned to write better scripts by playing games like Acheaea (I’m Fru of the Ashtan Warlocks and many others who will remain anonymous) and Imperion on Linux computers that can be scripted for advanced semi-automated player versus player combat. It’s so much fun to go head to head and match whits with script kiddies in a way that doesn’t involve denial-of-service attacks. I think games are only pointless and a waste of time when they can’t teach you as much as you could learn without playing them. It’s up to the player to decide if he or she is still learning. It’s up to the game developer to learn how people want to play. Don’t hate the player, you just gotta hate the game…. it’s often easier for more mature players to play with other mature players… you can do this by running your own server to play with friends or joining a guild with people your age, etc.. or… learn about young people… if you can keep them in your raid for more than one boss attempt.

  2. Really nice site, I found it really interesting, thanks. If you want, check out my blog to get free World of Warcraft Vanilla keys at World of Warcraft Serials:

  3. Kathy Kerr says:

    It’s funny that some instructors are using World of Warcraft in the classroom and requiring students to play them!

  4. Alexander says:

    I have acually dicovered how important the collective guild structure is when you play World of Warctaft: Cataclysm. The professor in this video made some very intresting points that i totally agree on. Im a true WoW player (i have played WoW for more than 4 years now, i evean created a website: abot WoW) but i found this post informative! Thanks aigain for this intresting post that even a WoW-nerd could learn something from. :)

  5. Heather says:

    Quite possibly, this professor may not make good friends with a lot of parents who disagree. :P However, having played MMO’s myself for several years (I even have my own World of Warcraft site: ) I can definitely voucher for the need of being able to communicate and perform collectively as a group. Very interesting post and very nice to see someone take a new approach to how we view online gaming.

  6. Daniel says:

    Wow! Actually, I used World of Warcraft to break a substance addiction. MMO’s have greatly influenced the way we interact with one another. Wow sucked me in so much I stopped using abusive substances because the time I would spend seeking to fulfill the needs of my receptors I rewired them through interactions and playing the World of Warcraft auction house economy. This inspired myself to connect more with a marketing ideas in the real world. The fact this professor is using WoW as an example is great as it does bring together many intelligent people from different areas allowing them to work together and really does help showcase exponential learning. As an Information Technology graduate self proclaimed addict turned geek I applaud this professor for connecting with students in this manner. It is social networking at its finest.

  7. using World of Warcraft in the classroom and requiring students to play them is really funnY

  8. EGZ says:

    I agree with Dr. Brown’s thoughts on World of Warcraft. As a long time player myself, I honestly believe WoW is more than just a game. I have been a part of and lead many guilds, so I understand and fully agree with his comments on guilds. This was an excellent read, thanks for posting it.


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