While I was driving home from Indy today I was actually brainstorming my Fall seminar: Writing in Virtual Worlds. The current course description reads:

680V is a graduate seminar that traces the use of virtual worlds as productive writing spaces from building “MOOsays”, conferencing, and holding discussions in the text based MOO/MUD through networking and ethos building in Linden Labs’ Second Life and writing possibilities in Massively Multiplayer Role-playing Games (MMORPGs) like World of Warcraft (WoW) and Lord of the Rings Online (LotRO). Not only have these spaces proven to engage writing students, but they have proven to be generative writing spaces for students interested in both professional writing and ethos building and analysis, research, and ethnographic writing.

This graduate seminar will take a historical look at the theories that have been used in the teaching of virtual worlds based course. Readings will include texts such as High Wired: On the Design, Use, and Theory of Educational MOOs by Cynthia Ann Haynes and Jan Rune Holmevik, New Worlds, New Words: Exploring Pathways for Writing About and in Electronic Environments ed. by John F. Barber and Dene Grigar, Play Between Worlds: Exploring Online Game Culture by T. L. Taylor, The State of Play: Law, Games, and Virtual Worlds by Jack Balkin and Beth Noveck, Synthetic Worlds: The Business and Culture of Online Games by Edward Castronova, and The Warcraft Civilization Social Science in a Virtual World byWilliam Sims Bainbridge.

I have decided to break the course into three parts:

I. Writing in Virtual Worlds: Here we will look at the writing/composing that makes up the virtual space. Here is might be the narrative of the game, the code of the MOO, the composition of the world itself, or anything else that comes to mind.

II. Writing with Virtual Worlds: Here we will look at how virtual worlds can be used in the writing classroom. As with the preceding section we’ll start historically and move forward. We’ll read about how virtual worlds have been used in the writing/composition classroom and then move forward to how they are being used now and where we can go from here.

III: Writing about Virtual Worlds: Here be the research component. We’ll look at the research that is done on virtual worlds per se. We can talk about the difference between narratology and ludology and everything in between. Here we can look at rhetoric, process, programming, procedure, etc. and the value that these things have on their own or as a smaller component of something else.

Required games to play (Choose one from each category)

MOOs/MUDs: Lambda, MediaMOO, narrative based MUD (like the Lord of the Rings one)

MMORPGs: WoW, LoTHRO, City of Heroes/City of Villians, Everquest

RPGs/RPG elements: Oblivion, Fallout 3, Heavy Rain (PS3), BioShock, Alan Wake, Mass Effect, (Super)Paper Mario, Hotel Dusk (DS), Again (DS), Dragon Age: Origins, Torchlight (PC or Mac), Final Fantasy (all on all platforms), Animal Crossing (DS or Wii)

Others: Scribblenauts (DS), Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box (DS), Professor Layton and the Curious Village (DS), Lego Batman, Lego Indiana Jones, Lego Star Wars, Fat Princess, Braid, The Mis-Adventures of P.B. Winterbottom, New Super Mario Brothers Wii