FAS Virtual Worlds Almanac

I received an email today from the Federation of American Scientists announcing the launch of the Virtual Worlds Almanac Wiki. Unfortunately, they didn’t provide a link to their long press release in the email. Here’s a snippet, and I’ll post the entire thing in another blog post.

The first three paragraphs state:

WASHINGTON DC – Do you know the difference between Active Worlds and Whyville? Curious to learn how your simulation of racing sailboats will work in There instead of Second Life? The Federation of American Scientists unveiled an ambitious infrastructure for cataloguing virtual environments called the Virtual Worlds Almanac. This wiki currently classifies 74 virtual worlds and includes extensive links to tools, news, and other useful online reference materials.

There is great potential for virtual worlds to facilitate the development and testing of powerful new learning technologies.

People worldwide can edit and contribute to this comprehensive guide to virtual worlds,” said Henry Kelly, President of the Federation of American Scientists. “We hope this wiki will make it easier for the community to collaborate and to keep abreast of innovations and new product offerings. FAS is interested in the potential virtual worlds offer for educational and learning.

I work for a university computer services department, and I work with faculty helping them integrate technology in their teaching. The Virtual World Almanac interests me because there is a “Scholarly Research” section, which I hope could turn into a great place to collect published papers on virtual worlds. I think virtual worlds offer possible educational benefits, and I was excited to see the FAS create a site to take this type of scholarship seriously.

Henry Kelly,  the president of the Federation of American Scientists, has a Virtual Worlds Whitepaper linked on the wiki. It outlines why the FAS thinks a collection of virtual world resources is important, and why creating baselines for studying them is a necessary step in their evolution.

If you’re still in school, and you’ve thought about marrying your gaming hobby with some sort of scholarly pursuit, the white paper lays out a lot of issues for further research. I know Keen is working on a paper about gaming this semester , and I suspect a lot of other students have had similar ideas, but maybe didn’t know how to phrase their interest in a manner suited for academic study. The Virtual Worlds Almanac is a clear sign that the academic community continues to take seriously inquiries into the nature and scope of virtual worlds.

There is, of course, a community already dedicated to the research and study of virtual worlds over at Terra Nova, but the Virtual Worlds wiki is a place where anyone can dive in and get their hands dirty offering their opinions on the state of various virtual worlds.

For hardcore gamers, there are a ton of mmorpgs missing from the worlds listed in the wiki. I took a few minutes to start a Warhammer Online page, and it was pretty simple. Most of the major MMO’s from Meridian 59 onward are missing, so there’s plenty of opportunity to contribute!

Anyone want to start a pool on how long it takes for flame wars about class nerfs on the WoW wiki page? :)

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