Most players of massively multiplayer online role-playing games are familiar with “trolls”—players who hide behind the anonymity of their avatars to harass other players. But, as a recent New York Times story reveals, these are not the only users who exploit multiplayer online games for purposes not intended by producers. International government agencies have infiltrated Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft, “trolling” for intelligence on potential terrorist plots carried out online. In this MediaLit Moment, your middle school students will work with the media triangle (of text, producer and user/audience) to consider the different kinds of players who inhabit online game spaces.
Ask students to compare differing uses of online game spaces
AHA!: I thought it’s just the ‘sys-ads’ who look at what I do in online games, but the government might be doing that, too!
Grade Level: 6-8
Key Question #5: Why is this message being sent?
Core Concept #5: Most media messages are organized to gain profit and/or power
Materials: computer with high speed internet access; LCD projector and screen
Story from digital edition of New York Times, December 9th, 2013:
Reference: Mazzetti, Mark, and Justin Elliot. “Spies Infiltrate a Fantasy Realm of Online Games.” New York Times online 9 December 2013.
Activity: Ask students what they know about massively multiplayer games. Not everyone in your class will be familiar with them, so enlist the help of students experienced with such games, if needed. Do they know that the makers of the games are able to view their in-game activity? Why do they think Blizzard Entertainment does that? As it turns out, the great bulk of monitoring is done to enforce its end user license agreement—to enforce penalties for players who “grief” other players, cheat the game, or use game content or system files in a way that violates Blizzard’s copyright.
Play the video that accompanies the print story. Display excerpts from the print story as needed, or simply present key facts during discussion. Some background should be given on Edward Snowden’s leaking of documents revealing the scope of NSA domestic surveillance programs.
Use a media triangle diagram to highlight the novelty of the relationships involved. How do they feel about being ‘shoulder to shoulder’ with secret government agents as users of the same game space? Direct students’ attention to KQ/CC#5, and ask them to consider the differing purposes of game producers and government agencies for monitoring games.
If time permits, stick with KQ/CC#5, and ask students why they think a print-oriented publication like NYT created a video which includes so many scenes of World of Warcraft gameplay.
The Five Core Concepts and Five Key Questions of media literacy were developed as part of the Center for Media Literacy’s MediaLit Kit™ and Questions/TIPS (Q/TIPS)™ framework. Used with permission, © 2002-2013, Center for Media Literacy, http://www.medialit.com