First Ever Scientific Conference in the World of Warcraft

In one week exactly, I will be attending a scientific conference in a hot vacation spot for people across the world. Millions flock there every day to relax, socialize and wtfpwn your face with their Night Elf Mohawk.

It ain't Belize, baby; it's the World of Warcraft.

"Convergence of the Real and the Virtual", the first ever scientific conference to be held within WoW, was proposed by John Bohannon, the Gonzo Scientist from Science magazine. It kicks off in Ogrimmar on the Earthen Ring server (RP) next Friday at 12:30 p.m. The conference will focus on MMOs as "natural labs" for research, holding sessions and giving tours of Azeroth (the main area in the game) throughout the weekend. There will still be panels and presenters, but instead of a sea of suits and mismatched sweater vests they'll be wielding melee weapons and donning chain armor.

Associates of Bohannon have set up a guild called Science (duh) to invite those interested in attending, and will even provide goody bags, though: the goody bags, you won't find brochures, pens, or those quickly lost notebooks.

Instead, each conference participant will receive (while supplies last) 10 gold pieces, a red "Sciencemag" shirt, a colorful conference tabard emblazoned with an infinity symbol, two extra bags for swag, a telescope, and a pet creature.

What, no epics? Blizzard likes to give those away for free nowadays.

Obviously, with the conference being held in Ogrimmar you will have to start a hordie, preferably a Tauren, Orc or Troll, all of which are within walking distance of the city.

For those that don't know, there are two factions in WoW, Alliance and Horde. If you enter a city of the opposing faction, you will be attacked by the guards, and players of the other faction. Beyond emotes (like laughing, mocking or hugging), the two factions cannot communicate. So if an orc tries to tell a human that he has a pretty smile, the words will come up garbled for the human.

This is one of the aspects of WoW and other MMOs that fascinate scientists (and myself) and will be discussed at the conference. Even in a made up world with made up factions, we exhibit the same signs of tribalism and dislike for those that look different than us and that we can't understand (though it is forced and encouraged in this case).

The sessions run from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. in the major cities, Friday through Saturday, and looks like they will be held in guild chat (?). From 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., the hosts will then take participants on tours of the countryside ("Expeditions"), exploring different aspects of the game and how players in the game interact.

They are even trying to enlist one of the uber guilds on the server to attack an Alliance town or outpost (Goldshire or Sentinel Hill, /sigh) so that the participants can watch the reaction. Just don't get flagged lowbies. There's only a few 70s in the guild to protect you.

I wish I had the money to transfer an alt to the server, but I don't, so I'll be starting a new toon entirely. I have a 70 BM huntard and a 70 resto shammy; I've always wanted to start a boomkin.

Is anyone else planning on attending? I'll probably start the toon after work today and find my guildies for the conference.

If you're on this afternoon or next week for the conference, look for a tauren druid named Tytonidae running around aimlessly. That'll be me.

More like this

"Even in a made up world with made up factions, we exhibit the same signs of tribalism and dislike for those that look different than us and that we can't understand (though it is forced and encouraged in this case)."

Even so cooperation between players on opposing factions is commonplace. On PvE (player-versus-environment) servers attacks on enemy areas are more like sporting events than battles in an ongoing war.

It's on the PvP (player-versus_player) servers that you see the highly antagonistic game-play such as repeatedly killing low-level players or deliberate targetting of crucial enemy such as flight-masters.

Which is why Blizzard have trouble filling the few PvP servers while the PvE servers are overwhelmed. In fact if I were to relate in-game behavior to real-world behavior my observation would be that WoW confirms that the vast majority of conflict is caused by a tiny minority of people.

Incidentally tauren is probably the worst, Horde, race for getting to Ogrimmar. Although the undead and blood-elves start on the Eastern continent the zeppelin stops right outside the city gates. A tauren would have to run the entire way (~10 minutes, if you didn't get killed in the Barrens).

I probably won't make the conference. Although the 10g is defintely appealing, my main server is Cairne.

Finally I can't resist a plug for a fun event tomorrow on the Cenarion Circle server. 'Da Running of da Bulls' starts at 7pm EST on Saturday May 3rd from the tauren starting area. The goal is to take a fresh level 1 tauren from the starting area to Hammerfall in Arathi Highlands. Plan on dying. Often. See Big Red Kitty for more details.

By NoAstronomer (not verified) on 02 May 2008 #permalink

I'm back in the game (hooray!) although I hadn't heard about this. Next Friday I had a bio exam, though, so I don't think I'll be able to make it :\

I wouldn't play on anything but a PvP server. The semi-organized hostility is what makes WoW interesting relative to other MMORPGs. Having to avoid higher level players or working around scenarios where a fight would end up pulling enough mobs to make sure all involved end up dead makes grinding interesting and the protection against PvP unless you flag in low level zones does prevent excessive abuse of lowbies.

You do see some cooperation between people on PvP servers - the need for it is more urgent than in PvE where everybody can just go grind in their own little corner - and you can still grief people in PvE by killing the unique mobs for quests (and in PvE they don't have the ability to kill you off for doing so). The most common gesture I see is the /wave emote and I'm generally use it if I see a hordie (I play alliance) and I don't feel like getting in a fight; it also assures I don't accidentally sneak up on someone whose inclined to cast first and ask questions later. If they wave back, I assume I'm safe and will even help them kill their mobs, otherwise I keep my distance. If they go after me after I wave, then I camp their body after I kill them :)