In his article How Videogames Blind Us With Science (yes, I stole his title), Wired Magazine contributor Clive Thompson discusses research by Constance Steinkuehler and Sean Duncan at the University of Wisconsin-Madison into the flow of conversation between World of Warcraft (WoW) players and how it may contribute to learning. He writes:
"What did they find? Only a minority of the postings were "banter" or idle chat. In contrast, a majority -- 86 percent -- were aimed specifically at analyzing the hidden ruleset of games.
More than half the gamers used "systems-based reasoning" -- analyzing the game as a complex, dynamic system. And one-tenth actually constructed specific models to explain the behavior of a monster or situation; they would often use their model to generate predictions. Meanwhile, one-quarter of the commentors would build on someone else's previous argument, and another quarter would issue rebuttals of previous arguments and models.
These are all hallmarks of scientific thought. Indeed, the conversations often had the precise flow of a scientific salon, or even a journal series: Someone would pose a question -- like what sort of potions a high-class priest ought to carry around, or how to defeat a particular monster -- and another would post a reply, offering data and facts gathered from their own observations. Others would jump into the fray, disputing the theory, refining it, offering other facts. Eventually, once everyone was convinced the theory was supported by the data, the discussion would peter out. ...
"At one point, Steinkuehler met up with one of the kids who'd built [an] Excel model to crack the boss. "Do you realize that what you're doing is the essence of science?" she asked.
He smiled at her. "Dude, I'm not doing science," he replied. "I'm just cheating the game!"
For what it's worth, Wolfie and Xavier believe it was cheating as well.