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The Fake Warcraft Thesis: A Call for Papers

October 4, 2011

Friday morning, I received an unexpected email in my inbox.

It was from an academic at the University of Leeds, where I earned my MA in Medieval Studies back in 2005. He was putting together a panel on Medievalism, New Media and Video Games, and apparently my name had been bandied about  as a possible presenter at the panel.

My mind was blown. I’d left the ivory tower behind professionally over three years ago, so to have someone from my alma mater contact me out of the blue about presenting at one of the most well-known conferences in my discipline ABOUT MY HOBBY just did not compute.

It still doesn’t, really. How did this happen?

I’m still not sure.

Let’s talk about hashtags instead.

I’d promised the panel organizer that I’d have a title for my presentation by Monday at noon, and of course, Monday morning rolled around and I still had no title to send. I had a topic I was excited about (truthfully, I had about FIVE), but I was having trouble crystallizing it into something snappy.

When in doubt, procrastinate on Twitter. Enter the Fake Warcraft Thesis. I started coming up with a few joke titles. Then, a few hours later, my friends started to play.

(I thought about posting a list of my favorites here, but there are just too damn many. Search #fakewarcraftthesis and #fakewarcrafthesis [with 1 or 2 t’s], because I promise you won’t regret it.) 

And then the internet exploded, and it went blue.

Why am I posting this? The phenomenon may have originated out of my last-minute desperation, but the Fake Warcraft Thesis isn’t about that, or me. What I saw yesterday was equal parts clever and fascinating. There are a lot of Really Smart People who have gone to Azeroth to die.

What really struck me, however (despite the fact that we invented most of these #fakewarcraftthesis titles out of humor) was that the one comment recurring as it trended throughout the day was people saying “um, I’d actually read that” or #IKindOfWantToWriteThisOne.

Why can’t we read them, my fellow denizens of Azeroth? Why can’t we write them?

There is no good reason why we can’t. I think academia is at a crossroads right now, but that’s another post entirely. The nature of collaboration, of scholarship, of research itself is changing. When I got that email from Leeds, I was actually far more excited over the fact that the panel had passed muster for the IMC than the fact that I’d been asked to participate it. In about ten months, a gaggle of scholars is going to be discussing the cultural ramifications of internet dragons with deadly srsfaceness. And they decided to do that before they ever asked me to be a part of it.

That is undeniably cool.

With that in mind I suppose I’d like to end this post with an exhortation to you all. Go forth, fellow nerds, and write. Write those Fake Warcraft Theses, and make them real. Write the articles you want to read. If you want to write and don’t have a platform, contact us and we would be thrilled to guest host here at Flavor Text. We’re at the start of something, I think – World of Warcraft is gaining legitimacy as a subject for analysis in the greater academic sphere, but a movement needs momentum in order to sustain itself. It’s in its infancy right now.

Let’s take on the Ivory Tower. This boss isn’t going to go down easily.

(Yeah, this post was a little starry eyed. You know what? I don’t even care. What’s a life without passion?)

7 Comments leave one →
  1. October 4, 2011 9:59 am

    I was so excited to find this trend yesterday and be a part of it. I’m relatively new to WoW-blogging/tweeting and all that, but as an academically-inclined WoW player, I do someday want to tackle one of my fake theses. Thank you so much for jump-starting this.

  2. October 4, 2011 11:46 am

    Hey, that’s amazing Cat! Huge grats from me!

    And also, now that you’re mentioning fake Warcraft theses, I thought I’d post the titles of some published papers on WoW, for the sake of inspiring your readers.

    “Because it just looks cool!” – Fashion as character performance: The Case of WoW”
    “Power gamers just want to have fun? : Instrumental play in a MMOG”
    “The social life of guilds in World of Warcraft”
    “Welfare Epics? The Rhetoric of Rewards in World of Warcraft”

    These titles may sound fake, but they are actually real, so if these papers made it, why stop there.

    Having this in mind, I don’t think your joke example “The Shifted Form: Gender Ambiguity in Druids” is just a joke: … wanna write an abstract? 😉

  3. Chloe permalink
    October 4, 2011 5:50 pm

    Congrats on the blue plug!! 🙂 I enjoy reading your posts very much.

  4. October 5, 2011 2:53 am

    Would you be able to link to a video or audio recording of your presentation at that panel? I think I’m not the only one that would find it fascinating.

  5. October 5, 2011 4:09 am

    Hi Gareth – I’m not sure that the panel is going to be recorded, but if it is, I’ll be sure to let you know! I do plan to upload my presentation file, if nothing else.

  6. Tracy P. permalink
    October 11, 2011 12:58 am

    This reminds me of a class I took in my first year of college. It was an AP course entitled “Honors English 101 – Internet Cultures”. The text was (incidentally) World of Warcraft.

    Our courseload required us to log in, and complete tasks and observe/report on their effects. One task that I enjoyed was creating a dwarf, going in to Ironforge in front of the bank, getting as intoxicated as I could, and start yelling lyrics to bad 80’s music. The effects were interesting.

    The course was actually quite interesting, and led us to several, current for the time, research projects, such as the Daedalus Project ( My teachers went on to present their studies and the course itself to several schools in my state, and now there are other colleges that have taken up the banner and started to host their own classes.

    I can’t find the specific colleges that have that course/degree, but I will keep looking and when I find them, I will update you here.

    Thanks for posting this. You really struck a chord in me and I hope to see more interesting papers from the WoW community in the future!

  7. October 31, 2011 6:26 pm

    Good luck with the panel, that’s very cool to hear about. I’m not a WoW player but I am very interested in online gaming – I just thought I’d mention here that I’m hoping to do a master’s thesis in anthropology next year about social commitment and group culture in MMORPGs. Some of us are doing it!

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