U.S. Senator Names UCI's World of Warcraft Research One of the Worst Wastes of Taxpayer Dollars in 2010

Categories: School Daze
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​In Tom Coburn's just-released "Wastebook 2010," an 85-page tirade on what the U.S. senator believes are the year's 100 most outrageous uses of tax dollars, UC Irvine's $3 million research of World of Warcraft and other games comes in at No. 6. 

"Most people have to work for a living," the report states. "Others get to play video games."   

The university's gaming studies are blasted alongside other seemingly odd items in the federal budget--$615,000 for Grateful Dead digital archives, a million dollars for poems in zoos and $1.8 million for neon signs in Vegas. 

"Even those lucky enough to have jobs have had to tighten their belts," the Oklahoma Republican writes. "Yet, Congress continues to find new and extravagant ways to waste tax dollars."

Coburn has been scorning federal funding for UC Irvine's WoW research for the past two years, first making his frustrations known in his 2008 Wastebook, when he included a $100,000 National Science Foundation grant given to UC Irvine researchers to study the differences in how gamers from the U.S. and China play the game. In this year's book, he specifically branded UCI's $3 million NSF-funded study of "Decentralized Virtual Activities and Technologies," designed to help "organizations collaborate and compete more effectively in the global marketplace."

Earlier this month, the Weekly published a cover story on UC Irvine's full-forced push for computer games as a serious academic discipline. The school recently launched a Center for Computer Games & Virtual Worlds and introduced a computer game science major for undergraduates.  

World of Warcraft by Irvine-based Blizzard Entertainment is the world's most popular MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) with more than 12 million subscribers. Bonnie Nardi, who conducted the UCI study, says the research extends much beyond the game itself as society moves into the virtual arena, and calls WoW "an exemplar of a new means of forming and sustaining human relationships and collaborations through digital technology."

Walt Scacci, research director at UCI's Center for Computer Games & Virtual Worlds, told the Register that being included in the Wastebook is "a sign of distinction and a compliment."

"They absolutely don't get what we're doing," he said. 
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