SW:TOR [1085]

SW:TOR [1085] (Photo credit: brianjmatis)

If you have a Star Wars fan in your household, you have probably heard of this online multiplayer role-playing game from BioWareand LucasArts, which extends the rich narrative and choice structure of the Knights of the Old Republic single-player games into the online, multiplayer realm.

This game is interesting to educational researchers because of the way it blends narrative story telling and player choice with social and group gaming activity.  This is one multiplayer game in which group activity, which awards social points, has a direct effect on the quality of gear that a player can purchase.  Teams are easy to pull together in this game, and there is a refreshing variety of group encounters that include everything from simulated team sports (Huttball is a riot) to more traditional group combat and player-vs-player battles.  As with many group role playing games, the teamwork and strategy required to achieve many game goals are a good way to teach people of all ages to contribute their character’s abilities and their own ability to collaborate in order to succeed.

As with the other games in the Knights of the Old Republic series, a player’s choice of actions in the game affects a character’s moral alignment, either toward the Light Side or toward the Dark, which also affects the type of equipment that can be purchased, aspects of the narrative, and how non-playing characters react to the character.  This can be an interesting challenge and opportunity to discuss moral choices in difficult circumstances.    Characters on the Republic side and choose evil actions, and those on the Imperial side can choose good ones.  It is an interesting activity to work at making a Light Sith or a Dark Jedi to see the ramifications of choices and actions.

However, in many ways, this is a very traditional role playing game, and as the folks at Common Sense Media point out, much of the activity in the game focuses around the classic combat between good and evil.  In this case, however, the narrative puts the combat into context more directly than any other MMORPG that I have played, and I have occasionally been able to use the decision system to avoid some combat situations.

If you work with teens, you will probably have been hearing about this game, which released over the winter break.  New buzz may be surfacing now because a major new patch will open up a new system, called the Legacy system, which will allow players to craft not only characters but families of characters that can share abilities and experience. Be prepared for some interesting family trees that will mimic the drama and pathos of the movies!