21st century education
Facebook is an MMORPG

Facebook is an MMORPG

It’s been so interesting reading the reactions to this week’s activity in The Future of Storytelling! Some have been inspired, some call it a waste of time, some are creeped out by making “fake” Facebook profiles, and all sorts of reactions in-between. I put “fake” in quotation marks because the suggestion that all the other Facebook profiles are somehow “real” or “true” or something is pretty funny. Facebook is a totally performative space! Facebook is where we spend time thinking about how to craft (manufacture) a “spontaneous” status update. The author Virginia Heffernan said,

You’ll do ok on Facebook as long as you understand that it’s an MMORPG.

MOR-LetMeGoHeffernan’s idea is so powerful for me. Beyond being true, I think she carves out the Storytelling space that I find the most compelling.


This week in The Future of Storytelling we introduced the topic of Transmedia or Multiplatform Storytelling. Transmedia excites me! The trailer for Rescue Dina Fox was fantastic!

Well. Sort of fantastic.

The thing is, it’s fake. You go “oh cool” I found this Facebook profile or this blog that’s part of this story. But it’s not a “real” Facebook profile, it’s just a scripted Facebook profile from some writer.


I just used “real” and “fake” in 2 totally opposite ways. Sure, “real” is “fake” but let me try to clarify.

Some classmates didn’t like the idea of creating “fake” Facebook profiles. But I’m calling those profiles “real.” It’s the Rescue Dina Fox profiles I’m calling “fake.” Fake because it’s a scripted thing with an “agenda” (storyline) pre-plotted to play out in a given way. You can’t really talk to Dina Fox because it’s a story manufactured by professional storytellers for our consumption. It’s clever in its use of new media, but it’s still an “old fashioned” story.

Sometimes Fake is more real than Real.

But if a bunch of Future of Storytelling classmates went and made “fake” Facebook profiles and then started interacting with each other there, to me, that would be “real.” And by real I mean that it’s not deterministic. Dina Fox actually is a puppet. Someone’s pulling her strings. Maybe it’s a compelling story. Maybe she’s a sexy character. But she really doesn’t have free will. She ultimately has no agency.

But throw a half dozen “fake” Facebook profiles in a room, and regardless of what I a priori thought I was going to do, when other people make unexpected contributions, I have to respond. None of the group are capable of pre-scripting this “story.” I suppose we call this “RPG.” I believe that in such a matrix both the story and my own identity evolve in non-deterministic ways.

The RPG of “let’s go to World of Warcraft and you can be Hercules and I’ll be Xena,” that’s pretty good. But the RPG of let’s go to Facebook and consider the whole thing and every “avatar” on Facebook as part of a giant MMORPG, that’s fucking amazing!

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