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World of Warcraft is the new Starbucks

A researcher is suggesting that World of Warcraft teaches social values and produces better citizens. And you thought it was a bunch of wizards and goblins.

An education professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison education believes that MMOs like World of Warcraft (WoW) can help to produce better real-world citizens.

Professor Constance Steinkuehler outlined her views at a recent campus event.

With about 12 million people playing World of Warcraft alone, MMOGs have become a new "third place" like "Cheers," where everyone knows your name and all that, Steinkuehler said.

Players "hang out and engage with one another in informal social ways," she said. "Most people go for the game and stay for the people."

The "third-place" strategy is something that Starbucks used very effectively for a number of years--trying to encapsulate customers in a location that was somewhere between home and work and didn't appear as a time-suck. Other retailers like Borders also embraced the strategy by bringing in coffee shops and putting the magazines right next to the tables in order to keep people in the store longer.

It's obviously a bit of a stretch to prove that video games are not time wasters, however the notion that games like WoW can teach people to interact with each other in a civil manner is a good one.