How big is Azeroth?- Who says word problems can’t be interesting?

From Tobold’s MMORPG Blog: How big is Azeroth?

To measure a square mile, you first need to define what a mile is. As “a mile” doesn’t even have the same length on different places on our earth, that isn’t trivial. The basic definition of a mile is coming from Roman times, defining a mile a 1000 double steps of a marching legion. The soldiers had to walk through all of Europe anyway, so you just needed to count their steps and had the place all measured up with few extra effort. Clever guys, these Romans. But on Azeroth “steps” aren’t that easy to count, and the length of legs between the different races varies widely. But interestingly all races move at the same running speed, so it makes sense to define the mile by the time it takes to run it. On earth, a marathon runner has a running speed of about 12 miles per hour. As everybody on Azeroth is a hero, lets just define the Azerothian running speed as 12 mph as well. This effectively defines an Azerothian mile as “the distance you can run in 5 minutes”, without using any speed enhancing items of course.

So this guy took the time and expended the effort to do this. Why? Because it interested him. It’s a fairly difficult word problem that the majority of the world (probably this guy as well) would balk at solving IF it didn’t have the hook of being about something he cared about. People do all sorts of difficult and unpleasant tasks if they are interested in what they are doing.

It’s worth searching this kind of thing out or more reasonably structuring your class so your kids can use their passions to learn your content. It’d be fun to take the usual begining of school information and have them add what they really are interested in be it video games or whatever and then use that throughout the year.

You could do odd, but interesting, things to personalize the skills you want them to learn like-

  • Grammar- Give me a sentence with a linking verb, one of our vocabulary words and a gerund that describes your avatar in second life (I’m just making up the grammar stuff as I know nothing of real grammar).
  • Math- How many seconds have you played WoW in the last week? At that rate how many days would you have to play in order to spend a week playing WoW?
  • History- If Michael, from the show The Office, had been in charge of the Communist party instead of Stalin what would have been different? Would Michael have created the same sort of oppressive regime? Be sure to compare and contrast in detail.
  • Physics- Sonic the Hedgehog (I’m showing my age) weighs 77lbs (it’s true look it up). He has to make it over a chasm 200ft wide. How fast would he need to be traveling if he is rolling as a ball up an incline of 23 degrees?

I just threw these together but it could be a lot of fun and what would be more fun, and a lot easier for the teacher, is if the kids started writing their own to challenge one another. It could always be set as an extra credit assignment and then worked into the class when good things happened.

Comments on this post

  1. prym said on January 27, 2008 at 2:03 pm

    Hi, Here is a bit more on distance, height, velocity and the physics model used for falling in WoW. I believe the potential for being a virtual scientist in these worlds is large, and the game writers could build in quests that would exercise the scientific method.

    Cheers, Prym

  2. Allan said on July 5, 2009 at 11:27 am

    Running at 12 mph all the time is not very realistic. If you were a runner, you would know what i’m talking about. Let’s change it 8 mph.

  3. Tom said on July 5, 2009 at 11:34 am


    I think the idea is that they’re heroes and so faster than we mere mortals. That explains the high speed, at least according to the original guy who worked this all out.

  4. prym said on July 6, 2009 at 11:20 am

    Hey Folks,

    By using the minimap to determine distance and then measuring the time it takes to run the length of the Auberdine dock, it turns out that we are actually running about 14 mph (see for details). There are many other interesting physics problems you can solve with a few simple observations. For example, its possible to estimate the size, mass, and density of Azeroth (see for details). Or, by standing next to the various races in a city, and using a piece of paper pressed up against your monitor, you can determine the ratio of heights between different characters. Then, by using the human male height of 6′ you can measure the absolute heights of the other races. I’d love to see Blizzard work in some of these kinds of things as quests. You could even have “Scientist” as a profession, with a toolbox (scales, rulers, thermometers ect). A quest giver could then ask you to compute an average, stnd deviation.. distance, mass, temperature…, and it could be based on a random number generator so you’d have to make the measurements and perform the calculations each time. There are lots of interesting educational opportunities here 🙂

    Cheers, Prym