Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Lessons Learned from WoW

Auzara goes off on tangents about online leadership and how GM'ing for a guild teaches a person real-life applicable skills. You know what? She's right. But it's not just GM'ing. Ironically enough, playing WoW has taught me a ton of lessons and skills that I can transfer over into my everyday life, whether it be in the workplace or just in general. And in other cases, it reinforced or provided context for previously learned ideas and notions. You can learn from a video game, I'm living proof. What are some of the golden nuggets of wisdom I've culled from playing WoW?

1. Processing a lot of information quickly is tantamount to success
Do you play any arena? You know how when the gates first open, you get your first glimpse of what's on the other side and then you and your partner(s) discuss what's the most logical target, or the team lead calls out which squishie to squish? There is quite a lot of thought that goes into that first target call, and it must happen in a relatively short period, as that other team is going to come barreling across the arena floor pretty soon and will try to stick you or your partner(s) with the pointy ends of their stabbing sticks.

Consider this. In a 5v5 match, there are a number of different combinations of classes and specializations that a team can cobble together to form a strategic strike force. Every change in specialization, every swap-out of classes, and even the minute difference of using a paladin healer instead of a shaman healer for the opposing team will alter what gets called out as the first target. Upon first glimpse, as a team lead, I need to diagnose every class we're facing and what spec they are, and make a decision in less than 10 seconds so that we can saddle up and smack something in the mouth. And that's not all. Every team will choose something different. If I'm on a physical-heavy team, the first target will almost always be a cloth or leather wearer. If I'm on a caster-heavy team, the call will most likely not be one of the "squishies," as they aren't quite as squishy to magic damage.

Not a PvP'er? How about a raid example then. Illidan is in his demon form, blasting away at the warlock tank with shadowy death stuff. He just summoned his demon nasties, and they are barreling toward 2 of the warlock's healers. Oh no! Without healers, the warlock will surely die, Illidan will turn toward the raid, and he'll eat the shadow priests and proceed to nomnom all the raid! Disaster! "We need to save the healers," Mr. Ret Paladin extraordinaire might say.

No, you don't. There are most likely DPS'ers nearby who are popping cooldowns to get the demons done-did-dead right quick. If you go blundering into range of that shadow demon thing, and Illidan's next Fire Blast happens to go off while you're next to those DPS'ers who are likely taking care of the situation, guess what happens? You mighta just gibbed 'em.

HOWEVER, if you deem that you can get into melee and then back away from everyone before that next Fire Blast goes off, maybe you should go help! This is a split-second decision you need to make, considering the distance of the shadow demons to your healers, the distance of you to the shadow demons, the DPS power of the assigned DPS'ers, and the time until the Fire Blast. See? DPS is not just "mash dah butt-on 'til the baddie fall down." There are crucial decisions to be made, and they must be made in seconds with constantly changing information.

If you don't think that critical thinking and accurate snap decision-making abilities aren't applicable in the real world, you're crazier than I thought.
2. Sometimes, the best thing you can say is nothing at all.
Here's the scenario - Illidan again. The raid just pushed him into his last phase, where Maiev shows up and starts yapping at 'im. She just dropped a trap not so far away from the tank. "Great, I'll just alert raid to its location, the tank will drag Illibeans into the trap, we'll avoid an enrage and I'll get a big ol' pat on the back afterwards for a job well done!"

Not exactly.

During a raid encounter, especially a frantic one where there are several things to keep track of, both raid chat and voice chat are likely to be cluttered with information overload. Deadly Boss Mods will be flooding raid chat and raid warnings into your chat box every few seconds. Several people will be yammering over Ventrilo for who's got what, who should be where, and that-guy's-on-fire-heal-him gogogogo. Also, more than likely, at least ten other people saw that trap get placed, and had the same impulse. What would happen if all ten of them acted on that impulse? Ten more voices would be added to an incredibly noisy Ventrilo channel, the message would be garbled and several people might get confused. What if the tank heard go to the trap, and the healers didn't catch it? Tank starts moving, healers don't anticipate it - tank moves out of range of heals, Illidan enrages before he gets to the trap. Slash smash whack thock boom. Wipe.

And what if you do get your message across, but you're not the appointed trap-caller? What if you tell the tank that the trap is slightly to his south, between Illidan and the raid, and going toward the trap would involve the tank turning his back to the raid and backing over the trap? "Psh, no problem, tanks can backpedal and tank." Yea, but not in this case. The tank backing up toward the raid when tanking Illidan would allow Illidan a window of opportunity to use his life-draining ability on more than one person, since it's a conal AoE. What? You didn't know that Illidan had this ability? Yea, I know, you didn't need to, but the person who's leading did, and the person who's calling the traps does. Unless you have all your facts straight and you are a pre-approved leader of men for the raid, sometimes it's best just to keep your trap shut. In other words, sometimes it's best to hold your tongue for the good of the team.

3. Give a man a fish, and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish, and he will eat for a lifetime.
Okay, I knew this ol' proverb way before I started playing World of Warcraft. But you know what? I got first-hand experience on both sides of the fishing give/take relationship while playing.

When I joined my first raiding guild, I was a complete and utter paladin nooblet. I thought that melee'ing and healing at the same time and being effective at both was possible; I thought that having strength on my healing armor was good for "when I needed to do some damage," and consequently that spell damage on my melee armor was good for "when I needed to throw some heals around"; I didn't know how to install/operate/use add-ons; I didn't understand the mechanics of melee hit/miss... the list goes on of things I didn't know or understand fully, or hair-brained, half-baked notions that were floating around my muddled yet moldable mind (mmm, alliteration...).

The guild had a few "veteran" paladins, ones who had been level 60 for a bit longer than I had. However, the paladin lead was kind enough to chat with me and give me pointers on what's a good idea and what's a bad idea, and explain his reasoning behind his answers. I didn't always take what he said to heart, as I was young and brash and thought I knew better, but as I let stuff sink in, over time I embraced the little nuggets of wisdom I received. His explanations made sense.

In contrast, in the next raid guild I went to, the paladin lead was a lot less personable and involved. If you had a question, he answered the question and no more. He didn't go into depth as to why he said what he said, or explain his reasoning. Needless to say, my skills did not improve much while in this guild.

Let me give a more specific example. Later on in my career, I became the paladin lead for a guild. When doing Zul'gurub with a paladin who was new-ish to the guild and to raiding, I explained his duties on the spider boss to him as the raid prepped with buffs and such. In previous outings with this paladin, he tended to use his two heals almost exclusively and only use his other abilities when told to expressly by someone else. So, taking it upon myself as the designated guild paladin expert, I told him to use Blessing of Freedom to get the tank out of the web ability. He did, but not reliably. After the raid was over, I took him aside for a few minutes and explained that he should use all of his abilities to their fullest - how using Blessing of Protection on non-tanks when they pull aggro instead of healing the damage they take would save him a lot of mana, and how Blessing of Freedom on a tank would allow him/her to get back into melee range very quickly, saving the tank headaches and sparing the cloth-wearers some damage. He scoffed at the BoP comment, but I went on to say that he's got a bunch of tools in his utility belt, and he needs to apply more of them in an array of situations to be a more complete paladin.

You know what happened? He started informing me of which trash mobs were susceptible to stuns from Hammer of Justice (because a stunned mob deals no damage, and therefore makes healing easier!), and later on he was the one who suggested to me to use Blessing of Sacrifice on the tank for Maiden of Virtue to break out of the room-wide Repentance incapacitate and continue healing. If I had left it at "use Blessing of Freedom more, and improve your reaction time," he might have been content to coast by not using other paladin tools creatively. In effect, he had learned to fish.

4. Love what you do.
Min/max'ing aside, if you are performing a group function that you do not enjoy, you likely won't do it as well as you could.

I hate healing on a holy paladin. Despite what I said in #3, oftentimes in raids I used to find myself chain-hitting my 4 key (Flash of Light) and interspersing it with random bouts of pressing 3 (Holy Light). That encompassed the bulk of my raiding experience at level 60 - there wasn't a lot of moving around or using other abilities, most of the time it was find a spot where you can see your tank/a majority of the raid, hunker down, and start spamming my 2 heals. I was decent at it, and the raid benefitted from having me add to the total heal count, but my heart wasn't in it. It was just something I was doing because the group needed it. Every time I went to a raid, I felt my mind wandering, and I knew if I kept on healing raids, I'd eventually stop raiding, since it was boring!

Something I really enjoyed, though, was tanking Stratholme. I didn't have a taunt ability, or real "tank" armor, or sometimes any points in the protection tree, even, but it was a romping good time. Mind you, this was at level 60, before Burning Crusade, when paladin's got actual tanking abilities and a mana regen system from healing received. I was totally gimp, but getting the attention of a bunch of skeletons and keeping them from mashing the dress-wearing warlock behind me was so very, very fun for me. I tanked Stratholme whenever I could, even just for kicks.

So what did I do? When Burning Crusade rolled out and the protection tree got buffed, I committed myself to tanking. I stopped saying "I can heal it" when people asked for instance runs and instead offered myself as the meat-shield. I made it clear to guildmates that I was a tank, and despite possessing heal buttons, I was a tank first, and a healer second. Early on, I didn't get taken to Karazhan as a tank, but as I honed my skills, and displayed my zeal for what I was doing, people started considering, then appreciating, and then eventually wanting me to tank for them. I was a lot happier too.

How does this one apply to real-life? Well, I work in recruiting currently. My job gets a bit boring (hence why I troll forums and read blogs all day). I would enjoy my work a lot more if my duties were more diverse. So, not being one to sit on my haunches and accept the situation, I went and applied for a master's program to expand my skillset. I start next month! And when I'm done, I'll have more skills, and will be able to snag a job that will make me happier and have a fuller day. People have always said stuff like "if you don't like something, go and do something about it" to me. But it took my experience in finding my (previous) true calling in Azeroth to make me realize that it's not all just talk.

Closing Thoughts
World of Warcraft is first and foremost a source of recreation - it's a game, set in a fictional world, played with digital avatars and mythical creatures. But, that doesn't mean that it's completely frivolous. It's a MMO, and therefore you need to interact with other people, even if it is within the confines of a game. Because of this, you have the opportunity to learn from others, teach others, and share with others. It can be a social experience. It can be a learning experience. It can provide you with self epiphanies. It can motivate you to improve yourself. It can open your eyes.

Just because Warcraft is a game, doesn't mean it's "just a game." It is that, and so much more. I just wish that more people realized that, instead of scoffing when myself or others reveal to friends who don't play Warcraft that I spend an inordinate amount of time battling demons and the forces of the undead with a glowing hammer and encased in plate armor with 24 other creepy gamer types several nights a week.

1 comment:

LarĂ­sa said...

Oh I really loved this post. You know at the age of 40, with several management and improve-your-self kind of courses behind me, I still learn tons from playing this game - and reading the blogs dedicated to it. If you just open your eyes and are willing to recieve what's offered to you you'll learn about yourself, about socializing, about teamwork, leadership, motivation, how to handle joy and sorrow, wins and losses.
It's opened up my mind, making me recognizing the child I've still got inside. It's helped me make new friends. And if nothing else it's really improved my English skills pretty much. Before starting to play it I could never ever have imagined I'd be capable of running a blog in English. But here I am!

It's really a great school for life in all sorts of aspects.