"No, no, no. Always stack strength for ret palladins. Just read Elitist Jerks my dear Aristotle!"

"No, no, no. Always stack strength for ret palladins. Just read Elitist Jerks my dear Aristotle!"

A recent post by one of my favourite bloggers – Tobold –  asked the question “what does playing MMOs teach you”. I liked his post, and was inpsired to expanded on it a little. MMOs are complex games requiring a high degree of social and technical skills. Playing them does teach individuals something: but what?

Broadly speaking, the skills we learn fall into three categories: technical skills, social skills and personal skills.

Technical Skills

By technical skills I mean specific skills or abilities.

  • The value of learning – MMOs are complex entities, and it’s impossible to know everything about them. You could spend a lifetime in WoW, EVE or EQ and still not learn everything. Fortunately there are many, many others who write guides for these games: how to gear up, how to raid, how to spec your character. In the end it teaches the people that researching, reading and learning are valuable skills. I work as an information professional, it’s been my job to research companies and industries for clients. What amazes me is just how sophisticated the level of research skills the average MMO player has. All these helps players learn: they can see the tangible results of their handwork.
  • The value of planning – Want to run raid? You need to learn how to plan well in advance. What night, what time, who to bring, make sure everyone is geared, the food buffs are there… then there is co-ordinating the group itself. Success depends on planning.

Social Skills

So what social skills can MMOs teach you?

  • The value of good communication – more often than not conversation in MMOs is limited to typing in general or guild chat. Ideally you can also use voice systems such as Ventrillo. What you say needs to be concise and to the point, while also striving to be polite. Because of their inherently social nature, can’t get to far in a MMO by being a complete jerk *all of the time*. It’s why some people have poor reputations across a server. Being a good guild leader or officer is about communicating with the guild, ensuring they feel the guild management is responsive and listens to their concerns.
  • The value of good teamwork – knowing your how to play your class and your own particular strengths and weaknesses is an invaluable skill. If you’re a raider in WoW or a someone who loves to run Warbands in WAR you understand intuitively that your game is enhanced by knowing how to play your class and understanding the role of others. It’s summed up by the old adage:

“If the tank dies it’s the healers fault.
If the healer dies it’s the tanks fault.
If the DPS dies, it’s their own damn fault!”

It means you need to understand how your class fits into a group. As a Retribution paladin I have two jobs: bring DPS to the encounter and don’t die. I bring DPS by ensuring I am geared properly and have the right food/potion buffs. I live by staying in range of the healers spell casting, by not taking aggro off the tank and knowing what mob abilities I’m vulnerable too.

Personal skills

Believe it or not, MMOs can teach you a few valuable life lessons.

  • The value of acting responsibly – MMOs teach you how to balance your passions with your real life commitments. Seriously. Many players are often married, have jobs and kids or at school. They’re time poor, but love playing games such as WoW, WAR and LoTRO. But these games are serious time sinks. So they learn the skills of balancing real world commitments with their gaming passion. It means negotiating with loved ones and knowing when to not play. Spending all your time in an MMO means your job and relationships suffer. On the other hand, if your a guild officer, raid leader etc. then you also have responsibilities to other players. I have a wife, kid, busy job and raid on WoW. I’m also a guild officer. I have to negotiate with everyone: with my family to ensure I spend time with them. I also have to let my guild know how much time I can dedicate to raiding and guild management. Happy players are those that can balance RL and MMO time.
  • The value of respect – respecting your guild mates, treating them as equals, will get you far. They will be prepared to help you run instances, talk to you and may even become your friends. The same goes with other players – the more you treat people with the respect, the more likely you’ll be invited back to run an instance with their guild. Ninja looters, whingers and people who verbally disrespect others also don’t get far in MMOs.
  • Managing dissapointment and the value of persistence – you’ve run that same dungeon fifty times, and the loot you want never drops. Every other member seems to get it but you. Do you QQ and make snide remarks, or swallow your dissapointment and move on? A raid team spends weeks wiping on the same bosses. It’s frustrating, but they keep trying. They’ll experiment with new strategies, research the boss fights, talk to guild mates. They swear they will get there! Long term players of MMOs have learn’t they can’t always get what they want, while persistence can pay off. Just like life.

And WHO said spending two hours in Karazhan or Naxxramas night after night was a waste of your time? Think of all the valuable life lessons MMOs have taught you 🙂