Tobold's Blog
Monday, September 07, 2009
Learning from MMORPGs for real life success

Like in our discussion about the success in virtual worlds, real life has millions of different possible goals and definitions of success. But if you look at success defined by "recognition by others", the list of success criteria narrows down, and contains such staples as money, family, and a good job. MMORPGs are often suspected to be detrimental to real life success, with exaggerated reports of people spending so much time in a game that they neglect their job and family. While the famous "gamer in mama's basement" probably does exist, he is an extreme, not the general rule. Nevertheless it can be asked whether playing a MMORPG is a pure waste of time, or whether playing these games can teach us something which is good for real life success. So lets have a look at what we could learn from MMORPGs:

Hand-eye-coordination: Ronald Reagan famously suggested that playing video games would make good jet pilots. Unfortunately examples of jobs in which the hand-eye-coordination acquired in video games would come in handy are few and far between. Most jobs don't have anything remotely resembling a video game controller, and in the few jobs that have something like a joystick to control a machine, the machine is usually rather slow, and controlling it doesn't require milli-second reflexes.

Typing: The introduction of the PC into modern office life lead to the extinction of the typist. If you have an office job nowadays, you are supposed to type your e-mails, letters, memos, and reports yourself. Thus if due to chatting in an MMORPG you learned how to type faster, this is something that will come in handy in quite a lot of jobs. Fast typing is something you're likely to learn in a MMORPG, because unless you have voice chat, faster typing means faster communication. The only downside is that in a professional environment you'd have not only to type fast, but also spell correctly, and MMORPGs aren't exactly good at teaching that one.

Communication: Communication is a key factor of success both in MMORPGs and in real life, whether private or professional. Of course MMORPGs are full of examples of bad communication. But by being massively multiplayer there is a lot more chance of people learning to communicate in a MMORPG than if they played just single-player games. The same communication skills that make teamwork in a dungeon group a success can help a lot with teamwork in a professional environment.

Managing: Leading a successful guild, or even just a successful pickup group, requires management skills. People who do this regularly in MMORPGs will come out with a better understanding on how to motivate people, resolve conflicts, and handle limited resources (like raid slots and loot drops). All this can be very helpful both in a professional environment, and in managing your own private life.

So as you can see, there are a lot of useful skills that can be picked up by playing MMORPG, and which will help with real life success. Unfortunately that doesn't mean it is a good idea to put your guild leadership position in your CV, unless you apply for a job in the gaming industry. The skills I listed here are rather what is called "soft skills", skills which are useful, but which you normally don't have a diploma for. You'd have to demonstrate communication and managing skills in your job interview, or once you got the job just apply them. And obviously you'll have to find the right balance between spending time in the real world and in virtual worlds if you want real life success.
I learned how to touch-type as a kid, from old school adventure games that required you to type commands/phrases to solve puzzles. Ah, the good old days of Space Quest...
In the British military at least, the remote operators of UAVs use Xbox 360 controllers.
Great post, too often gamers underestimate what skills they learn in game. And I see that same kind of undermining of own activites at the end of your post. If it was football we all spent out evenings doing, we wouldnt question if it had any "RL value" - we would accept that as an activity that fostered teamwork, sportsmanship and enjoyment, and in such had plenty value in in its own right.

In such I disagree with the conclusion. When writing your CV, look at what skills you have worked and improved by gaming and highlight them (if relevant to the job).
What about business and economics Tobold? It does seem to me that at least some of the economic lessons learned in the playground of an mmo economy could be extrapolated to the real world.

Ask your Greedy Goblin other half :). Has he made a killing on any real world markets by applying WoW principles?
Ask your Greedy Goblin other half :). Has he made a killing on any real world markets by applying WoW principles?

Certainly not. Real world markets are often described as working under something which is called the "efficient market hypothesis", which makes arbitrage either impossible, or at least very difficult. Gevlon operates under the "inefficent market hypothesis", otherwise known as Barnum's "there is a sucker born every minute". The speed of the market in WoW is so slow, and the volume so low, that buying underprices goods or selling overpriced goods is a possibility. That works especially well because for many players gold is essentially worthless, they are NOT trying to get as rich as possible.
Apologies for posting twice but I just read @Kristine's recommendation to mention the things you have learned from gaming when applying for a job. I think that in many many jobs that would be a mistake.

The world's view of video gaming hasn't matured enough yet. I fear the negative impact of "I play a lot of video games" would outweigh the positive impact of "I organise and plan activities for my guild".

On the other hand if you manage an under age soccer team or are the leading light of the local amateur dramatics group go right ahead and mention it. Those activities have been around long enough to become understood and accepted.
I have read an scientific analysis that points to games being a necessity for everyday life.

For example merging at high speed onto a highway does require a lot of the skills that one can develop while playing games. In general driving is a skill that is indirectly trained in games.

From my own perspective I have never heard a gamer tell me that they are afraid in traffic for example.
how about learning from reputation systems?
Reputation and clout as described in that article happens more outside the game, in forums and blogs. Inside the game, for example WoW, reputation systems are too simple to have real world application: Try the daily quest of bringing your boss a coffee every day for 250 reputation points until you are exalted with him. That usually fails, because your boss ends up considering you as a gopher, not as somebody he respects.
The only downside is that in a professional environment you'd have not only to type fast, but also spell correctly, and MMORPGs aren't exactly good at teaching that one.

Communication: Comunication

Well, that made me laugh. Point proven!

First, let me point out that mentioning you play an mmorpg might be enough to not get a job. Some recruitment agencies are even given the command to simply not accept anyone playing an mmorpg (or well, WoW).

And second, "exaggerated reports". You shouldn't discard the stories of game addicts as exaggerated. Having a WoW addiction can destroy lives. And there are more WoW addicts then a few guys living in their moms basements.
Great post Tobold.

I know one thing I've learned is the ability to deal with someone I can't stand to get something done. (granted, i'm still pretty young), but i've never had to work as closely with someone i despised as when i had to clear Ulduar with them.

Gquitting wasn't an option for me at the time, so I had to learn to live with him. Which wasn't easy.

For what it's worth, I have long considered "I run a guild in World of Warcraft" a plus on a CV, provided it's backed up in interview that it's a serious guild that actually Does Stuff.

Demonstrates management skills, patience, and determination, plus, usually, the ability to socialise well with new people. All very good qualities.
I've always been a fast typist, but having played WoW for about 5 years now, I do know that my typing has increased exponentially in speed, and the grammar and spelling are nigh-impeccable. I actually maintain about 125 WPM with almost perfect grammar now.

Realizing that playing games is perhaps a bit of a touchy subject in the public eye still, we gotta stop walking around thinking that gamers are a beaten down, underpriveliged minority.

Playing computer games is common practice ( and while some might disregard your application for playing games, others would disregard it cause you have no meaningful activities listed.

Some might be activly removing people with MMO experience, others are seeking it ( Personally i would prefer a job where I didnt have to lie about my hobbies...

Either way, I am not suggesting you put "Lvl 80 DK" on your resume as that is not a relevant skill, but "manager of online gaming community" could be - or even highlighting how you have learned to use a range of commuication tools or trained at mediated coordination.

We often forget that being proficient in simply searching databases, posting on forums and unzipping files are skills not held by everyone. And if us as gamers dont highlight that those are skills we train when gaming, who is?
There was a time when I'd have agreed with you Tobold - running a guild certainly provided a great look at people management in a safe (largely anonymous) environment. What is lacking however - and a reason I think that skills learned in an mmo are overvalued - is the way in which attention is handled in games and the job environment.

A job may require you to spend months at a thankless task before any goal is achieved; yet game developers try and make sure that there are short, intermediate rewards to keep subscribers happy and paying. So while gamers may be learning good management skills, I suggest they're also unlearning the ability to stay focused for long enough to cope in many real world situations.

And if that's the case, then perhaps brewing an inability to cope with the rigours of real life is on the whole detrimental to gamers - even if it's good for the mmo company's wallet.

Whether you should put it on your CV or not depends on what else you have to talk about in an interview and how you can spin it.

In other words putting I run a WoW guild won't impress anyone. Explaining articulately to an interview panel how you resolve conflict may well impress them if it's relevant to the job.

For a lot of jobs they give you what is basically a checklist, called a Person Spec in recruitment jargon and they want you to tick the boxes. If your options are answering

"What experience do you have of resolving conflict between two angry and upset people?"

with either "none"
or else an insightful story about how two players got too drawn into a game and you resolved it by encouraging them to see the game in perspective

then your WoW experience is a lot better than just saying you don't have experience of that job requirement.

In general though putting WoW on your cv implies you're an alt-tabbing time waster who stays up too late on work nights.

Matticus is especially good at relating guild management to real life management skills. If you are thinking of mentioning WOW in a job interview you could do a lot worse than reading the guild management section of his blog.
I have on my CV that one of my Interests is Online Gaming. That affords me a few minutes to chat to the interviewer about something that I enjoy in my off time. Interests are solely there for the interviewer to chat to you, to put you at ease (for example, "So I see you enjoy travelling...?).

So far it has not dissuaded anyone from offering me a position. In fact, it has not been a disadvantage; one boss even tried to lure me from World of Warcraft to his online game of choice - EVE.
MMOs are games, games don't need to justify themselves by teaching real world skills. if you want to learn typing, its ten times easier to take a course or use a dedicated program. If you want to manage, go take an assistant manager position somewhere-internet games have none of the real life issues managers need to face. You also get paid, and experience.

Hand-eye coordination is a joke, if anything extended game-play can impair coordination due to carpal tunnel, same as keyboarding irl.

Games are fun, they are designed mostly to waste time, and it's cool. We need to waste time to unwind, and MMO's do that, as well as let us socialize. But nothing about them does anything to real life success unless you do something like code a third party app for an MMO, or set up a successful blog or fansite.
Games keep your mind active and give you lots of practice at learning new things.

But even though there may be some value in managing a successful guild, I'd still look askance at that on a job application. Because I know how much time and dedication it takes to do that. I'd wonder if they'd be wanting to go early all the time so they could raid. I'd wonder how well they managed their game/life balance. I'd wonder a lot of other things that wouldn't come up with other hobbies.

Maybe that's not fair. But I wouldn't put it on a CV unless it was something I had done in the past. Not in the present.

Also if you are interested in something like management, you will be able to learn about it by just about anything you do that involves other people. Gaming is nothing special UNLESS you are going to be involved in online projects with people from around the world.
Tobold, gevlon isn't working on an inefficient market hypothesis--- he's just the guy who is making the market efficient!
Yes, which only works because the markets in WoW are inefficient to begin with.
Good read. I am pretty much where I am today because of video games.

More to the point Tobold, MMO's often have patches, which cause unexpected problems on computers. While playing Everquest in an attempt to keep the game running as smooth as possible I learned how to work on computer hardware and software.

Now, mainly based on the skills I learned then, I'm an IT manager for one of the biggest Oil Companies in the world.
It doesn't just HAPPEN that prices balance out. It's not magic. The invisible hand is a metaphor.
"Unfortunately examples of jobs in which the hand-eye-coordination acquired in video games would come in handy are few and far between."

Global Hawk... Predator... Reaper. Those are in use NOW - and more remotely-controlled weapon systems are in the works. And that's just military applications.
And that's just military applications.

So how many percent of the US work force do you think is employed steering remotely-controlled weapon systems for military and civilian applications?
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