Posted by: drew | March 24, 2006

You Play World of Warcraft? You’re Hired!

Interesting article at Wired about those who lead guilds in the Massively Multiplayer Role Playing Game (MMORPG), World of Warcraft (WoW) having an edge when it comes to getting jobs in the real world.

In late 2004, Stephen Gillett was in the running for a choice job at Yahoo! – a senior management position in engineering. He was a strong contender. Gillett had been responsible for CNET’s backend, and he had helped launch a number of successful startups. But he had an additional qualification his prospective employer wasn’t aware of, one that gave him a decisive edge: He was one of the top guild masters in the online role-playing game World of Warcraft.

As more and more gen-gamers move into upper management positions, it’s not surprising that this is taken into consideration. Anyone who’s played a MMORPG such as Everquest or WoW realizes that it takes real leadership to organize large, successful guilds. As the article says, these games bring together a diverse demographic of where age, wealth, education, and geography vary widely.

I can attest from nearly 10 years of experience in MMORPGs, it’s not easy to keep such a diverse group of people happy and communicating for years on end. I happen to be a member of a guild in WoW where the core of us started out back in 1998 in Everquest, bounced around from game to game and have ended up in WoW. We are now “old friends” who keep tabs on eachother’s personal lives and arranges annual get-togethers. We have members from across the country and across the world. All of us will tell you that it takes real leadership, motivation, and saavy to keep a guild going for years.

Having said all that, it’s absolutely not surprising at all that those familiar with this concept recognize the value this type of experience can add to their real world business.

Go below for more on the article and my thoughts and how this concept influences the Serious Gaming industry.

The article continues:

Gaming tends to be regarded as a harmless diversion at best, a vile corruptor of youth at worst. But the usual critiques fail to recognize its potential for experiential learning. Unlike education acquired through textbooks, lectures, and classroom instruction, what takes place in massively multiplayer online games is what we call accidental learning. It’s learning to be – a natural byproduct of adjusting to a new culture – as opposed to learning about. Where traditional learning is based on the execution of carefully graded challenges, accidental learning relies on failure. Virtual environments are safe platforms for trial and error. The chance of failure is high, but the cost is low and the lessons learned are immediate.

Virtual PoolI’ll quickly relate an anecdote that might suprise you. Back in around 1996 or so, I bought a game called Virtual Pool. This was one of the best billiards simulators I’ve ever played, and I’ve played a few. The box promised that the game would improve your real-world pool game. Indeed, it did. You manipulated the pool stick with the mouse, holding the button down, and moving the mouse backward, then forward just like you would with a real pool stick. The physics were accurate, and the speed with which you used the mouse translated nicely into the force with which you hit the que ball. The game trained not only my “touch” on the ball, but also on angle prediction.

This concept crosses over into the serious games market. The private sector, government, and military industries are turning more and more to modeling and simulation for training and preparedness. The above quote summarizes the value of gaming nicely. Serious Games can be used to train people in an immersive, risk-free, and cost-efficient manner. DHS, DoD, and other government departments and agencies are currently exploring the appropriate applications of modeling and simulation to training.

When role-playing gamers team up to undertake a quest, they often need to attempt particularly difficult challenges repeatedly until they find a blend of skills, talents, and actions that allows them to succeed. This process brings about a profound shift in how they perceive and react to the world around them. They become more flexible in their thinking and more sensitive to social cues. The fact that they don’t think of gameplay as training is crucial. Once the experience is explicitly educational, it becomes about developing compartmentalized skills and loses its power to permeate the player’s behavior patterns and worldview.

This concept is growing more and more vital as young people who enjoy video and computer games transition into the working world. And for the final quote, the meat of the concept:

n this way, the process of becoming an effective World of Warcraft guild master amounts to a total-immersion course in leadership. A guild is a collection of players who come together to share knowledge, resources, and manpower. To run a large one, a guild master must be adept at many skills: attracting, evaluating, and recruiting new members; creating apprenticeship programs; orchestrating group strategy; and adjudicating disputes. Guilds routinely splinter over petty squabbles and other basic failures of management; the master must resolve them without losing valuable members, who can easily quit and join a rival guild. Never mind the virtual surroundings; these conditions provide real-world training a manager can apply directly in the workplace.

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