Saturday, May 19, 2012

5 Life Lessons my son learned from playing World of Warcraft

This second in my series "Are computer games bad for your kids" was inspired by Esther Schindler who wrote about 10 Business Lessons I Learned from Playing Dungeons & Dragons.

Over the past six years my son has been playing World of Warcraft (wow) on and off TG. He's been through a few phases where he'll play only a few hours in a few months. Since we had to end the subs it's been a while since he's been able to play (more than eight months), I wrote most of this some time ago and it's time to share it.

I know that many parents are concerned about the addictive qualities of computer games, I think addiction can be a problem with anything. The better it feels the greater the addiction, that doesn't mean to say the rule is to stay away from the good things in life. So I'm considering; how good - or bad - is wow.

I've picked out some of the lessons he learns in the game. wow is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (mmorpg) provided on a monthly subscription by Blizzard Entertainment. The game was released on November 23, 2004, on the 10th anniversary of the Warcraft franchise. With more than 10.2m (May 2012 and 11.5 million in May 2011) monthly subscribers, World of Warcraft is the world's most-subscribed mmorpg, it's been in the Guinness Book of Records for many years.

Playing this game has more than taught my son the rules of combat or proper behavior 'in a dungeon'. He's gained several skills that I expect will help him in his adult life.

In WOW or wow, you can find out how someone solves problems and copes with stress, as well as various other activities that map to real life.
  1. Reading and writing: In Grade 2 the - special needs teacher approached me to ask what am I doing with my son? I was taken aback and responded by asking her why she is asking me this. She said that in her independent testing his reading skill was at least at grade 6 level and a lower grade 7. I know that he would say that I read with him (actually I used to read to him in bed at night) so that's how I thought best to respond. I mean the truth - which is that he learned it from wow where the chat windows in too small to follow all the messages if you can't read fluently - I don't think would have gone down too well. Anyhow, I have logged his messages and they're at a pretty good level, although it's all very specific, brief and to the point. He's learned to use digestible bytes of information, probably with a bunch of 14-17 year old Danes, Swedes and Englishmen. I'm not too worried as they have strict rules and you're not allowed to mention age or geography (there is a 12 year old age restriction though and he was only around 8-9). He doesn't embellish so his writing hasn't been well accepted at school. He manages to type a lot, so I'd say that he's fluent with keyboard even if he doesn't touch type yet. On the whole I'd say that his reading, writing and typing skills are strongly enhanced from wow.

  2. Team work and social skills: wow enables players to learn behavior that allow people to achieve social reinforcement and to avoid social punishment. Operant conditioning procedures evolve as part of the wow game, which inevitably develops social skills, as well as modeling, coaching, and social cognitive techniques all operate within the wow virtual reality. In grade 4 he was pretty upset with his mom one day, as he had told her in the morning that he had 'arrangements' with his buddies. She was a little perplexed until it became apparent that it was a wow buddies that he had arrangement with. When he reached level 80 at age 10, I really saw his leadership skills working - I think it's harder for him in the real world but in wow - he manages to pull together a team of more than 15 people to enter a battle ground and lead them all through the battle, it's really most impressive. mention the following skills, all of which personally seen my son perform in WOW: following instructions, accepting criticism, accepting “No” for an answer, staying calm, disagreeing with others, asking for help, asking permission, getting along with others, apologizing, having a conversation, giving compliments, accepting compliments, listening to others, being honest, showing sensitivity to others, introducing yourself as well as some not mentioned, like persuading others, leading a group through a complex attack strategy and managing real world time constraints.

  3. Analytical and strategic thinking: The best quests require a mixture of skills in the party. one has to always find new markets and cultivate ancillary skills. He experimented with various skills but took a liking to fishing. After fishing many lakes and playing the auction houses he found a buyer for a fairly rare type of fish. She guaranteed a buy (for a while) at a certain (inflated) rate in gold. So he fished for her and she bought, for a while. I suspect that the markets are fairly efficient in wow so she probably visited the auction houses too and found a more eager seller. And as he leveled, he found it easier to earn gold so the economics changed.
    More recently he has some older real world friends that he's helped reach higher levels. I've seen him train them on the mix of skills needed for various categories of battle. When selecting a weapon or tool, bigger is not always better, unique weapons tend to identify the heroes in the room, something he spends hours on. One action, used well, can be more powerful than plethora of actions. I've re-learned how to think out the box from his understanding os the most simple principle, "What are the tools at my disposal, and what can I do with them?" No matter how much he has experience in a specific weapon or specialty, he tried new ones and analyses the strengths and weaknesses of each element of the make up of each character. Once I find something that works I have tended to overuse it (just because it works) rather than focus on relearning new skills and techniques. It's better to out-smart an opponent than to fight one. In the early levels of wow, players can get into what feels like an endless repetition of "Find a monster. Kill it. Get its treasure." But your character (and career) can get hurt that way. Whether it's selecting appropriate quests, or setting up team efforts, winning special awards, learning special skills, playing the auction rooms or reaping the holiday spoils, the wow economy and world goes well beyond repetition. Picking up the spoils (and the experience points) can assist players develop real world physical and virtual values. It's not always appropriate but in a room of competition, an aptitude to get them to fight, can be an effective life strategy.

  4. Imagination and creative thinking: My son took on a keen ability to role play in real life. He can speak in dozens of accents with various cultural enhancements and more recently he learned how to impersonate dozens of people. He can do it on the fly.   Roleplaying (RP), or Role Playing, in World of Warcraft means taking on the role of a character and acting it out in-game through emotes, /say, /yell, and sometimes other channels. Players may also participate in roleplay outside the game by posting on blogs, wikis, or forums (official or otherwise). Roleplaying has similarities to improvisational theater, with the participants acting out characters in unscripted situations. The character's personality, goals, morals, and quirks may resemble that of the player or be completely different. Regardless, roleplayers recognize a boundary between what is in character and what is out of character.  For the advanced reader: RP also refers to RP Realms. RP servers are functionally the same as PvE Servers, with added social rules and stricter naming enforcement. The same is true for RP-PvP Servers and PvP Servers. Both sets of rules apply. RP-PvP is commonly misunderstood to mean that the roleplaying part is optional. In fact, these servers were started in response to petitioning from roleplayers, who felt that the ability to engage in PvP added realism.
    Bottom line: wow teaches role playing 

  5. Ability to disseminate information, hone ones strengths and strengthen ones weaknesses: My son lives the information and digital age, it's normal for him. Fortunately he's also learned the importance of social interaction at school. The rest is just encouragement I think. On WOW there are so many geographies, skills and talents, areas of development and options for play that every player has to learn haw to discern information (i.e. develop keen insight and good judgment). In order to identify each individuals strengths and weaknesses one has to try each and all of the potential combinations (an impossible task). As one discovers areas of interest, talent and developed skill, one has to research and explore in order to extend ones characters to deeper levels. 

  6. You don't have to read all the books: My son has read all the books, World of Warcraft is immersive no doubt about that. But they move on to other immersive worlds that all include different life lessons, and a modest description of the beast you are about to face is better than facing a daemon and trying six dozen spells before finding the right one. (If you live that long.) Do not eschew documentation. Learn from others' mistakes — or from your own. Draw a map as you go. It is easier to avoid the pitfalls and to find that hidden room the next time through.
There are many more so what did I miss? Add your own wow or other MMORG life lessons in the comments. Also see Social Impact Games

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Anonymous Severe Autism said...

My oldest son (going on 30) still plays and has met people (new friends) from all over the world. All compliments of WOW, which I originally thought was scary, but I guess they are a rare breed and really (on the whole) great bunch.

7:39 pm  

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