Anyone who has tried to lead a mid-level group in any MMORPG knows that this is not a trivial task. There are many problems that the group leader has to face. Among these are outlining a clear vision and goal, getting the members to commit to this goal, understanding member capabilities and delegating appropriate roles, dealing with discouraging and inappropriate behaviors, resolving tension, motivating a group with low morale, and reacting to sudden crises among others. Performing these tasks well means both an expertise in the domain knowledge of these games (what different spells do, what the strength and weakness of each class is) and in the general knowledge of leadership and small-group management. While the domain knowledge is non-transferable to the real world, it is clear that leadership skills can transfer both ways. After all, leadership is dealing with people, with all their individual idiosyncrasies, motivations and needs, in both the real and virtual world.
For a newcomer to an existing group, the rules and strategies to slowly gain the trust of the groupís members and become the tacit leader are the same for both an EQ hunting group as they are for a real world group. Experienced leaders know that the person who has the highest official title is not always the one who ends up having the most say in a decision-making process. In fact, all the lessons of Machiavelli or Sun Tzu can be applied, learned, or perfected in an MMORPG, especially when we talk about guild leaders or raid leaders.
What is clear is that it does take real leadership skill to lead any kind of group in an MMORPG because you are dealing with real people. The diversity of an MMORPG group is probably higher than that of a real world group if only because of the age range. And all the human emotions and motivations are always there: greed, pride, altruism, shame, guilt, cowardice or brashness.
Now imagine how we could harness all this for leadership training. We could imagine asking individuals to perform these kinds of tasks:
- Join an existing group of at least 4 members. After gaining their trust and loyalty, persuade the group to hunt at a different spot.
- Start a group, and then get the group to a designated location deep within a level-appropriate dungeon to get a drop from a specific mob.
- The leader of a guild that is about to fracture over a long-standing issue has just stepped down from the position. Keep this leaderless guild together while keeping attrition to a minimum.
- Create a guild of at least 50 active members with a weekly attrition of not more than 5%.
These tasks would clearly need to be embedded into a reading or lecture course on leadership techniques and strategies to be effective. But the MMORPG tasks allow individuals to apply, learn and reinforce a variety of leadership skills. Leadership is one of those skills that is more about experience than about theory, and the MMORPG space is well-suited to this kind of training.
"the player typically creates “tall” or “small” avatars in games"
My husband is quite tall, well over 6 ft, and the smallest character he plays regularly in EQ is an Erudite while the ones he plays most often are tall barbarians. I am fairly small, just over 5 ft 4 in, and the largest character I regularly play is a human while the ones I play the most are Halflings and Dark Elves. I wonder what that says about us?
I am in my last year of college right now and will be teaching high school art in about a year and a half. I think an MMO environment could provide a very unintimidating place for students to be creative in.
Say for example that within the game you have the ability to endlessley manipulate and combine physical items that you find within the game. i.e. forming clay obtained into a sculpture, using paint found in the game to create a painting, finding sticks, twine, and animal bones to combine into a found object sculpture. You could incorporate a lot of different project types into the environment. There are applications for other subject areas as well, or possibly all of them at once.
There would be an economy present within the MMO environment. As EQ has shown us, electronic economies can be just as complex as real economies, and can affect our real economy. i.e. player auctions/Ebay. The students could set up gallery shows, or trade parts that they need in order to make a project. But, what kind of goal could one give to the students to make them want to play this game after school hours, say maybe an hour a night.
The prime motivation that I would like to see at work in the MMO would be, to become the best in that MMO. Just as people need to be the best, or have the coolest stuff in EQ. If the MMO was designed well enough, a talented student could create some very interesting visual projects. I think the kids would be very ready to compete within the MMO and try to create the most interesting works. The fact that less technical skill would be involved within an MMO is important too. Students with disabilites, learning disorders, or chronic clumsiness :p, would be put on the same level as the "normal" students. If the technology ever gets good enough so that students can fully manipulate objects within a 3d environment, that would be motivation in itself. It would be enthralling.
It would be the "text book" for my art class. The students would use the MMO as a brainstorming tool and would be required to have ideas to discuss the next day in class. I would reccomend a time to the students, so that most of them can be in the MMO at the same time. They would interact with no violence, no fear, and an open mind. Projects such as mural design planning could bring together a class very well.
I think an MMO environment would bring my class closer together than any normal classroom would. The students would be anonymous within the MMO until they choose to tell someone who they are. If the servers were national like in EQ it would help to establish a national art community stronger than any we've known before. I've found that the art world is all about connecting with the right people. If kids from all accross the nation were together in an artisticly based MMO for all of high school they would inevitably become aware of each others real lives. And hopefully they would exchange e-mail addresses, phone numbers, ideas, and information with one another.
Anyway, I am rambling now. I just had never thought of incorporating an MMO into my art classroom. This section really set off a trigger in my head. I know the idea is quite radical. The sustainment of a true, international MMO like EQ is a huge task and very expensive. Even to acquire an MMO that spanned one city would be quite impressive.
If anyone has some thoughts... of practical ways to do something on this level... for any subject area.. drop me a line, I'd love to here some thoughts.
Bumlaak, I read once about an MMORPG (though I've never played it) called "A Tale in the Desert" that might interest you. It has no combat; instead, the goal (or one of them) is to pass some test in different disciplines, and one of those is Art. You can have a look about it in http://www.atitd.com/
I wanted to say that I really loved your site, in particular the parts
about addiction, but also the more positive parts about playing with
childs and so on.
I understand better the strange not-so-strong addiction I got for the game,
when I didn't have a so big pleasure in the social interactions of the game
nor with the virtual achievements (my highest lvl char is still 19 !):
I think it comes from the "skinner box" effect. I will continue to
play for the pleasure of the game (nice paysages, lots of funny people
and various creatures and worlds !) but won't attach any more
importance to leveling and will let people level faster than me.
As long as I continue to practice sports, enjoy to cook sophisticated
meals and cakes, and work, I will bet that I am not "addicted".
I would like more information about the skinner box applied for human.
I thought, even before reading your essay on teaching, about applying
it so, but in a very different way than the example you cited (more in
an elearning concept, although I liked the leader ship training
idea). Do you know of any other experiments/examples including skinner
boxes for human, eventually with some pedagogical purposes ?
Another reflection I didn't see treated on your website and on which I
would like to get comments is the fact that the ultimate goal for a
game company which needs to make money should be to create such an
addiction to their games, in a similar way to food companies who are
doing research about substances making you more hungry. (Wonder if it
is in the specificationns of the games from the begining ?) And in a
similar way that the law control the substances added to the food, do
you think a government (probably not the states, but for instance
European governments which are much more protective of their citizens)
could edit a law against some particularities of games ?
Another liked train of thought concern education, games and
governement. There was a law at one point stating that comics should
contain a minimum ratio of "cultural content". Maybe a similar law
will be decided in games, so that the addiction is put to "good use"
for the society. Would be a shame for the player I think, whose
pleasure in playing is as real than the pleasure for achievemnts in
Society, I think (and probably taught by similar ways in society).
Have a great day,
I started playing EQ about 10 months ago. A life long friend introduced me to the game. Being a Technology Professional the game intrigued me from that aspect. I had never really been one to sit and play computer games, either PC or console based. The difference with this one was as soon as I started playing my 10 and 11 year old were involved. I immediatley saw opportunities for them to learn how to type, spell, calcualte conversion rates of money, and how to budget for equipment. Now the game has become a very active part of my childrens education. As with any activity the time spent in the game is controlled so as not to become a dominant factor in their lives. We never play simultaneously so that they can experience the game as individuals without direct in-game parental involvement. I really beleive that the scores they are getting in school in math, english, art have improved over the last 10 months due in part to game experience.
A delicate balance would have to be achieved in order for anything like his to work. Too "school-like" and the kids won't want to participate. Too "Game-like" and the kids won't want to do anything else.
But the true danger I see in this is the non-fantasy aspect. It's one thing to have a fantasy or sci-fi or even a FPS role playing game... the troubles some people seem to have seperating and managing that game world and their real lives is difficult enough. But there are a growing number of people that are drawn to the non-combative skills in MMORPGs. Making a realistic representation of life as a MMORPG IMO would be like offering a whiskey to a recovering alchoholic.
And as far as educational purposes are concerned, I agree that a concept like this could have extremely benificial qualities and is worth looking into. However, the "real" world is where the skills learned should be meant to be put to use and that may turn out to be the biggest challenge of all... getting them away from their monitors and outside the house.
I do see the potential in this technology for education, but I do not think it would be a healthy method for teaching children. Most of the learning process for children is social training. Putting a computer filter in between children and their peers or teachers is depriving them of the numerous and oftentimes painful lessons that can only be learned from real social contact. While people may be more comfortable in the safe environment of an online community, sheltering there is simply avoiding a stressful situation rather than mastering it. In addition, so many of the skills learned in an MMOG are incredibly specialized. "Nontransferable" is an apt summary of most of the knowledge, reflexes, and jargon necessary to adequately communicate and function in an online world. Dragging a person through such a high learning curve process in an effort to teach them an unrelated skill is counterproductive to the extreme. Finally, conditioning a child to be addicted to learning will not necessarily promise success as an adult. I understand it was simply a turn of phrase, but an addiction is only so because of its capacity for negative impact. I'm sure Faust could easily attest to the negative impact of being addicted to knowledge.
Even so, I do see much potential in the technology for adult education. Virtual classrooms or even press-conferences where more people could have immediate access to high profile speakers strike me as very valid applications. The problem currently is that the technology is either too primative or its versatility with regard to these applications has been so untested as to make any hypothesis pure romantic guess work. I do not wish to see this tech die, or be doomed to the addicted fantasy land of the social retard (among whose numbers I count myself). In order to be of value to society the features that make this venue of entertainment so addictive must be stripped away so that it may remain an effective means of communication and socialization. Endless phantom-reward seeking and behavior modification might be considered an ethical treatment of a prison population (which is another possible use for MMOGs), but is a rather cruel demon to unleash on a free society.
I play Runescape alot and it has values as such. go to runescape.com
Rubies of Eventide, an indie free-to-play mmorpg has deep character customization features and seems to attract a different crowd. Has anyone tried to see what the sociological difference is in this game (something in between ATITD and DAOC) versus diablo or shadowbane? It would make a good study. The community there is very different from any other massively I've ever played. It's like 'carebear' heaven. Haven't run into any l33t d00ds there ever. How wierd is that?
Since when is Rubies free? Thought there was a 10 day trial?
Anyway, there is definely a huge difference between player 'types' in MMORPGs. Comparing World of Warcraft stress test beta to ATITD is like night and day. When I played ATITD for a month or two, I felt like I was a lab-rat in some huge social experiment (and was glad to be a part of it :). Great GM help/interraction, players actually shape the game, and the community was more than helpful. Great experience.
In regards to what Douglas said about learning to interact through a computer interface, I can easily see constant social contact becoming less important and contact through a computer filter becoming much more important. Obviously for the survival of our species social interaction is very important. But when you think about the energy and time required to travel, and when you think about rising energy costs. The idea of becoming an expert in communicating effectively with a computer between you and another person can become quite important. Just the observation of a bored college student (grin)
"Most of the learning process for children is social training. Putting a computer filter in between children and their peers or teachers is depriving them of the numerous and oftentimes painful lessons that can only be learned from real social contact."
That problem would arise if it was all gaming for an education. If it was limited, I think it'd be very helpful. It would teach students in general as well teach them to balance their real life and gaming life. Sometimes I think some geek is going to design a carbon freezing chamber that preserves brain functioning while his body is being preseved so that he can continually play in a virtual world for as long as it and the world exists. >_
Everything includes balance. Like with being a guild leader, it requires a balance of being friendly but disciplinary. This requires a balance of computer time and social time.
Although some classroom environments sometimes aren't very good socially because it's just kids listening to a teacher but that's only if it's made that way. Just as for this, it's only if it's made that way where students learn by playing a game.
I have been designing a sci-fi mmorpg for a few months now. You can design your ships and other objects that require physical designing. This could be encouraged in a computer guided design class. Maybe you can be scored on how well you design in general but also how well your design performs over another.
I have been contemplating making my own scientific system or basing it off of reality. Making my own would allow for tons of expansion, but whatever. If it was based off of the real universe, then it'd be perfect for a science class.
Has anyone considered the uses in business surrounding Telecommuting and employee interaction? What about project realization and team building? This has greater applications than just play and learning.
I just saw you on the Discovery Channel, and was facinated by your area of research. I'm currently working on my PhD in Organizational Behavior and am planning to write my dissertation on leadership in virtual teams, and the effects of virtual organizations on team relationships.
I'm very much interested in your research, specifically in the areas of building leadership and trust in virtual environments. I was wondering if you had any of your papers published, so that I might use some of your findings in my own research.
I look forward to hearing from you!
Kick the tires and light the fires, probelm officially solved!