Learning Leadership Skills

The exploration of whether individuals can learn leadership skills from their MMORPG experience is important for several reasons. First of all, it demonstrates that actual real-life skills can be learned in virtual settings. Secondly, it allows educators and corporate training creators to think of MMORPGs as more than just games, and shows that MMORPGs should be thought of as potential educational mediums. And finally, it highlights the possibility of a kind of “emergent learning” where the pedagogy isn’t dictated as in traditional training software, but emergent in the sense that it occurs because of the rich system mechanics.

MMORPGs allow for some provocative scenarios. One could imagine asking job candidates to join a group and persuade the group to move to a different hunting spot to gauge a candidate’s persuasion skills. Or alternatively, have an individual join a group and then attempt to take over the leadership role while gaining the loyalty of the existing group members. Of course, these scenarios depend on a more straight-forward rule-set so there isn’t too much domain specific knowledge that doesn’t apply to the real world. As the pervasiveness of MMOGs increase however, these might be a very possible scenarios.

Because the power of MMORPGs is the ability to place individuals in different ad-hoc groups every time they play, it makes sense to explore whether people are able to learn complex social skills from their experiences. Respondents were asked whether they had learned anything or improved their ability in the following 4 leadership skills from their MMORPG experience.

Mediation: Resolving in-group conflicts. Reducing in-group tension.
Persuasion: Convincing the group to move to a different area, or change hunting tactics.
Motivation: Instilling loyalty. Providing encouragement.
Overall Leadership: Overall leadership ability.

The following table shows that almost half of respondents felt that they had learned a little or a lot across all 4 leadership skill areas.

While there were no gender differences, there were significant age differences. In particular, younger players were more likely to feel they had improved their leadership skills from their MMORPG experiences.

Respondents were also asked whether they were in a manager or leadership role in their real-life jobs, and the interesting finding was that this had no effect on whether the individual felt they had learned anything from their MMORPG experiences. In other words, someone who was in a leadership or management role in real life was not any more or less likely to feel they had learned something from their MMORPG experiences.

This data set demonstrates that MMOGs can, and should be, thought of as potential educational mediums for complex social skills. Beyond training, one could imagine MMOGs used as candidate screening tests. Instead of asking candidates to answer Critical Behavioral (CBI) questions, one could imagine observing them behave in stressful group situations instead, which provides a far better assessment tool than the CBI questions where a candidate can provide prepared answers.