10 Things I Learned from MMOs

I’m close to wrapping up, Prensky’s “Don’t Bother Me Mom — I’m Learning,” and to support what he’s saying about the educational value of gaming, I thought I’d list the positive, educational effects of my MMO playing also noting those that have been financially lucrative (with a $). To provide a bit of background, I’ve been involved with video games since I was six or seven years of age, first with an Atari 2600 and a Commodore 64 to the present. In the mid-20s, I was also involved with different types of games, one of which was casino games that helped me develop more for gaming strategies. At 32, if I am, in fact, a digital native, I’m an early adopter, and quite geeky compared to my classmates growing up. It was during my second year of science teaching that a student, knowing I was into gaming, said, “Hey, Mr. G-, you need to try Everquest.” The eye-candy on the box was appealing and the fantasy genre had always appealed to me, so I thought, “Why not?” Thus, it begins…

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1. Home Networking – It wasn’t long after I began playing Everquest, that my wife wanted to try it. Very quickly we realized sharing an account was not an option. The solution? Buy another computer, network them, and share a dial-up connection. This was during the Windows 98 era, and it wasn’t as easy to set up a network as it is today. The interest in networking actually inspired me to take a networking course at the local community college the following semester. DOS-based Novell, anyone? ($)

Of course, as a classroom teacher, you certainly hope you’ve got some people management skills, however, managing individuals from a variety of age groups, cultures, and parts of the world is something different. It wasn’t long after I started playing Everquest that I decided I wanted to try my hand a guild leadership. Thus, the Harbingers of Ire (now, Harbingers of Light), was born. Through the experience, still ongoing, I’ve learned:

2. Conflict Resolution – Put individuals from mixed backgrounds in an initially anonymous environment, and you’ve got a recipe for drama. I’ve seen it come and go, and maintaining the integrity of the guild as a standalone entity has, at times, been challenging.

3. Project Management – As a guild leader, who is also a full-time employee of a school system and in his last year of graduate school, you sometimes have to learn to delegate responsibilities to your leadership team. For example, we are currently planning a migration from World of Warcraft to Warhammer Online once the game goes live. To assist with this undertaking it was necessary to play to members’ strengths: one person is our news person, gathering game-related news and posting it through the guild’s blog, another is our community relations coordinator, promoting the guild and advertising us for future recruits, and the list goes on.

4. Split-Second Decision Making/Strategy – Sometimes in the midst of fast-paced action, you have to make decisions that can determine the success or failure of a large-scale undertaking. While our guild was active in Dark Age of Camelot, we occasionally emerged as a leading force among guilds in the defense of our “realm” against raiding players from other realms. Relying on reports from scouts in the field, it was often necessary to make decisions to split your forces, take refuge in a nearby keep, or launch a counter-assault into enemy territory.

5. “Advanced Web Design” – I picked up HTML skills prior to my involvement in MMORPG’s. It wasn’t long after the founding of our guild that it became apparent that a simple HTML-based site would not suffice. Our guild needed a way to communicate outside of the game world, thus, I began to explore the concepts of domain ownership, PHP-based site design, content management systems, and even a touch of MySQL. Now, do I know these languages? Not really. However, there were times when I had to edit both PHP and MySQL scripts by trial-and-error to get a site to look and function the way I wanted. Parallel to that, the necessity of voice communications forced me to explore Voice over IP communication programs, vps hosting and administration. ($)

There have been a number of other positive learning experiences that have been a direct result of my interest in MMORPG’s:

6. A Love of Reading – Motivated by my desire to better experience the role play nature of many of the MMO’s I’ve played, I have become much more tolerant of reading novels. I say this because, prior, I didn’t do a great deal of reading for pleasure. Dark Age of Camelot even inspired me to explore Irish folklore and mythology.

7. Computer Hardware/Troubleshooting – When it comes to learning computer hardware and troubleshooting, there’s nothing more motivational than sitting down at your PC, expecting to log into your favorite MMO only to find that something’s not working. Eventually, I became comfortable enough with hardware upgrades and repairs that I decided to build my own system. I’ve since built seven PCs from scratch. ($)

8. Graphic Editing – The necessity of a website also brought about the necessity of quality graphics. ($)

9. Video Editing/Machinima – Sometimes boredom with a game can have positive benefits. During times when my game play was dragging I was occasionally hit with a creative streak. So, I figured out how to hook my camcorder to my PC and began recording game play. Before long, I wanted to tell more complex stories, so I explored storyboarding to plan movies like “Home.”

10. Instructional Design – There came a time when my love of technology, borne mostly from my love of gaming, and my love of education came together. A couple of years ago, I entered my Master’s program at UNC Wilmington to pursue a Master’s in Instructional Technology. For me, gaming, especially MMO’s, have given me creative insights into the instructional design process. I’ve even had the opportunity to create educational games like Coral Reef Crisis which uses the same game engine used to produce Counterstrike Source.

I’m sure I could think of many other details, but I’d like to hear from you. What have MMO’s taught you?