Thursday, January 10, 2013

World of Warcraft players make for better employees than Harvard MBAs

They say that if you do what you love, eventually the money will follow.  That's great news for World of Warcraft players as Dr. John Seely Brown recently declared that he would "...rather hire a high-level World of Warcraft player than an MBA from Harvard"

Ok, so she's not from WoW - but she *is* a scholar from an MMORPG...

Brown's controversial statement came during a Big Think talk, and he defends his position by focusing on the types of players who organize, or at least participate in, serious guild-level raiding:

"When we look into the social structures and the knowledge capability, refining, and generation capabilities of this guild structures, there is something going on here... Now, these are not just self-organizing groups. Basically every high-end guild has a constitution. The leaders of these guilds also have to do dispute adjudication all the time. They also have to be willing to say, 'Let's measure ourselves.'"

It's not that his point of view is without merit.  Having been involved in some semi-serious endgame raiding for awhile. there is a tremendous amount of logistics, management, and teabagging that goes into coordinating a group of 15 - 30 players united towards a common goal.

To someone with a progressive mind and awareness of MMORPGs, such guild leadership and self-motivation could be a very real way to demonstrate managerial skills which applicable to the real world.  In fact, that's pretty much the plot of Unicorn City is you stop to think about it.

Still, most non-gamers would scoff at Brown's notion and dismiss MMO players as unskilled drones without any skills to speak of.

This is, as most MMO players know, a serious miscalculation.

Whereas most non-gamers happily spend their free time sitting idly in front of their TVs laughing at lackluster sitcoms that were never funny to begin with, MMO players spend hours - if not days - camping specific enemies for a chance at a rare loot drop.  And they do this for fun.

Say what you will about MMO players, but they're a group who knows the payoff of hard work, obsessive researching, energy drinks, and patience.

In ideal conditions, this monster will appear once every 72 hours. Anyone who researches its spawn conditions and re-arranges their sleep schedule around its spawn window could probably handle your project management job. 

Brown's arguments can be heard in the Big Think video on the subject (which has embedding disabled by request... good way to get your message out, that) for those interested.  After extolling the virtues of guild leadership, Brown also looks at the way that MMO players create "Dashboards" to measure themselves and their performance.

It's no secret that MMO players - at least, the good ones who care about their performance - find new and creative ways to parse out their performance in a raid or group activity and focus their gear and ability advancements around overcoming their shortcomings. Brown accurately points out that this level of assessment is often forced onto employees in the corporate world by their managers, but MMO players voluntarily subject themselves to such scrutiny in order to improve.

While compelling, Brown's arguments are not without their faults.  Firstly, he fails to consider that an MBA from Harvard and a World of Warcraft guild officer could - in fact - be one in the same person and that gamers are quite capable of earning degrees when they're not hounding DKP.

But the major factor that Brown fails to consider in his assessment of MMO players and their "passion" for hard work is that the majority of them will not be half as passionate about spending 8+ hours a day toiling away on accurate data reporting, insurance claims, or other such tedium.

In short, he doesn't really consider that MMOs are a hobby and that people can relax, drink, and unwind as they play and bond with friends.

Underneath the self-assessment and number crunching that Brown is so fond of, there lies a fun and unique experience in MMOs that allow players to experience dizzying highs and disappointing defeats as part of a team... which is an experience that no corporate team building weekend at a YMCA camp will ever capture.

...unless, of course, you bring padded weapons and give the head of Human Resources an epic armor drop.  In which case, game on.