Tuesday, December 16, 2008

MMO playing doesn't give leadership skills

Source Story is from here : http://forums.f13.net/index.php?topic=15577.0

The basis of the story is that job recruiters are being instructed to avoid World of Warcraft players, and that one particular job recruiter shrugged off the possibility that leadership skills could be learned in an MMORPG, or that playing MMO's could gain project management skills.

The employment industry has a point to be made. While some MMO games, like Eve Online, demand a certain strategic and tactical mindset to play, the most popular MMO, World of Warcraft, doesn't require anything more than a credit card and some free time. Just playing an MMO won't somehow make people learn management skills or learn how to work with teams.

Lets do a management case in point with City of Heroes, the MMO I currently play. I've talked about explaining to high level (40+) players with 4 or 5 vet badges how their basic powers worked. Specific examples include enligtening a storm defender to the capability of his O2 boost to prevent endurance drain, and explaining to a kinetics that the increased density they had skipped over prevents knockback and increases damage resistance. On an almost consistant basis I come across people who have been playing for literal years that don't have basic grasps on how their powers in CoH work, or how to slot those powers. I still remember a Fire Tank who went out of his way to get a slotting for a large Ranged Defense buff, and couldn't understand why ranged attackers were still killing him off just as easily as before the buffs. The player was oblivious to the complete lack of defense Fire Tanks get to begin with, and didn't understand the point of a tank is to get up close and personal, forcing melee combat. In short, the player would not accept that he couldn't boost defense to anything meaningful on his fire aura, and wouldn't accept any advice on how to make his tank useful.

From my own experience then, just playing an MMO doens't grant managment skills. Management skills can help to play CoH in a certain way. Players able to plan for the best enhancement slotting and best mixture of powers, and able to understand the limitations and liabilities of a particular archtype, can help turn even mediocre builds into desirable teammates.

Keeping on my own experience, I think I can safely say that leadership skills aren't granted by MMO play either. I can actually go all the way back to Phantasy Star Online for emperical data on this idea. Since PSO was limited to 4 players online play with no true team leader, it's not the best example available. That being said, it wasn't uncommon to come across a level 70+ player who didn't know the maps, and kept aggroing too many monsters onto a grouped team. Just because somebody had better equipment in PSO, and a higher level, didn't mean they were a better player qualified to lead.

Planetside actually handed me one of those what was I thinking moments. I remember early in the life of the game joining up with an Outfit and having the rank of Dread Knight. We were fighting on Oshur against the Terran Republic and I figured out what the Terran's battle plan was. I broadcasted in a base zone what the Terran's where up to, and somebody challenged, demanding to know who I was that I would dare say the leadership was wrong. I still remember my response : I'm a dread knight whose a little pissed off that we are going to lose this fight. ... which we did.

One of my biggest complaints against Planetside as the years went on is that qualified leadership was non-existance in the command ranks. It was not uncommon for a CR5 to log on and immediatly call an offensive at their location. It was not uncommon for CR4 and CR5 players to completely screw up major offensive drives. Some of my fondest memories of Planetside were hot dropping in on a base and taking out an enemies generator, then holding the generator against enemy forces and reinforcements. It also bugged the living daylights out of me when right after dropping a generator some clueless CR4 or CR5 would suddenly complain loudly about somebody dropping the generator, therefor depriving them of precious exp. In a couple cases, CR4's and CR5's on my own side would orbital strike a team heading to blow up the generator.

The real problem is that out of any game, Planetside would have been the best place to learn real leadership skills. Not even the America's Army games have come as close to fully implementing real-time combat with armor caravans, supplies, travel logistics, infantry concerns, and so on. The amazing point to Planetside is that it was real-time warfar on a truely global scale. It was an incredible experience... only it served to prove that just playing an MMO doesn't grant leadership skills.

Tabula Rasa was another such game that had a chance to be something truely epic. There was the very real possibility of becoming another Planetside with a working simulation of full-scale warfare. Sadly, Tabula Rasa never materialized anything above basic running and gunning... and squad leadership was meaningless once the devs decided to take the focus away from the inherently imbalanced team-based gameplay.

City of Heroes then, as a more typical MMORPG, also represents emperical data that simply playing an MMO, even for a long time, doesn't grant management skills. Very recently I ran a Cap Au Diable Strke Force with a rather... obnoxious player. One of the basis of City of Heroes is that a team leader is signified by a star over their name. The starred player can invite new players to the team, kick current players on the team, and select new missions without actually having to be at the mission door. However, just because somebody has the star, doesn't mean that they are actually the team leader, or the one choosing the missions.

Some Task Forces and Strike Forces in City of Heroes have to be unlocked, such as the Katie Hannon Task Force, Hess Task Force, and a villain group strike force. Sometimes the player who has run through the task force and knows all of the missions and how to complete those missions won't have the task force unlocked, or their current avatar won't be in a villain group that has the villain group strike force unlocked. So, while they can direct the TF / SF, they may not have the star.

Then there are the cases where one player has a particular story arc, and an entire team works on the story arc, such as the Praetorian arc on the hero side. The arc holder may let somebody else put the team together because a friend has better promotional skills.

Leadership in CoH is extremely flexible then. A good team leader needs to be able to come to grips with changing conditions such as players who quit or log out, or finding out that a particular player is not really good at what their archtype does. A good case in point here is the Imperious Task Force. As I diagramed out and posted on several times in this blog, there are several ways to succesfully complete the task force. I even ran into a new way to complete the task force on a recent run. With 3 blasters, the team lead called for the ranged players to fire on the healing nictus before the AV fight even started. It worked. The blasters could fire from outside the healing range of the nictus, and had enough DPS to take the healing nictus down.

Going back to the Cap Au Diable SF, the person who put the SF together hadn't wound up with the star, and early on the SF started directing the fight... which was a good thing. The player knew how to work the SF. After a couple of disconnects, I wound up with the star, and promptly kept asking the experienced villain side player what to do, where to go next... only to get no response. As far as the player was concerned, whoever had star made the choices, no matter what... and then after the TF the player went off on a rant that I hadn't "abidcated" my position and that if I hadn't wanted to lead the Strike Force I should have just quit, logged out, and given somebody else the star.

So. Word of Advice. Don't play with @Celerity on Victory. Just /bad/ idea.

From the empirical data I've witnessed then, I myself call into question the real world viability of management and leadership training as gleaned from inside MMO games. From what I've experienced for myself, skills learned in the real-world, skills learned in a job, in the military, are far more effective. I find it real easy to believe then that employers would ask recruiters to avoid MMO players, and I'm not at all surprised that World of Warcraft tops the list of games that employers don't want employees playing.

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