1 July, 2005
Sitting around smacking foozles hoping to get next level. This is what most people think of when they think of playing online RPGs. Can it really be good for you?
Stephen Gillett, a Senior Director at Yahoo! Inc., gave an excellent presentation at the GLS conference entitled Guild Building is Skill Building where he argues that you can learn important skills from playing online games. In his case, he says he learned important management skills from leading a guild.
Stephen argued that the act of forming and running a guild is similar to what an entrepreneur does. An entrepreneur has to raise capital, incorporate, find talent, etc. Similarly, a guild master (GM) has to get together funds, form the guild, recruit good members, etc. Given Stephen's history as an entrepreneur he knows what he's talking about.
Even while running a guild, Stephen said that he learned many crucial management skills. He was able to go into job interviews for management positions at a relatively young age and speak intelligently about issues like recruiting and retaining talent, dispute resolution, and incentive programs. He knew about these because he had to do the same thing while running a guild.
I found the talk to be very interesting and a great change of pace. Stephen is a manager at Yahoo! and not an academic, so he knew the hands-on application of his work as a GM. Although he wasn't able to back his paper with rigorous study, he had practical experience that he was able to draw upon and was able to communicate his thoughts effectively. It was nice to hear someone without a vested interest (career or academic) say something very positive about online RPG play.
One issue to consider, however. Did Stephen really learn these skills by being a GM, or did it just sharpen the skills he already had? Was he a "natural-born" leader, or did the game really help him develop the skills that served him well in the workplace?
I think that online RPGs are a great place to learn important skills. I'm an introvert myself and I was never a big fan of extroverting. (If you haven't done so, highly recommend reading the book The Introvert Advantage by Marti Olsen Laney to truly understand introversion and how it affects people; this is a great book for introverts to learn about themselves and extroverts to learn how to work with introverts well.) However, I was able to practice socialization easily in the text MUDs I played in college. By interacting with people in an easy-going environment that didn't wear me out, I was able to develop important extroverting skills that serve me as a business owner and consultant. So, it shouldn't come as any surprise that I agree with Stephen.
What do you think? Have you learned any important skills from online RPGs?
And, don't worry you bitter members of my readership. My next entry will be about the darker side of online RPGs based upon another talk from the GLS conference.