If Oregon Trail has taught us anything, it’s that games can be excellent teaching tools—and you’ll die of dysentery sooner or later. Massively multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPG) in particular serve as great educational tools for professionals, particularly project managers. Why MMORPGs? It’s because they force players to not only cooperate, but be extremely well-organized.
When something isn’t working, don’t expect it to suddenly start working
In MMORPGs such as World of Warcraft, you have end-game challenges with bosses and enemies designed for groups of up to 40 people called raids. Raids are extremely challenging and comprise the end-game content designed for experienced players. They require a leader with a strategy and coordinated execution from all other players.
But if that strategy continues to fail for hours on end, good players eventually realize that they need to change something. In the professional world, it’s important to work hard to accomplish tasks and reach goals. But if a certain method or standard operating procedure isn’t working, you need to change it to something that does.
Surround yourself with a quality team
In MMORPGs, it is best to surround yourself with friendly and quality high-level players by joining a guild. When completing quests or raids, good players make the experience better because they don’t need to be hand-held and know what to do. They also make coordination much easier for a raid leader.
Having a bad player that can’t coordinate, consistently follow directions, or perform up to standards can cause headaches for other players and detract from what should be a fun experience. In the workplace, if you’re trying to complete a project, you need to surround yourself with experts that know what’s expected of them and won’t be a burden on the team.
Make sure everyone knows standard operating procedures
With in-game auto-matchmaking tools, you often see players randomly put together for the sole purposing of completing a group quest. In many cases, these players have never met each other and several may not know how to complete the quest.
In such situations, it is up to the most experienced group member to take lead and guide players by instructing and communicating. Then in turn, those new players will become experienced in the future and teach others. Essentially, it is a training day where new players learn standard operating procedures so that they may further disseminate the knowledge to another group.
Learn to delegate
Anyone that has tried to lead a guild or even a single raid knows how difficult it can be. In order to not get swamped or let their online lives take over, guild masters need to delegate jobs to other players. For example, experienced veteran players typically serve as trainers or leaders for newer players.
A singular guild master cannot fill every role. Professionals in leadership positions must also learn to delegate tasks so they don’t get burdened with things that take time away from their core duties.
Communication is key
While fighting a boss, players need to constantly communicate with each other. For example, you have tanks, healers, and damage dealers. Tanks draw the boss’ focus, damage dealers hit the boss, and healers keep everyone alive. Players must communicate their status, the boss’ status, and sometimes even the statuses of other players in order to win. Sound familiar? In the workplace, you need to communicate with everyone from project managers, stakeholders, IT, and more.
Plan everything out, down to the last detail
As a recovering EVE Online player, I can attest to the importance of minutiae in MMORPGs. With EVE, you not only have to play the game but also open Excel and start tracking your character’s stats and plan progression. To actually succeed in the game, you need money, and to get money you have to run a business or a scam—literally. It has often been said that EVE Online is a game for accountants, and that isn’t far from the truth.
When scoping a task or project, you need to account for as many scenarios as a possible and keep track of actions that need to be taken. When something unexpected is brought to your attention, you need to create a plan to deal with it and execute.
There is always room for optimization
When playing in an MMORPG, you can strive to merely win or you can go for world records or grander goals. To get those things, you need to fine tune your playstyle down to the smallest details. For example, as a damage dealer, you need to maximize the amount of damage you do over a given period of time. An experienced World of Warcraft raider will have any number of damage per second (DPS) trackers enabled so they can see how much damage they’re doing to a boss in relation to other raiders.
A dedicated player will spend time researching and practicing in order to increase their damage output. As a professional, you should strive to not just meet the minimum required from you but exceed them. Instead of bragging rights in an online game, you can perhaps get a raise.
MMORPGs make for excellent social teaching tools for professionals. In fact, some even go so far as to put accomplishments in those games on their resume. They can provide lessons and teach consequences without actually having any real-world impact—not much real world impact anyways.
Do you play MMORPGs? If so, let us know in the comments if you’ve drawn any business lessons from playing.