Grooming Real Life Leadership Through Virtual Worlds

wow_tuxedo My friend Jon passed this article from Wired Magazine off to me as it suits my interests a bit more. This article reiterates what I have been chanting for some time now, real world lessons can be learned in virtual worlds like World of Warcraft.

Gaming tends to be regarded as a harmless diversion at best, a vile corruptor of youth at worst. But the usual critiques fail to recognize its potential for experiential learning. Unlike education acquired through textbooks, lectures, and classroom instruction, what takes place in massively multiplayer online games is what we call accidental learning. It’s learning to be – a natural byproduct of adjusting to a new culture – as opposed to learning about. Where traditional learning is based on the execution of carefully graded challenges, accidental learning relies on failure. Virtual environments are safe platforms for trial and error. The chance of failure is high, but the cost is low and the lessons learned are immediate.

We see even now that MMORPGs are affecting the economy, laws, and communication. As the games become more social, they are introducing experiences and obstacles to end users where those users may have never had the opportunity to encounter them. And as with many experiences in the real world, those users grow and alter behavior patterns to suit these diverse situations in the virtual world. Wired’s article focuses on MMORPGs grooming managers as a direct correlation to holding the position of Guild Master. They write:

[T]he process of becoming an effective World of Warcraft guild master amounts to a total-immersion course in leadership. A guild is a collection of players who come together to share knowledge, resources, and manpower. To run a large one, a guild master must be adept at many skills: attracting, evaluating, and recruiting new members; creating apprenticeship programs; orchestrating group strategy; and adjudicating disputes. Guilds routinely splinter over petty squabbles and other basic failures of management; the master must resolve them without losing valuable members, who can easily quit and join a rival guild. Never mind the virtual surroundings; these conditions provide real-world training a manager can apply directly in the workplace.

Heh. It may sound corny, but in my stint as an officer of a World of Warcraft guild, I was able to garner some knowledge of mangement with regards to conflict resolution, player management, evaluation of applicants, advertisement, and extra-guild relations; each lesson has allowed me to grow as a person on both a personal and professional level (oddly enough). Despite my appreciation for the acquisition of knowledge through virtual methods, the artcle’s last line is still laughable. They say:

The day may not be far off when companies receive résumés that include a line reading “level 60 tauren shaman in World of Warcraft.”

While that seems unlikely, will there come a time where I’ll be filling in my Guild management experiences on my resume?