5 Real World Skills I Learned from MMO Raiding


Gaming is still looked down upon some people. I’m not sure why, but it is, and within gaming, we absolutely love to hate on people playing MMORPGSs.  While we joke about the FPS dudebro who had sexual relations with my mother or mock the extremely angry and volatile players of some MOBA games (no, not all of you, and I’m certainly not just saying that so you won’t send me hatemail), there’s something about the person who is spending their evenings within their digital avatar that brings up a particular image in our heads.

South Park Warcraft Guy meme

Me, apparently.

Believe it or not, there’s something to be learned from all that time slamming your face against a keyboard and wondering what in the world you’re doing wrong on this fight. You’re gaining some kind of skills from these gaming experiences, though you probably won’t put on your résumé that they came from weeknights spent in Azeroth or Eorzea or wherever. Off and on, I’ve raided in World of Warcraft over the years, and I learned quite a few things as a raider that carried over into my actual life, such as:

1. There’s a difference between theory and practice

Yeah, this seems so obvious when it’s put in bold print in front of you, but it’s true. Whether you’re in the real world trying to learn something like making a meal, managing a group of people on a project, or being a mace-wielding deathbringer trying not to stand in the fire, it’s always different when you do something on your own the first time. A lot of raiders always try to look-up as much information as they can about a fight before going into it, but just because you’ve seen the video declaring “the dragon does move X until it gets to Y% health, and then it has ability Z,” you haven’t experienced this with your group in real-time. You probably read about it somewhere, saw a YouTube video, or were watching someone stumble through it on a Twitch stream. It usually takes a few tries to get something right, and that’s why you’ll see so many people who don’t want to bring in someone who has never done a fight as opposed to the guy who has full-cleared the dungeon. If you’ve ever wondered why jobs always want someone with so many years of experience even if it’s entry-level, this is the same principle; everyone wants someone who probably won’t stand in the fire. There’s no substitute for experience in a raid, just like anything else.

2. You learn to get along with strangers

If you have a social circle big enough that you do MMO raiding with only your friends, my hat is off to you, but a lot of us have to do it with people we’ve never met. While there’s a lot of groups that come together through guilds (the blanket term I’m going to use), having to get a random player or two to fill in your vacancies is a common occurrence. Despite never having met this person or done anything with him/her before, now you’ve got to work together to get shit done.

World of Warcraft screenshot

I said all mammoths roar on three! ON THREE YOU FOOLS!!!!

Surprisingly, when you’re invested in getting something done, you learn to work with other people. You don’t need to like someone in order to work with them; you need to not let differences get in the way of doing what you’re doing. It helps when you’re all friends and get along, but almost every raider has a story about that one guy who was a complete tool that came along every week because he knew what he was doing. Getting along with strangers outside of a game is pretty much the same; just because you’re not going invite someone to your place doesn’t mean you can’t accomplish something together. While you can usually pick who you game with, you can’t always pick classmates or coworkers, so this is a basic thing that can help a person out. It’s a lot better to just complete a task (kill a boss, do a project) instead of complaining about how you’re stuck with someone you don’t like (and then still having to work with them). While you can kick someone out of a group in an MMO and be smug for a few seconds, you’ve still got to bring someone else in to do the job, so after a while you learn to let some of the small things go and just work with people.

3. Communication really keeps things moving

Hey, have you ever not known exactly what you’re supposed to be doing? Maybe you’re at work, everyone is busy with something, and you’ve got no real idea what you should be doing right now. Or maybe you’re in game, and you kinda know what’s going on, but then the fight starts and everyone runs away and you’re standing there with no idea where to go? These are times when you should probably speak up.

World of Warcraft Screenshot

Ok, so I wasn’t paying attention. Is this normal? Guys? Guys?

Communication is a skill you need. That isn’t my opinion, it’s a damn fact; people need to learn how to talk to people because it can make the difference between success and failure. Asking for clarification or further explanation is always going to be better than something going completely off the rails and then it becoming known that you had no idea what you’re doing. I used to be a quiet guy in raids, and I’d just kind of wing it. I’m damage, so if I follow that other damage, it’ll be fine right? Not the case when we all need to be separating, stacking up, or what have you. This is why so many group leaders will have a moment where they ask if everyone understood or have any questions. You might find that very similar to a teacher or someone training you at a job; that’s because they really want to make sure you understand something before you go off to try it. Don’t end up floating on a metaphorical triceratops in the air wondering where you went wrong when you could have pulled someone aside and said “Hey…I didn’t catch any of that. What?” People are okay with someone not understanding, less so when they find out you didn’t understand after something has gone terribly wrong. So communicate. Now I ask someone if I don’t get it, because I don’t want to be the one who wasted ten minutes when we all die. Don’t be the person who thinks that they can’t possibly screw it up for the group, because…

4. One person can bring down a group.

The whole thing about there being no “I” in “team” is a terrible overused cliché that happens to be very true; that’s why it’s so overused. Knowing what you’re doing and pulling your weight is important and expected when you’re involved in any kind of teamwork. So whether you’re making food as a line cook, doing a presentation for a college class, trying not to get feared into the whelps, or whatever have you, when one person screws something up then it’s screwed up for everyone. And while your demise in a game is usually very quick, you can try to restart it. This isn’t always the case in real life where maybe you only had one shot and one person ruined it. People will get pissed people off no matter where this is done.

High-level raiding is a job. If you don’t believe me, just look at it one day. There’s applications for the more prestigious guilds, trial periods, scheduled times for raiding and penalties for messing up.

World of Warcraft screenshot

“Are your hands on my hips, David?”
“It’s the models, I swear.”
“…I don’t think this is working anymore.”

And if a player doesn’t get better at the game or change their behavior, they’re kicked from the group or even the guild. Maybe that’s part of why people look down on MMO players, because what other recreational activity can you get fired from? But it’s no different than working at a job in real life where people get fired all the time for not bringing enough numbers or performing as well as the company would like. If you’re that one person bringing the group down, you’re gone, and not wanting to be the guy who ruined the fight is enough of a motivator to give it my all.

5. It is okay to walk away from something you don’t enjoy.

This is arguably the most important thing on this list. I love raiding. On the whole, I think raiding the most fun you can have in an MMO. A team of people coming together to down a bunch of challenging encounters with teamwork, coordination, and lots and lots of swearing is a just a great time. But like anything else, it has ups and downs. New content comes out, changes are made to classes and abilities, groups can fall apart. It’s possible to go from that core group of people you loved sharing an evening with to playing with a lot of strangers in an incredibly boring dungeon with a class that isn’t as much fun as it used to be. Sometimes you just need a change, and sometimes you need to step away and realize that you don’t want to be doing this right now.

Despite how much I loved Warlords of Draenor when it released, I’ve got a fickle heart. The first raid just didn’t have any magic to me, despite having a great group and lots of awesome people to play with. I unsubbed after killing my time doing other things, and now I’m back on a single-player kick, while trying Guild Wars 2 every now and then to keep the edge off this MMO addiction I have. Trying something else isn’t a skill just for video games though. Whether it’s changing a major in college, leaving a job, or maybe deciding a relationship has run its course, it’s all perfectly okay. None of those are as simple as closing one game and starting another, obviously, but that doesn’t mean that there’s no options for things that you don’t enjoy in your life. It also doesn’t mean you’ll never go back and rediscover what you loved, as I’m sure I’ll be raiding again soon enough. There’s a lot of talk about how people can learn life lessons from things like playing sports, but not so much about the lessons we can learn from games. That’s something we should change.

In the meantime, let me know what you’ve learned from video games in the comments below!

About David A. Reeves

David is a 25 year old graduate with a BA in English, and he's wondering how all of this adult stuff crept up on him. He has a large love of Fire Emblem and Final Fantasy, a lack of budget sense during Steam sales, and is involved in an abusive relationship with the MMO genre. Outside of gaming, David can be found reading books with swords and magic, suffering from writer's block on that story he said he'd write, enjoying a hookah or a beer with friends, and trying not to say anything inappropriate despite the overwhelming urge. He's an odd fellow.

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