Can World of Warcraft work as a learning experience?

Today I came across this post on Facebook from a good friend (thanks Nuno!) about a guy that used to play World of Warcraft and then stopped playing after feeling he was addicted and needed to regain control of his life. In a 7 minute documentary, Anthony Rosner explains his point of view on how World of Warcraft turned his life upside down, how he devoted himself to the game to the point of putting aside his personal life and how he managed to snap out of it. All I can say is that, after seeing his two movies, I couldn’t help but relate to him. let’s take a look at the first movie:

IRL–In Real Life (by Anthony Rosner)

I personally like the fact that Anthony was brave enough to admit he had an addiction, to start with. Like Anthony, I have spent many years playing WoW (since 2006), started all the way back to Classic WoW (aka Vanilla) but I didn’t play much back then. When TBC came out it was a whole different ball game as I delved more and more into the game, completely overwhelmed with the content the game had to offer. This might seem a bit ridiculous to some people, but I still remember the first time I went across the Dark Portal. On one side, it looked like the image below.wow_darkportal

It seemed pretty awesome and I really wanted to see what was on the other side of it. When I got to the other side, I was baffled! This is similar to what I saw (remember that this happened somewhere early 2007):


Yes, I know, it might not be the most amazing graphics you’ve ever seen, but for me they were pretty awesome and immersive. I saw a lot of people walking, running, fighting and flying around and that’s when I believe the game got to me. That’s when I realized what a Massive Multiplayer Online game really is. Unfortunately, just like Anthony, I didn’t realize the impact that immersion could have on my personal and professional life and I let it take control of my life.

Much like Anthony, I spent many hours per day playing WoW (sometimes up to 18h a day), raiding, farming reputations, grinding professions and materials, levelling alternative characters (which, in turn, I would then had to grind reputations, professions, materials and so on – you get the picture). In World of Warcraft there are 11 different classes and, when I quit WoW, I had 10 different characters for each of those different classes on maximum level and with decent raiding gear, I knew how to play all different specifications for all of my characters (each class can play three different talent trees, one active at a time) and was experienced in playing all the roles in the game (you can be a tank, a damage dealer or a healer).

I also spent a lot of money on my characters, I am unsure how much but, excluding the 12€ monthly subscription, I would say that I spent well over 3.000,00€ on all my characters (including cross-realm transfers, faction and name changes, etc.). That is a lot of investment into a game, for sure. I also gave poor excuses not to go out of the house and most my friends mocked me for playing the game so addictively. Obviously, all of this had a price much greater than money and it had serious repercussions in both my personal and professional life. Fortunately, like Anthony, I’ve been able to regain control of my life.

But Anthony also says something that I agree with entirely. All these events, it’s not the game’s fault. It’s not Blizzard’s fault. The game is amazing, most likely the best game I have ever played and definitely the game I felt more pleasure playing. The problem is keeping yourself disciplined. You can play this or any other game without allowing it to take control of your life. On his second movie, Anthony now looks at what happened AFTER he quit WoW for good, in a very positive retrospective. Let’s take a look:

IRL 2.0 In Moderation – By Anthony Rosner

As I said, I made a real attempt to regain control of my life. I met a very special person that is still my partner and will hopefully be for many years to come and we plan on getting married and have kids of our own. I regained control of my professional life and got back to being recognized as an expert in my area. I also increased a lot my physical activities which had a huge impact on my overall health. And finally, I boosted significantly my social life and all of that makes me a much happier person.

But don’t take this as me saying that World of Warcraft is a sort of disease, a cancer-like addiction. The time you spend playing it needs to be controlled, but in many ways, it helped me become a better person, a better professional and it increased my technical expertise in some areas. I can give many examples:

  • I moved to Ireland a year and a half ago and many people (mostly native English speakers) who meet me for the first time ask me how did I learn how to talk, read and write English the way I do. Many qualify my English as “perfect” and some people don’t even know I’m not a native English speaker until I tell them I’m Portuguese. I already knew how to write, read and speak English before I started playing WoW, but having to use English every day to communicate with other players (especially on voice communication systems) really helped me strengthen my skills here;
  • Being in a raiding guild (well, to be honest, I’ve been in a LOT of raiding guilds, maybe too many) did help me increase my sense of duty and responsibility. I can safely say that I am now more responsible and sensible towards my tasks and what others expect of me and a huge part of that “training” came from playing WoW;
  • I started as a simple trial member in almost all the guilds I’ve been into and progressed patiently (well, some times more than others) into a regular member, a senior member, an officer and even to Guild Master. I’ve always performed my duties in all of these roles the best I could and I failed many times, but I always tried to be fair and honest to everyone in my team (guild). It might not seem so, but this helped me a lot professionally as I am now a much more patient, communicative, team-player professional with more awareness to other people’s concerns and difficulties;
  • Focus. Yes, focus. WoW has increased exponentially my ability to focus on a specific task. I find myself, nowadays, performing a specific task and when I start to focus out, I remember my raiding days and the focus I had when doing an encounter. World of Warcraft is an excellent training environment for anyone with focus difficulties.

I could give other examples but I think those suffice. Overall, as Anthony said, Mantikore (my main character’s nick) will always be a part of me, now and forever. And I will forever cherish it. Some friends of mine that also played WoW deleted their characters. I couldn’t do it. I spent too much time playing them and I grew emotionally attached to each and every one of them. I haven’t played for a year now and I am not planning on coming back to the game. I might go back one day, on a completely different mind set though, much more casually and loose.

Until then, I miss you Mantikore but I have a life to live away from Azeroth! Smile


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