What lessons can we learn in life from playing WoW?

Back in the mid-80’s, there was a book I read that I enjoyed immensely, called “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten”, by Robert Fulghum.


I’ve always enjoyed reading books that put a different point of view on things, that challenge me to change my perspective a bit, and look at the known with fresh eyes.

I’m pretty sure you can figure out the point of the book from the title. It’s a book of essays, which takes real world situations or feelings and examines how the simple teachings in kindergarten (as taught in the United States) apply, most especially in interpersonal relationships. Things like how we treat other people, and sharing, and courtesy. You know, the fundamentals.

The book was an outrageous success on the various book lists of the time, and with good reason. Sometimes it’s good to be smacked upside the head with some simple wisdom and re-examine ourselves and how we act with others, and the book was a fresh approach at the time. Also, in the 80’s it felt like everyone had forgotten the fundamentals.

Not at all like now, when logging into WoW shows clearly that everyone is nice and considerate of everyone else.

Since one person’s success always brings 1000 people out of the woodwork willing to copy them in the hopes of grabbing some cash for themselves, there were a lot of books that poured out building on the whole “Everything I needed to know, I learned in X” style.

My personal favorite among the copycats was the book “All I Really Need to Know I Learned from Watching Star Trek”, by Dave Marinaccio. (http://www.amazon.com/Really-Need-Know-Learned-Watching/dp/0517883864)

Dave Marinaccio, by the way, was an advertising executive. Draw from this whatever conclusions you wish. Far be it from me to insinuate that advertising and marketing people are without creativity or original thought. Oh no, never. Nope, not me.

Okay, all joking aside, the Star Trek one was well worth reading, it was pretty funny. I was driving a truck cross country when that one came out, and listened to it on audiobook before reading it. The writer had a pretty good delivery.

Anyway, you get the idea. Take your favorite hobby or interest, and then try and figure out what essential life lessons are learned from it. Then you have a nice set of justifications for doing what you wanted to do, anyway.

“But honey, it’s a social game! I’m interacting with lots of people all over the world! It’s better than sitting alone in the dark, or going out and getting drunk at the sports bar, right?”

So, let’s have some fun with it.

Let’s look at the valuable lessons WoW has to teach us about compensation for work and managing money.

In World of Warcraft, there is a vital, thriving economy. There are many things that take large amounts of cash to buy, and there are many ways of obtaining that cash.

You bring into the game your personality and your work ethic, and you can make your own habits in the real world work for you.

If you are, in real life, used to saving your money, being a careful shopper, comparing prices, looking for bargains and researching alternative places to get something online, all of that applies in the game.

If you are an impulse shopper, you have the urge to get something, you do a quick run into a store or online and find it, and use Buy It Now to grab it quick and next day air mail to have it delivered fast, well, you can live your WoW life the same way.

My wife is the first kind of shopper, and I’m a mix of the two.

She will find something she needs, for a crafting recipe or whatever, and she will check prices in the Auction House, research where it comes from on Wowhead, try to determine the going price, and if it’s something she can farm on her own, she’ll go farm it rather than pay someone else for it. If it’s a random drop, or comes from a crafting profession she doesn’t have, she’ll look for it within the guild. If it’s a truly random world drop, she will very patiently check the Auction House for weeks, passing up opportunities to buy it if the price just seems too high.

Me, I’ll research something I want to see where it comes from, and if I can farm for it myself or buy it from a vendor somewhere, I’ll go get it, but otherwise… if I want it, I got the cash, and it’s on the AH for anywhere near a reasonable price, I just buy it and move on.

You can make whatever assumptions about which of us has money, in game or out, that you’d like. You’re undoubtedly correct.

But those approaches are what we bring with us into the game. It’s not what we learned from the game.

What does the game itself encourage you to do?

In terms of buying, I personally think it’s tilted pretty heavily towards teaching instant gratification at high prices. The Auction House is there for those that want instant gratification and are too lazy (or too busy with other things like Raiding) to go farm it themselves, and even if you would LIKE to do things a different way, when you are just starting out at level 1, you really don’t have the knowledge or tools necessary to learn where stuff drops, or have a character that can go farm it for you. The AH is your only real option for first characters for leveling professions and getting recipes. Yes, for those that do want to take the time, and are patient, and have the means to get around and survive, there are plenty of ways outside the Auction House to get what you want at a discount. But I’d have to say the scales are tilted towards “Buy it Now”.

But what about making money? Sure we can buy stuff, but how do we make our gold?

Again, there are lots of ways to make money in game. Right now, just the simple process of completing quests from 70 to 80 nets you a ton of gold. Add that to using gathering professions to collect Herbs, Skins or Ore (or enchanting mats) and you can sell your items on the Auction House for ridiculous sums as well.

Once we all hit the new cap, there will still be Daily Quests, farming materials, gold dropped from killing mobs, and buying and selling on the Auction House. Lots and lots of techniques for making gold.

A protip for ya… the way you make money as a professional businessman is to buy LOW, and sell HIGH. It’s amazing how often stock brokers screw that up.

Again, lets take Cassie and I. 

Cassie has a strong work ethic. She is self motivated, consistent, and patient. She prefers having control over her income, and getting a large return for the time she spends at work. She’s a contractor working from home, so she is used to getting paid by the work she does, rather than getting paid by how many hours she spends doing something.

She is a master of the Auction House. Rather than do Daily Quests, she watches the Auction House, buys things that are low cost that she knows well sell much higher, and she also is very careful about what she sells in terms of Herbs and Potions/Flasks, and more importantly when she sells them. She watches when most guilds run raids, and posts appropriate Flasks and Pots right when a lazy Raider might be cruising the AH looking to get ready for their run.

Me? Well, I am broke most of the time, because I only farm gold when I am running low. Right now I’m doing well, since I have three characters questing or doing dailies and gathering Ore, and I have a couple items that I’m getting that sell very well on the AH, but I dont work at it at all… when I identify something I want, I figure out what I need, and then I farm that much and once I get it, I stop.

So, I’m usually broke. I’m also in the habit of impulse buying. If I have some extra cash, and I’m browsing the AH, and I see something I think Cassie would like, I’ll just buy it and mail it to her.

You don’t save much money that way.

I’m not stupid about it, leveling my Engineer I certainly used 95% all materials I farmed myself, including hours of farming Sholazar on my Hunter for Saronite Ore, at level 72. I found out the hard way a hunter and his pet can dominate two or even three mobs in Sholozar if you pay attention, even when they are 3 levels higher than you.

But my attitude towards money in game is, “Easy come, easy go.” *Ahem*, and that’s not my attitude in real life. Honest. *Ahem*.

Again, those are attitudes we brought to the game ourselves.

What kind of lessons would you learn about work, and rewards, if you were a kid playing this game, I wonder?

Well, what is the most obvious method most people see of making money, brought to us prior to Wrath?

From what I’ve seen, when people talk about making gold, in general, they talk about logging in and doing a bunch of daily quests each day.

“I can do up to 25 daily quests each day, if I try hard I can earn almost 250 gold a day! Wow!”

It seems to me, entirely my own opinion, that the system in place encourages you to equate a reward with the amount of effort you put in, rather than the amount of time spent doing it. A contractor style, batch style work ethic, where what compensation you get is directly linked to the amount of work you have done.

If you do more daily quests in the same amount of time than the other person, you make more gold than the other person. If you are smart, plan carefully, study routes and flight times and hearth locations, you can make a routine of daily quests, doing the quests that make the most gold, that take the least amount of time to accomplish, and perhaps have the chance for good drops or Ore or Herbs along the way.

You can actively control how much gold you earn based on the least amount of time spent. This leaves you more time free to play. Right?

This is an excellent lesson to learn, don’t you think?

There might be an insidious side to it, however.

There are certainly many careers that you can carve out for yourself where you are the contractor, you are in control of your income, and how much moeny you make is based off of individual effort per job, and the amount of time you actually spend working isn’t the issue. You have x amount of work that needs to get done, for x amount of pay. The faster you get the work done, the better, because you’ll get the same pay, with more free time left over.

But for someone used to thinking in terms of effort = reward, an hourly job where you get paid the same as everyone else based on how many hours you work, rather than how much work you DID in that time, can seem punishing. Brutal, even. Especially when you get to your first job ready to tear in and excell, and you see others around you slacking off… and getting paid the same wages.

Naturally, if you DO excell and work hard, your supervisor or manager (if they have a clue) should notice, and your performance review SHOULD reflect that you put a lot more effort into everything you do. And if it comes down to hiring decisions, your effort and enthusuasm should make a huge difference.

Notice the qualifiers in that paragraph. This is the real world, after all.

But things like performance reviews, raises and promotions are not direct, immediately visible rewards for effort, and might easily go overlooked, right?

Kinda sneaky, there.

I could go on, there are tons of things that we could discuss about what we bring into the game, and the things we can learn FROM the game. In fact, a big post could be made simply from what WoW can teach us about playing with other people, for better or for worse.

I’ll even challenge our resident master of the “list of lessons” post, Matticus, to come up with a “Eleven lessons I learned from WoW about playing with other people.”

It’s funny to think of the meta-game, sometimes. How much of all this is intended by design, and how much of the game is the way it is, because that’s what we make of it?

And, if someone gets fired at work because they have a bad attitude for not getting paid for their work the way WoW has taught them to expect, can they sue Blizzard?

And if they sue, can I slap them really hard?



11 thoughts on “What lessons can we learn in life from playing WoW?

  1. I was in a production of “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.”

    So if my coworkers get pissed because I’m humming it all day, I’ll blame you. 🙂

    I think one of the biggest lessons that can be taken away from WoW in terms of playing with others is “Just because someone else doesn’t play nice doesn’t give you license to act poorly towards others as well.”

    If someone else acts like a jerk, it’s no excuse for me to act like a jerk back.


  2. The things I have learned have all come from guild management. Since I am a manager IRL I find that the WoW side of management lets me take more risks, since no one’s jobs are at stake. For instance, I have been trained in things like how to handle confrontations for my job, but the opportunities to exercise those skills are few and far between. They come up all the time in WoW so I was able to try those skills out. Practice makes perfect!


  3. I am a high school math teacher in real life, so the majority of the lessons that I see in WoW relate to understanding the young minds and the adult minds and how they differ. I learn by watching the choices of other people in game and can tell their maturity level How they act always teaches me something about maturity myself. This is what many of my students do in their free time instead of homework or studying so it’s good for me to see how it affects them. For many “griefers” it translates easily into real life that there are few consequences for making someone else’s life a little harder and a little less fun. Students seem to pick up that lesson very quickly, so their needs to always be a firm consequence for griefing in real life.


  4. I dedicated my whole website to the business side of the “what you can learn in WoW”, and I found plenty.

    However one thing catched my mind here, that you are payed for work, not hourly, and how punishing it is to be equally payed as slackers. How about raiding? In a raid, people are usually hourly payed (DKP comes for hours, being on time, killing bosses), and not work-payed (if you are DPS first, you get the same DKP as the guy who died in the fire in the first minute).

    What do you think about that?


  5. I bought the game for Christmas ’04 because my 1 year old had serious sleep problems. I figured I could solo quests and take frequent breaks.

    I discovered the AH about a month later… I found it interesting and challenged myself to uncover its patterns. I wrote my first AddOn to help find arbitrage situations, then another to help me figure out a rough timeframe when large sellers were scanning/posting. I wanted to test my findings and decided to check whether it was easy to trick them by manipulating the market…

    By Christmas ’05, I had 27k gold, most of it “earned” by tricking the bulk sellers into believing items were worth more (or less) than their fair market price value.

    I did not spend much gold along the way because there was no point. I could only solo because of my real life situation and the mix of blue/green gear my level 60 rogue was wearing made it fun and challenging.

    My rogue walked everywhere. No horse or tiger for her because beauty of the scenery one of my top three motivations to play WoW.

    I come back to work in early January ’06 to find out four co-workers bought the game and rolled Alliance on a different server. I created a toon on their server and lo and behold, 3 months later, my son’s sleeping problems are resolved and I am able to group!

    I never played horde again until last weekend

    I logged onto my old rogue to check if anyone I used to chat with are still playing. One is, a single mother of 3, whispers me as soon as I log on because she was really worried something terrible had happened to me. I was totally shocked someone kept me on their friend’s list for the 3 years I was inactive, especially considering the list was reset at least once. Anyway, we chat about wow and real-life for a couple of hours and I know I will log onto that server at least bi-weekly to maintain contact.

    One of the things we discussed was what we like best about the expansion. For me, it’s the majesty of Grizzly Hills and the new boss gimmicks. For her, it’s the non-combat pets and the Traveler’s Tundra Mammoth.

    She will find out Chrismas morning she can now afford one.


    WoW has taught me that virtual friends deserve a goodbye.


  6. I’ve learned you have good days and bad days. And no matter how bad the bad days are, tomorrow is always a fresh start.


  7. The question that this brings to my mind is: how closely does a virtual world need to mirror the real world in order to be successful?


  8. I’d suggest that the WoW work ethic makes the game successful precisely because the real world doesn’t work that way. It’s refreshing to be rewarded for effort rather than politics, perception or coincidence. It’s not a lesson that translates to the real world if we’re looking at teaching teens, but for those adult players out there, it’s a refuge from an insane world. It’s nice to have a meritocracy, even if it’s in a game.

    On the flipside, the subscription model teaches that those who spend the most time in-game per month are those who are rewarded most, since they get the biggest return on their “real money” investment. Again, this doesn’t translate well to the real world, as OCD overworking and imbalanced priorities are often a detriment to real life.


  9. People sue far too much and for silly things, because they’re too lazy to actually work for money. Thankfully, this is NOT something WoW teaches, so maybe some people could learn a thing or two.


  10. @ Hugmenot
    Sorry dude, you can’t send out a Christmas present like that and expect your name to save you /hug
    I hope she doesn’t freak out too much 🙂


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