The Power of a Raid
As some of you know, and many of you don’t – I am a manager for a very well known grocery chain. I grew into this profession as an eighteen year old, as it was my very first entry level job. But what some of you may not understand, or know, is how my avid love for gaming, and World of Warcraft, molded me into the manager I have become (hopefully some will say a good humble one) and a passionate entry level worker when I was much younger. Gaming is a powerful social icebreaker, a formidable leadership developing tool, and for an introvert like me – an outlet to develop my skills in teamwork.
Some of you don’t play video games (hopefully if you are reading my blog you do because, it’s about gaming) so you may be criticizing me right now, but I will explain in detail the connections between the two, and the formulation of development through it. As this is a personal startup blog, and many of my friends/family are reading this, one of the funniest things I like to tell people is, “World of Warcraft Raiding taught me how to be a manager and that’s why I’m so skilled at it.” – the person I tell generally gets a chuckle out of it, then I look a little more stern and tell them, “No, I am serious.” The conversation generally ends there, and sometimes I follow up with, “I’ll never tell my bosses that, they’d laugh me out of the room.” – well it’s time to pull the veil off of the mystery, and delve right into it.
On November 23rd, 2004 I was just getting out of highschool. You see, I was a horrible student. Somewhere around the age of 14-17, as the memories are vague – I started to skip school. School wasn’t challenging to me, and to some of you that sounds stupid, but as I’ve become an adult I’ve realized that this is commonplace with someone like me, so no longer am I ashamed of feeling that way, and if you feel any kind of way towards me, read about a lot of successful business individuals, and you’ll see there’s a lot of us. Anyway back to the skipping – at the time, I was having a hard time focusing on school, home life wasn’t the greatest. I had discovered something called a “Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game” or MMO for short. At the time it was called Final Fantasy 11, the first game of its’ kind I had ever touched.
When home life is difficult, and you’re not happy, you look for escape. Some kids run away, some kids turn to drinking or drugs, some kids stay at friends’ houses – I escaped to gaming. I immersed myself in Final Fantasy 11 (FFXI). For those of you who don’t know, an MMO is an online game that has different servers, or “Worlds” if you will, that is full of thousands of people connected through the internet, playing a single character (avatar), concurrently. In an MMO you assume this character, and interact with other players, live, over the internet in a gaming space/world. I could write an entire article about what a MMO is, but for now let us focus on the social aspect, and certain pieces of that type of game, so I can drive home my article.
During my time with FFXI, I was skipping school a lot to escape to this world. I was driven 30 minutes to school, then I would wait until my ride would drive away, turn around and walk almost two hours all the way home. I had a lot of friends in this world, and something called a “Linkshell” (Guild, group of people). These people didn’t know “me” per say, but they knew me better than anyone else did. We talked all the time, played a lot together, chatted away about life, and other things all while playing this game. I just couldn’t get over how I could socialize with other people, and didn’t have to fight through my introverted personality to achieve it.
It was at some point during this time period some of the Linkshell began to talk about something called World of Warcraft. Let me just go ahead and get a few terms out of the way so you can really grasp the scope of the article. World of Warcraft is an MMO just like FFXI, but with vastly more to it, more customization, more “races” (Think fantasy beings like Orcs, Gnomes, Trolls), “factions” (Think in the scope like America and Russia), and a fictional war between them. In World of Warcraft there are activities you can do with your “Guilds” (Another name for Linkshells at this point I will be using). One of them is “Raids”. Raids are (at that time) an exclusive environment designed for 40 players (individual humans!) to group up together, and fight a set of bosses (non-player characters with special abilities), that required coordination through a “Raid Leader”. Did you catch that connection quite yet?
Be me, 18 year old, social introvert, didn’t like talking to anyone, absolutely awkward. This game empowered me to socialize, and talk to people. I no longer felt limitations on myself, I could just be me and not be afraid. I made friends, lots of them. I logged on, people welcomed me with excitement. It was so empowering, so uplifting, here I am with my sh***y life, alcoholic father, and in this world, people loved me, wanted to associate with me, wanted to join up with me, and journey through the game together.
Then, as I described before, me and this group of friends, made a “Raid Group”. A group of 40 individuals, teamed up together to take on bosses. These are computer controlled monsters, with vast amounts of abilities (Spells in fantasy terms) that you have to coordinate with the other 39 people to take their health from 100% to 0%, all while dodging around, or working through these abilities. I lead this team of 40 people. There is a “Raid Leader” – someone who talks over voice communication, and calls out things for people to do, or organizes some kind of coordinated effort towards victory. Needless to say, I was good at it. There were countless other guilds on our “Server (Think Own exclusive world of 1000’s of players)” and we were killing bosses before everyone else on it. It was awesome. I felt incredible – no one outside of World of Warcraft understood me, or what I was doing, but in World of Warcraft I was natural born HERO, a… manager.
You can imagine how this translated into becoming a manager for me. Overcoming my social interaction barriers are a completely different conversation, and we’ll talk about it someday – because now I do presentations, and have one on one conversations with my associates daily.
I wanted to cover one last aspect of gaming translating into my own personal life. That’s competitiveness, and the need to be the best at my craft. In WoW you control a character, and that character has spells and abilities that do damage to bosses and monsters. To an average person, that seems simple, but you see it is much more complex than that, but for the sake of simplicity, let’s just skip the details and say that utilizing your abilities correctly optimizes the damage your character can do to a monster, and you can compete with others. There is a lot more to this, such as person character statistics, and equipment (think clothes a character can wear that gives benefits to make you do more damage), but I am trying to keep this simple and an overview. This absolute desire to be the best, overcame me. I constantly had to do the most damage – or the most healing which is restoring the life of other players that they lose when they take damage, but that is another conversation – I was constantly looking for ways to optimize myself, to do better, be the best. Then I got a job. A physical labor job. World of Warcraft taught me how to be a better worker, person, manager, and how to work harder and faster than everyone else. So say all you want, criticize this “children’s hobby”, make fun of me, but I am where I am at, because of a damn video game, and I’m not laughing – I am living it – I am a father of three children, I am a manager of an entire store. I am a leader. Parents, support your children – gaming, while can be addictive to some, can also teach others some valuable life tools, and in this day and age, gaming can lead to multi-million dollar careers. Thanks World of Warcraft, Thanks Gaming.