All I Need to Know I Learned in World of Warcraft

Before the era of social media and internet memes, books were popular. One of these books was titled All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. Like many of you, I never read this book. But it inspired the title of this piece.

Since its inception, World of Warcraft (WoW) was one of the greatest interactive mediums to millions around the world.

Many people describe WoW like remembering the fond memories of a vacation. Many also describe it as a toxic grind full of juvenile a**holes.

I describe it differently.

To me, playing WoW affected real life in many positive ways. Some lessons were learned through interpersonal drama with strangers on the internet, some of whom were indeed emotional pricks. Some were learned by simply enjoying the game and interacting with the variety of people who share that sense of wonder and adventure.

It’s not obvious at a glance, but playing this massive multiplayer game encourages learning how to treat others, how to work in a team, and how to put in copious time toward a goal. Of course, that “goal” in this case may simply be a virtual item with no physical value, but many accomplishments in life are intangible. There’s nothing quite like communicating with people across the world to overcome an overwhelming boss in the game.

Everything I did while playing this this game indirectly impacted how I do things in life. These are my takeaways.

Getting Along with People

You would think an online gaming community is full of homogeneous people privileged with enough financial security to afford a PC. You would be wrong.

The people I encountered in World of Warcraft came from all around the world. Outside the context of games, I would never imagine interacting with so many types:

  • Vocalist of a death metal band
  • Startup CTO in Canada who was Korean and therefore good at games
  • People from many countries
  • People of many ethnicities, from teenagers to grandparents
  • People in military training and veterans of the armed forces
  • People working low wage jobs and people who didn’t have (to) work
  • Parents who were playing with kids, expecting kids, or had to pause playing to wipe their kid’s butt (and wipe the raid)
  • Someone trying to make it in Hollywood
  • An artist who drew anime characters for money
  • Celebrities like Robin Williams, Henry Cavill, or Ronda Rousey who I may have encountered when ganking filthy casuals
  • People with various … fetishes
  • People with cats and/or role-played as cats
  • People who were or pretended to be girls
  • People with 1st world problems. Lots of them. Myself included.

Imagine bringing these people together for a challenge in real life. Without paying them a dime? It’d be a clusterf***.

Yet getting along with people of different demographics was necessary to succeed in the game. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as accomplishing the hardest challenges in a team of 40 people. People that you’ve never met personally, yet know so well.

There is no discrimination by race or creed in playing a game. The diversity of the world is reflected in the diversity of the player base and this brings a whole new perspective to the playing experience.

Dealing with 12-year-old Adults

The internet is not for the faint of heart. Under the guise of anonymity, people act like jerks and loudmouths are amplified. The silent majority of good people do not usually leave negative comments, but are overshadowed by the insecure adolescent types with a lot of (perhaps too much) time on their hands.

Social media and the 24-hour news cycle merely adopted outrage culture. Online gamers were born and bred in the dankness. — Bane, Dark Knight Rises

Unfortunately, negative nancies comprise a disproportionate part of any online community. WoW had its share of unemployed, elitist, yet sensitive man-children who listened to Toxicity by System of a Down.

Fortunately, it just so happens that an unmoderated environment with statistically more sheltered and socially inept complainers with no fear of repercussions, is the perfect training ground for developing a thick skin. In fact, mine is hard as a diamond at this point.

Being in control of emotions is the greatest advantage in life: you do not care what others think of you, you constructively filter vitriolic feedback, and you spend minimal time on self-pity or being angry at strangers. Once one masters the art of tolerating unbridled angst of anonymous trolls, one will reach a mental peak of serenity.

Gaming the System

You’ve probably heard, “think outside the box.” To me, this aphorism is almost a euphemism for “exploit the system.” Understanding and playing the system is an advantage. You only have to go as far as our presidential debates to hear about a plethora of societal issues caused by Wall Street, Big Pharma, and the big players gaming the political system.

Videogames are an art form. Art imitates life. You don’t need Oscar Wilde to tell you that, in a big population, the top 99th percentile knows the ins and outs of the system. WoW had 12 million subscribers in its heyday, dwarfing the population of small countries like Norway. Given that players are demographically more intellectual than a typical population, it’s no wonder that the game had some ingenious people.

Like those wonderful NRA and insurance industry lobbyists, their equivalents in World of Warcraft push the limits of the system. Wall jumping, 1-shot macros, and multiboxing were popular gimmicks that bely a panoply of tricks that were used to min-max at a high level.

Thankfully, the top players in-game shared their tools via written, voice, or video to the general player base, and instigated discourse among average players in the community. In doing this, they received respect and popularity in the community.

With great power comes great responsibility . — Uncle Ben

Similarly in modern civilization, the top people live in relative secrecy or behind lawyers, yet the true greats share their knowledge to the benefit of society. This point is often missed in a growing materialistic culture of haves and have-nots. Regardless if your political stance, it’s interesting to observe what people do at the highest level.

“Nothing Worth Having Comes Easy”

Entrepreneurs love this quote by Roosevelt, and nerds in-game live it while simultaneously not knowing who Roosevelt is.

A good friend from my time playing WoW used to run an endgame guild with me. His passion outside the game was to spend hours grilling meat to perfection. Do you think his steak tastes better than that Pop-Tart you just microwaved?

World of Warcraft was not an easy game (inb4 the haters: I never played Everquest so f*** off). It required countless hours of OCD diligence, and the emotional reward is hard to put into words.

Have you ever felt the excitement of finally acquiring Grand Marshal or Thunderfury, Blessed Blade of the Windseeker?

Probably not. I personally haven’t because of the insane hours required.

Nonetheless, my point is that putting countless hours toward a goal with zero capitalistic value is an epitome of delayed gratification. Sure, one person did sell a WoW account for $10000, but the vast majority received no compensation. It’s something special that impels people to sit endlessly in front of a screen being immersed in something other than social media, drugs, or Netflix.

In today’s world of 8th place trophies, fast food, and achievement systems that reward you for participating, we need to make gaming great again with delayed gratification.

There’s No Place Like Home

Home is a place of comfort. Home is filled with people you love, hate, and spend time with. Home is where we belong.

This article was a lot longer than I imagined. I barely wrote 50% of what’s on my mind, but it will have to wait…

Because with WoW Classic, we’re going home again.

Engineer + teacher + gamer

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