Inside Higher Ed was pretty much the last place I ever expected to see a serious article on World of Warcraft. The study of MMORPG's isn't really part of mainstream academia (...yet), so imagine my surprise at finding an article comparing effective raid leading to teaching. Alex Golub, an anthropology professor at the University of Hawaii, contributed an article on his guild's attempts to kill Kael'thas pre-patch.
At one point his guild brought in an outside raid leader and raiders from a more progressed guild, and he noticed that the leader was much more willing to hold people accountable for mistakes contributing to their wipes, like healers healing the wrong targets and a tank's inability to pick up Lord Sanguinar (people who have done Kael before will recognize an initial mistake on the writer's part referencing the untankable Thaladred the Darkener -- he catches it in the comments). "I was impressed by their professionalism, their commitment to high standards, and their leader's willingness to call people out when they made mistakes," Golub writes, "but most of my guildmates didn't feel that way when we chatted after the raid in our online guild chat." The outside raiders weren't invited back, Golub's guild never killed Kael, and he started to wonder if the guild's desire to avoid embarrassment over personal mistakes was really a better outcome than all of the fruitless, demoralizing wipes on the boss with no result.
Any WoW player who's raided for any length of time will immediately recognize the classic dilemma; it's difficult to motivate individuals to perform well when criticism is badly phrased or there's just too much of it, but it's a lot harder to motivate 10 or 25 people to hang around for pointless wipes when individuals aren't held responsible for their performance. Golub calls making people uncomfortable over their mistakes "the human price of success." Your friendly neighborhood raid leader probably calls it "If you move during Flame Wreath again, you're out of the raid."
"Inside Higher Ed" compares raiding and teaching
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