English Composition I: Achieving Expertise {Duke / Coursera} – Case study (final Project 3)

Rozalia Zeibeki

English Composition I: Achieving Expertise

Prof. Denise Comer

Area of Expertise: Video games and gamification

Case study:  World of Warcraft EU-Guild “Method” @Twisting Nether

 

A glimpse at the world of expert gamers:

World of Warcraft’s “Method” @Twisting Nether

 

The gaming industry has had a prolific past decade. The revenues from gaming titles, memorabilia and marketed products have surpassed expectations. Blizzard / Activision Inc. is one of those gaming conglomerates and the producer of the world’s most popular MMO RPG[1], called “World of Warcraft” [2], the ongoing saga between Alliance and Horde forces. Despite the fact that recent spring quarter statistics have shown a decrease in subscribers, the game still boasts a staggering 9 million subscription base. Multiply that by approximately 14 euros per month plus other sources of income (e.g. in-game purchase options) and you have yourself a multi-million dollar business.

 wow_subs graph

Figure 1 World of Warcraft Subscription numbers over the course of its expansions.

Source: Activision / Blizzard – Illustration: Ross Patton/ Wired [3]

Players tend to put their money to good use; an average hardcore Wow player sacrifices eight or more hours in a row to achieve grandeur. A social player, who is somewhat less engaging, will also roam the digital world of Azeroth for a good two hours on average, each time he logs in the game.  Method guild members belong to the extreme hardcore player body and are sponsored by major companies, thus being rendered “professional” gamers.

The goals of the game are substantially diverse but it all accumulates to “raiding” and facing a “world boss” of ultimate level difficulty. In order to do that, you basically need to cooperate with other people in the game, usually within a guild [4]. Bainbridge portrays the process of players entering one:

“… First, they may form a guild from scratch, and often a successful guild is formed by a group of people who are already friends, sometimes even members of the same real-world family. Second, guilds that are trying to grow may advertise on the guild-recruiting channel of the chat system; depending on how selective they are, even a halfhearted expression of interest may result in a formal invitation to join. Third, a member of a guild may share quests or other experiences with a nonmember, come to see that person as competent and trustworthy, and extend an invitation on the basis of extensive familiarity based entirely on in-game interactions.” [5]

Method@ Twisting Nether                                                                                

Method is a European based guild playing on a server called Twisting Nether ( EN- PVP)[2] . Former Alliance, now belonging to the Horde faction, they are basically a 25-man raid guild; that is they focus on combatting raid bosses with a solid group comprising of 25 people as opposed to opting for the alternative 10-man raid model. Coordinating 25 people in a long boss fight where game mechanics demand high levels of dexterity and leadership is difficult in itself; being the first in the WoW universe to achieve downing a boss qualifies for gaming “expertise”.

There has been much debate whether a 25-man kill is actually harder than a 10-man raiding regime. Method’s main antagonists are a Finnish guild called DREAM-Paragon; they have currently switched from 25-man to the 10-man model and are respectively topping the progression charts in the world. Method’s reply, during a 5.1 patch[3] interview:

 “What’s your take on 10-man vs 25-man World Firsts?
Artzie: Personally I don’t think you can compare 10man to 25man. Out of all these bosses I’ve ever met in WoW, the only one that was harder in 10man was Sartharion 3D. It’s just wrong to compare 10man with 25man. […] [6]

 

Methods for “Method”

Finding 25 players to follow an excruciating raiding schedule up until the wee hours of the morning is hardly a walk in the park. This is why their roster is not the same from the guild’s initial formation. To fill out the missing group slots, they recruit the best Wow players out there. In order to be “drafted” in such a raiding guild, you have to boast substantial experience, evidence of knowing to play your class[4] well up to par and finally fill out the correspondent application form on their webpage. [8]

After having the appropriate guild members selected before each patch comes out, the guild enters the PTR Phase. PTR stands for Public Test Realm, so it’s the game publisher’s way of testing new content and making sure everything is running smoothly. End-game guilds like Method access the experimental realms, utilize the latest changes and basically run against the clock in their attempt to be the first to down Blizzard’s animated evil caricatures in the entire 9-million community.

Raiding comprises of defeating many bosses in a row, thus they take it one boss at a time.  In case something goes wrong during the encounter, the guild leader usually decides to “wipe” it. That means they all let their avatars die on purpose and restart the combat. The reason is that if game mechanics are not meticulously followed from the start, then no matter how well prepared the raid team is the final outcome will eventually be negative. Achieving a raid kill might come after numerous “wipes” – double digit ones at times– something which has a tremendous nerve-wracking effect on most casual players. Moreover, the whole process of learning through trial and error is awfully time-consuming. Raiding usually commences late in the evening and could carry on until dawn. Top notch guilds engage in raiding for days on end, so it’s basically play, sleep, eat, then play again; tons of energy drinks are also involved in the process. In his article, Geoffrey Colvin insists that this is actually the road to take if you want to become the best in any sector. He suggests:

“The best people in any field are those who devote the most hours to what the researchers call “deliberate practice.” It’s activity that’s explicitly intended to improve performance, that reaches for objectives just beyond one’s level of competence, provides feedback on results and involves high levels of repetition.” [9]

Coyle similarly recounts of a “deep practice” as a paced path to shaping excellence and talent and constant self-improvement through errors and repetitiveness. [10] The term qualifies for Method’s method to be honest – they recently concluded the Throne of Thunder raid instance by killing the boss, “Ra Den” [8], after two attempts alone. During patch 5.1 raid instance, it took them 108 (!) efforts to down the “Will of the Emperor”. [6] I guess practice makes perfect, indeed.

 method Ra den

Figure 2 Ra Den 25m World’s 1st by Method [8]

 

 

Works cited:

  1. Massively multiplayer online role-playing game.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 25 May 2013. Web. Retrieved 26 May 2013 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massively_multiplayer_online_role-playing_game
  2. World of Warcraft”. Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 20 May 2013. Web. Retrieved 26 May 2013 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_of_Warcraft
  3. Kohler, C. “World of Warcraft Has Lost Its Cool”. Wired. 27 September 2012. Web. Retrieved 26 May, 2013 from http://www.wired.com/gamelife/2012/09/mists-of-pandaria/
  4. Guild”. WowWiki. Wikia.Inc. 26 August 2012. Web. Retrieved 27 May 2013 from http://www.wowwiki.com/Guild
  5. Bainbridge, W. S. “The Warcraft Civilization: Social Science in a Virtual World”. London: MIT Press. 2010. Print
  6. Grace, O. “Top guild Method discusses their World First”. Wow Insider. AOL Inc. 1 November 2012. Web. Retrieved 27 May 2013 from http://wow.joystiq.com/2012/11/01/top-guild-method-discuss-their-world-first/#continued
  7. Class”. WowWiki. Wikia Inc. 21 May 2013. Web. Retrieved 27 May 2013 from http://www.wowwiki.com/Class
  8. Method”. Method Network. Web. Retrieved 27 May 2013 from http://www.methodwow.com/board/content.php
  9. Colvin, G. “What It Takes to be Great.” Fortune. 19 October 2006. Web. Retrieved 27 May 2013 from http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/2006/10/30/8391794/index.htm
  10. Coyle, D. “The Talent Code. Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How”. New York: Bantam. 2010. Print.

[1] Massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) is a genre of role-playing video games or web browser based games in which a very large number of players interact with one another within a virtual game world.”  [1]

[2] “Twisting Nether” is a World of Warcraft European (EU) public realm. Main language featured in general chat and trade channel is English (EN). This is a PvP server, meaning that anytime you encounter a player from the hostile faction in open space, he/she is able to attack you or vice versa regardless each one’s level of ability or combat readiness mood.

[3] “Patches” are small updates in the game, usually releasing extra content and bug fixes. Blizzard has currently released patch 5.3. for WoW as of 21st May 2013.

[4]class is the primary adventuring style of a player character which determines the type of weapons and armor it can use, as well as what abilitiespowersskills, and spells it will gain throughout its adventures.” [7] There are currently 11 classes in Wow: Death Knights, Druids, Hunters, Mages, Monks, Paladins, Priests, Rogues, Shamans, Warlocks and Warriors.

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English Composition I: Achieving expertise {Coursera/ Duke} assignment – Critical review (final)

Rozalia Zeibeki

Professor Denise Comer

English Composition I: Achieving Expertise

15 April 2013

 

Review:  Coyle, Daniel (2009).  The Sweet Spot. The Talent Code. Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How. New York: Bantam (Extract from Chapter I)

Greatness and its shortcomings

        The human boundaries of excellence in various areas of expertise continue to stretch beyond our expectations. People nowadays are getting faster, stronger – perhaps even more intelligent – and overall better at what they are tasked to do. Given this context of continuous antagonism and effort, certain people always seem to stand out in the crowd: those who are actually better than average, the gifted ones. What makes them arise from mediocre state? One would assume innate, inexplicable “talent” is the first answer that comes to mind; judging by its title, Coyle begs to differ in his book The Sweet Spot. The Talent Code. Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How.

      In the first chapter of his book, based on his copious research along nine so called “talent hotbeds” [12] or as a friend more colloquially suggested “chicken-wire Harvards” [11], Coyle delves in the matter of talent and its components. Carefully trying to assign a definition to the term, Coyle introduces us to the world of sports, psychology and flight simulation; the results in all cases seem to deter the notion that talented people are miraculously so. Along with the brief descriptions of his endeavor coylethat took him on what his daughter compares to an alternative “treasure hunt” [12], readers of his work actually come to realize that perhaps the term “talent”[11] is highly overrated; perhaps it does exist in terms of a being prone to a grandeur in certain fields – mainly athletic – but it should be more properly substituted by the term “deep practice” [16]. For Coyle it’s nothing more really than “practice makes perfect” motto reinvented. In page 18 Coyle defines this as a paradox since”… experiences where you’re forced to slow down, make errors, and correct them—as you would if you were walking up an ice-covered hill, slipping and stumbling as you go—end up making you swift and graceful without your realizing it.” Indeed after skimming the first pages of the chapter it seems quite reasonable to the author and the audience as well, that through constant effort we redeem ourselves through our mistakes; we actually become better at what we are trying to do by doing it wrong at first – it is in the human nature to strive for perfection amidst fallacy.

In order to back his assumptions Coyle makes use of the scientific world as well as that of empirical data. Professor Bjork, chair of psychology in the prestigious UCLA, provides the very definition of the chapter’s title: “”It’s all about finding the sweet spot,” Bjork said. «There’s an optimal gap between what you know and what you’re trying to do.  When you find that sweet spot, learning takes off.” [19] In other words it takes really more than just one’s time and strength; one needs to be able to do that efficiently.

However, Coyle uses more practical sightings of his ideas and to do so he implements a worldwide beloved sport: Brazilian football and the “supernatural skills” [24] of Brazilian football players. Coyle’s readers actually discover that unlike Maradona and his infamous hand[1], skills of the sort do not necessarily come as God’s gift. Moreover they are the result of another game, which happens to be quicker and more demanding, yet lesser in scale. “Futsal” [26] left Mr. Clifford – a coach from the other bank of the Atlantic – in awe of its potential implementation. He concurs: “It was clear to me that this was where Brazilian skills were born […] It was like finding the missing link.” [26] Baring witness to the Brazilian wonder, Clifford successfully paved the way to young Englishmen, following the example of their Brazilian comrades. They began practicing futsal “developing a soccer program for elementary and high-school-age kids that he called the Brazilian Soccer School. He constructed an elaborate series of drills based on futsal moves.”[28]. Laughable at first yet it actually worked providing Coyle with ample evidence, that he is on to something. These junior stars later defeated their Scottish peers and even took noted posts on their national team. “More stars, Clifford says, are on the way.”[29]

Coyle’s ideas seem refreshing as they are vividly depicted through numerous case studies. Indeed he captures the sentimental insecurity of his readers concerning potential drawbacks in performance and implies that through rigorous training, miracles are possible. Coyle argues that even Air force pilots benefit from the “opportunity to practice more deeply” [24] and as a result not only do they become more skilled but they also implementing – in this case – a life-saving technique.

As in all cases however there is a problematic aspect of Coyle’s assumptions. The empirical evidence used to support his ideas is distracting; we are being told of cases where hard work and training took a toll on talent but the recount of such stories is deliberately in favor of “deep practice”. Coyle mostly observes groups of people (namely pilots, football players) and not one-of-a-kind figures individually. Didn’t Maradona engage in equally hard training with his fellow comrades? We only seem to remember his name, though. Contrary to Coyle’s scientific theoretical approach, the emerging theory of gamification – as the Gamification wiki (2013) defines it – upholds the idea of “…game design thinking to non-game applications to make them more fun and engaging.”  As such the user becomes effectively a “player”; players are all equal when onboarding a gaming experience or during the process of scaffolding. Yet the “epic win” outcome – and the bonuses attached – is for those selected few, who might have spent equal amounts of “deep practice” but achieved goals more efficiently.

To sum up, Coyle makes a hard case against talent even from the early stages of his book; it is after all an effort of coming up with a self-improvement title, that might sell well. His ideas are carefully pitched and the examples come from various aspects of life so as to cover enough ground. Nevertheless, I cannot seem to stop questioning his intent: are we to dismiss talent? There are certainly things we are good at and then there are things we are great at; we can unquestionably narrow the margin towards greatness by “deep practice”. But being the best at something takes a lot more, I ‘m afraid.

 

References:

Diego Maradona.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 25 Sept.       2001. Web. 14 April. 2013. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diego_Maradona

Gamification wiki 2013, ‘What is gamification’, wiki article viewed 15 April 2013  http://utas.libguides.com/content.php?pid=27520&sid=289517

 

 

 


[1] Reference to the 1986 World cup football match. Wikipedia recounts “This match was played with the background of the Falklands War between Argentina and the United Kingdom and emotions were still lingering in the air throughout the entire match. Replays showed that the first goal was scored by striking the ball with his hand. Maradona was coyly evasive, describing it as “a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God.” It became known as the “Hand of God“.

1st assignment English Composition I {Coursera / Duke University}: Achieving expertice (draft of a critical analysis)

Critical review of the “The Sweet Spot” by Daniel Coyle.

As part of his “The talent Code” Coyle delves in the matter of talent and its components in his initial chapter of the book. The findings are a result of the writer’s copious research along nine so called “talent hotbeds” or as a friend more colloquially suggested “chicken-wire Harvards” [11].

Along with the brief descriptions of his endeavor that took him on what his daughter compares to an alternative “treasure hunt” [12], readers of his work actually come to realize that perhaps the term “talent” is highly overrated; perhaps it does exist in terms of a being prone to a grandeur in certain fields – mainly athletic – but it should be more properly substituted by the term “deep practice”. For Coyle it’s nothing more really than “practice makes perfect” motto reinvented. In page 18 Coyle defines this as a paradox since”… experiences where you’re forced to slow down, make errors, and correct them—as you would if you were walking up an ice-covered hill, slipping and stumbling as you go—end up making you swift and graceful without your realizing it.” Indeed it seems quite reasonable to the author and the audience as well, that through constant effort we redeem ourselves through our mistakes; we actually become better at what we are trying to do by doing it wrong at first – it is in the human nature to strive for perfection amidst fallacy.
Image

In order to back his assumptions Coyle makes use of the scientific world as well as that of empirical data. Professor Bjork, chair of psychology in the prestigious UCLA, provides the very definition of the chapter’s title: “”It’s all about finding the sweet spot,” Bjork said. “There’s an optimal gap between what you know and what you’re trying to do.  When you find that sweet spot, learning takes off.” [19] In other words it takes really more than just  use one’s time and strength; one needs to be able to do that efficiently. However, Coyle uses more practical sightings of his ideas and to do so he implements a worldwide beloved sport: Brazilian football and the “supernatural skills” [24] of Brazilian football players. Coyle’s readers actually discover that unlike Maradona and his infamous hand, skills of the sort do not necessarily come as God’s gift. Moreover they are the result of another game, which happens to be quicker and more demanding, yet lesser in scale. “Futsal” left  Mr. Clifford  – a coach from the other bank of the Atlantic – in awe of its potential implementation. He concurs : “It was clear to me that this was where Brazilian skills were born […]It was like finding the missing link.” [26]

Baring witness to the Brazilian wonder, Clifford successfully paved the way to young Englishmen, following the example of their Brazilian comrades. They began practicing futsal “developing a soccer program for elementary and high-school-age kids that he called the Brazilian Soccer School. He constructed an elaborate series of drills based on futsal moves.”[28]. Laughable at first yet it actually worked providing Coyle with ample evidence, that he is on to something. These junior stars later defeated their Scottish peers and even took noted posts on their national team. “More stars, Clifford says, are on the way.”[29]

To sum up, Coyle’s ideas seem refreshing, yet are we to dismiss gifted people all too easy?

Works cited:

Coyle, Daniel: “The talent code”. New York. 2009.