Friday, May 28, 2010

WoW Raiding and Motor Learning

World of Warcraft raid content or the "end game" more broadly has been a topic I've been churning over for a while now. The concept of how we learn specifically as of late and more over the time it takes for us to learn in WoW. In 1967 Fitts and Posner introduced a three stage model of motor learning. Reading over this is like a time machine to my one and only college psych course. The topic seems much more interesting when placed in the context of video games though. Before we dive into how a paper written in the late 60's applies to a MMO developed in the oughts however, lets briefly review what Fitts and Posner presented:

Cognitive Stage (1): learners attempt to form the overall concept by gaining information through the senses.

Associative Stage (2): learners understand how parts of the movement relate to one another; movements begin to appear efficient; errors are fewer; quality practice produces refinement of skill.

Autonomous Stage (3): learners movements appear automatic, stable, and somewhat effortless.

The stages are roughly analogous to most every guilds raiding progression. From the macro level of an entire instance to the micro specific boss that might put a halt to progression for weeks or even months.

The cognitive stage is the one I'd would presume to have the most variance depending on the guilds status as a leader or follower. Leaders being guilds that are seeing content on the PTR or mining boss abilities from patches prior to their release. Followers being the rest of us. The vast majority of guilds that watch the "leaders" kill videos and guides. It is simply a matter of how you collect information. Research and trial/error for leaders and by example or instruction for followers.

The associative stage is where the rubber meets the road. It is the difference between world first kills and shouting "we did it" months behind the rest. There are very few guilds that can take what they have learned in the cognitive stage and start to apply it immediately. Rectifying mistakes on the fly and creative problem solving are the tools that reward them with top honors. Members of the leaders can't just rely on their best players to get it done, the worst members have to carry their weight too. From top to bottom they have to be a well oiled machine.

For the followers, it takes repetition. Simply identifying mistakes can take a while, let alone resolving them. There is the potential to accomplish task through rote learning even versus actual understanding. The long and short of it is that it takes time. Guilds that are not skilled enough to get it early, can go through the sometimes grueling process of attempting the same boss over and over again until there is eventually progression. Folks that are not willing to put in that time will usually just end up waiting for the next dungeon to be released. That or see their more skilled member migrate to greener pastures.

Finally there is the autonomous stage, or in the world of PVE MMOs, farm content. Once you have been successful in a task enough, in this case a boss, it is time for everyone to get fat and happy with loot. Consider this the refractory period between dungeons, were guilds have the potential to get geared up for the next big thing or bored out of their minds. Member attrition during this stage is less stressful than in the associative stage. That is unless you lose enough knowledgeable players that you regress back to cognition.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

very interesting, thanks you.

i am interested in the effect of morale on the learning process, it seems obvious to me that an atmosphere of negativity and recrimination will slow the 'learn by error' stage

i wonder what other factors influence learning, and how they do so

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