Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A snowboard lesson in WoW perspective

“Mum, I want to ride a snowboard this year!”

I stared at my soon-to-be 15 year old daughter and tried the best I could to hide my doubts.

“Are you sure about that? You’ve never ever set your foot on such a thing, and we haven’t got a clue about what to do with it, so we can’t give you any kind of advice. You haven’t even seen any friends going on a snowboard. It seems pretty hard”.

Then I bit my tongue. I didn’t want to sound that negative and talk her out if it. Sometimes kids get stupid ideas into their heads that you should try to rid them of, but this certainly wasn’t one of those moments.

Luckily enough my daughter didn’t listen to the hesitating tone in my voice. She had made up her mind. She wanted to see if snowboard was as fun as it looked. End of discussion.

Teenage attitude
I looked at her, a little bit envious. Such a confidence she had in herself! Such an attitude she had! When you’re a teenager anything seems to be doable; you can reach the moon, you can become a movie star and you can ride a snowboard if you want to.

If I could only show half of that attitude in WoW! Then I would have dared to be the mage tank in Gruul (I never came around to do that, there was always someone else, willing to do it). Then I would roll a tank or a healer, being one of the core roles in a raid, rather than one in the dps crowd. Then I would lead an instance run. Then I would form an arena team and just give it a shot. I wouldn’t care so much about the risks of a failure.

Adults often tend to grumble about kids in game. We don’t like their sometimes quite unpredictable behavior, their tendency to jump the ship and go for something else within a second. And since we have kids of our own we don’t want to play the role of their father or mother in game, which is pretty easily done. It’s pretty common that guilds have a +18 year requirement, just to save themselves a lot of fuss.

But with all their faults I can’t help thinking that kids sometimes succeed where the elder players fail – thanks to their nothing-is-impossible-and-I-can-kick-ass-attitude. There are moments when we should throw all our grown-up-self-doubts overboard and just follow their example.

Private lessons
Now, attitude is fine, but it won’t teach you to do such a technical thing as ride a snowboard. And since time was precious – we only had rented equipment and bought lift passes for three days – I decided to give her a kick start. I hired a private teacher for her for a couple of hours over two days. And what difference didn’t that make! Of course she fell a lot – in the trails as well as in the lift. Of course there were times when she swore in frustration. But she got instant expert feedback on everything she did, she was taught the basics properly and the progress rate was amazing. On the third day she could ride all the way down from the top, looking as if she’d been doing this for years. And the sparkling smile on her face was priceless.

So, why do I rant about the skiing lessons of my daughter? There’s nothing special about attending a skiing class or taking a few private lessons if the schedule doesn’t fit you. What about it?

Well, the thought struck me that it’s strange that it’s so different in Azeroth. In real life there’s no shame at all to admit that you’ve never ever before stood on a snowboard. If you want to try it, you go for it, you hire someone to help you out and everyone’s happy. But in WoW it’s different for some reason. If you’re a beginner, you’re supposed to find out how to do by yourself. If you’re new to a role, tanking or healing your first instance and do a lot of mistakes, falling in the slope, you’ll be likely to get comments as “L2P”.

Yeah, I know, there are many great resources available on blogs and websites. You can read about how to spec, how to heal, how to gear and what strategies to use. You can even see some videos. But seriously, reading is great for learning theoretical things, but not perfect for developing skills. I for one wouldn’t expect my daughter to learn how to ride her snowboard by looking it up on Internet.

A private WoW teacher
Wouldn’t it be great if you could get some real tutoring online in WoW from someone who could give you immediate feedback and instructions on vent? How much quicker wouldn’t you learn if someone joined you in an instance, specifically looking at your timing, your movement, and your pick of spells, giving advice to you in real time (rather than commenting afterwards studying a wws)?

I’ve never ever understood the idea of offering gold for boosting, since boosting is such an extremely boring thing to do and it really isn’t the most efficient way of levelling anyway. But private tutoring would be something different. What if there was a tanking school, a healing class, a frost-aoe-grinding workshop? I wonder if players would be prepared to pay for that kind of service. I suspect not, but I can’t pinpoint why. What’s so different in learning how to master a character in WoW to learning how to master a snowboard? Is it that we find it humiliating to learn from those who know the game better? That a computer game is supposed to be much easier to learn than skiing? Or maybe the problem is the opposite – there are people prepared to pay for good teaching, but there’s a lack of willing teachers? The good players, the experts, will rather enjoy the end game at their own level than teaching newbies.

I can’t help thinking it’s a pity. It’s not just that new players have to spend more time than they’d need messing around on their own, painstakingly figuring out things that someone could have told them in a second. It’s also that I think the experts miss something too. I believe that taking a few adepts and being their mentor could be a great cure against the boredom and burnout that some veteran players fight.

When my daughter returned from her skiing lessons, it wasn’t just she that was smiling. Her teacher was too, and I can swear it wasn’t just because she was paid to do so. She actually enjoyed seeing the quick progress of her pupil, knowing that she had a big part in it.

I wish I was so skilled that I had something worth teaching others. Then I wouldn’t hesitate to take an adept under my protective wings. And I wouldn’t even want any gold for it.

Who knows, one day I may get there! There’s no limit in what you can do if you just believe in yourself. It’s true. I just learned it from my daughter.


Rich said...

This is actually one of the things about achievements that's been grating on me recently.

I wonder if the devs had any idea when they made Achievements linkable that it would become the new cockblock for PUG invites. Suddenly nobody wants you in their group unless you can prove you've already beat the content. No one can acknowledge that there needs to be a first time where you actually **GET** that achievement.

Why not just have armory style links as well? Then I could post [Ixobelle - 80 Priest] in tarde, and someone could click it to open my character sheet and inspect all my gear as if I was standing right next to them.

Ugh, what an awful idea! Quick, delete this response or it'll be too late!

Rubymelon said...

Humm, I had a kind of private tutor in wow, but not exactly like a snowboarding tutor. What I did was carefully take note of what a certain class did in certain situations. For example, I had a friend priest that liked to run instances with me. I soon got used to, and learned what kind of spells he would use in certain situations. Like realizing when he would put a renew on me, or when he would shield me, when I got heals.

Another example is when I got interested in pvp. I found a friend that was an active pvp-er. I would follow him around being his personal heal bot. I started noticing when he would use what skills, what CC capabilites, and things like that.

It's almost like an internship!:D

Anonymous said...

It's surprisingly tricky to learn from others in 5 mans because you don't usually take more than 1 of the same class. I know I sometimes hop in on an alt if one of our less experienced tanks wants some pointers (even if it's just me whispering to them about what to expect on each pull, where the patrols are, and if there's anything special they need to remember on a boss).

And that's the thing. Even if you don't play the same class, if you know an instance and another player doesn't, you can help tutor them through it like that.

Also nowadays there are a lot of helpful videos out there which people make. Ciderhelm's tanking vids at are awesome, for example. And I'm sure I've seen videos of AE frost grinding.

I know it's not the same. And the big problem is that in a lot of cases you can't do a private lesson. You can't really teach anyone much about tanking or healing if there are only 2 of you. It has to be a group.

Klepsacovic said...

Teachers in WoW would be pretty cool. I suppose in some ways that what guildies and class leaders are for. Unfortunately I think people have stopped helping.

I remember a while back waiting outside Gruul and in my usual habit, inspecting people nearby. A guild shaman seemed to be confused; half resto, half enhancement, gear and spec. Leadership kept making him switch roles, so finally he just went mixed. No one had ever noticed and pointed out that he had ended up almost useless at damage and healing. I offered some gear advice and told him to force the officers to give him a definite role (or gold if they expect him to respec so often), but in the meantime pick a spec and be good at it. I don't know if it had any lasting impact on him, but it left me very discouraged that someone could have slipped through the cracks like that.

Part of it is fear. Who wants to admit they don't know what to do? That's asking for a kick these days when like Ixo pointed out, no one wants you unless you don't even need the content anymore.

Part of it is laziness. People don't care enough to help. They don't want to put in any effort unless it gets them something, and even then, it will be the least effort possible.

Part of it is arrogance. Sometimes I offer advice and the person gets offended. Sorry for trying to help.

The final obstacle is that some things you just can't teach without getting really detailed, and that turns people off. No amount of knowledge can help if you don't know how to bind your keys effectively and the only way to figure that out is to go through spell by spell, button by button.

You're probably far more skilled than you think. Dig into your brain and I think you'll find a lot to share.

Zakesh said...

So my ingame advice aint good enough for you, eh? :)

Go ahead and get a better teacher then. :P

Gevlon said...

Whoa! A business idea I've never even thought of.

Too bad that Ulduar is just on us, every expert player is raiding. But in a couple of weeks I'll try this idea out. I'll try to find a payed instructor for my little lock.

Larísa said...

@Ixobelle: That is really a Catch 22 and it sucks. Where did the lust for learning go?

@Rubymelon: That's a great attitude that can take you a long way, really.

@Spinksville: I love those tankspot videos too! They're different from others really. What if there were such movies on "how-to-play-a-mage/rogue/pries" etc ?

@Klepsacovic: Fear, laziness, arrogance.... I think you're spot on. And I think those feelings exist not only with the people that COULD become the teachers if they wanted to - they exist with the not-so-skilled-players as well, not realizing that they actually could do well with some tutoring. What a sad story about that shaman. Yeah, Azeroth isn't quite as idyllic as I sometimes want to think it is.

@Zakesh: I HAVE a private teacher - you - and I'm extremely grateful about that. I should have ackninwledged it in the post. Although it's a pity you don't offer specific mage lessons.:)

Still I wish there were more teachers around. There's 11 million players around. Even you can't be there for everyone.

Larísa said...

@Gevlon: yay! I knew you would take some interest in this idea. Looking forward to see the result from your next experiment!

Darkhorse said...

Brilliant ideas and a lovely post :)

I really enjoy teaching, I don't get to do all that much of it, just a little bit of techy stuff at work.

I could totally run Zupa's mage school, that would be super fun. Each lesson tailored to the pupil etc, AoE grinding and anything pre-bc or TBC a specialty.

Might have some marketing issues if I don't get to 80 first though!

Scotty said...

Learning to do new stuff in wow is either easy or hard depending on 2 things
a) You (obviously)
b) The rest of the group and their knowledge of your experience

I get somewhat annoyed when someone comes to a run in a heroic claiming "sure I can tank it" and in fact they've never tanked anything ever, try doing for example Heroic Violet hold with a bad tank...its a very easy instance, but put a tank who cant manage more than one mob in the group, and you will wipe ! a lot !

However, if that same person says "I just dinged 80 and respecced tank, anyone fancy running a few normals so i can practice" I'm fine with doing a run or 2 while that person picks up the required skills

Basically, if a person is aware they are learning, and is open about it, thats some "brownie points" from me, someone who diesnt realise their lack of experience doesnt get much sympathy or help from me

I have a certain nervousness when I'm playing for example my tank in a group that has someone else on an alt who is a very good tank (for example the MT of the guild) despite the fact that I know I can tank well enough...

Incidentally, I'm a skier and I did one day of snowboarding a few years ago....omg was I bad at it....being a beginner again was terribly frustrating ! I had lessons,but I was just too impatient and wanted to be as good as I was on skis straight away. I wont be trying that again !

Jenneke said...

I tend to try and help out any cute lowbie I can get my plate-covered hands on. It's just too bad I know lots about retri pala's and not enough about other classes. I think I can be a good teacher if someone wants to be a ret pala, and I can help people figure out their class when they're not too high-lvl, but I'd never try and get 4 lvl 50's through an instance. Fear, I guess ;)

Pangoria Fallstar said...

BRK has some videos up on Project Lore that are perfect for what needs to be taught to hunters.

Most other videogames have "tutorial" levels, that teach how to control, cast spells, etc etc.

If WoW had an instanced beginning where instead of just leveling you to 6, it taught you the purpose of instant casts, kiting, gaining aggro, group play (even with a computer controlled group where you "played" your role to a better understanding), strafing, setting up keybindings, instead of just pop up text with only a few words.

Each lesson could come with an achievement, so that people would know that you knew how to tank, and that lesson can be taken and retaken anytime.

How about lessons on how to read the combat log, or how to understand why you died. Lessons explaining all the little stats, instead of having to go to Wowwiki or EJ to learn what Crit Rating or Spell Penetration REALLY means.

Its sad that you really haven't played other games, so many skills gamers have come from our history of play, and as such its interesting to see why people have problems in WoW. The problem is that many don't have a history of gameplay, and that can make a huge difference just starting out, but it has NO effect in the end, since in the end we have you Larisa, and honestly, thou art more awesome than I.

So have more confidence, and get me that limerick. :D

Moondancer said...

I always thought having teachers within WOW would be a great idea.
In fact late last year I told one of my buddies they should offer in-game training to other priests. It might be profitable. In the real world I instruct but I don't do that within WOW.

I ran a lot of instances with my Holy Priest and Hunter. I learned a lot not only about my class but others also. I always asked questions too. After some time I learned what worked well, and what didn't with other classes.I also read up on the classes to. I felt it helped me become a better player knowing the strengths and weaknesses of other classes.

I enjoy trying new things so I imagine I would be hopping on a snowboard too. In some ways I still have that childlike enthusiasm. My daughter is five years old and her enthusiasm to try new things is refreshing. I haven't been snowboarding but I have been skydiving many times. ;-) I've always loved extreme sports.

Cassini said...

Having 'private tutors' isn't really anything new in WoW (although I've rarely seen the case for them expressed so eloquently) - or maybe I've just been lucky in the guilds I've been in. When I first hit level 60 and joined an endgame guild I didn't even know what an addon was let alone use any. I was the classic 'noob' that had just played the game for fun. :)

Joining a guild and starting out in 40 man raids was nerve racking, but in those days we had class leaders for a reason. My first mage class leader was a person called Lollypop and he took me under his wing, we had private chats in teamspeak, went to empty raids together where he showed me positioning for various encounters, went on instance runs together that we took slowly and with explanations of this that or the other along the way, we had talent ideas and for and against for each in the forums and so on. In the last guild I was in I acted as a mentor for a couple of less experienced mages and so I know the practice continues, and it's a good one - even an experienced person will be able to learn something they didn't already know from somebody. :)

Kromus said...

Teacher of Wow..

You know. Its not a bad idea. Its getting more and more advanced- i feel like a WoW teacher when teaching my girlfriends meanings.

"Whats agility for?"

"Whats a tank?"

Its easy to just know these things, but putting it into context isn't easy- espeically when my girlfriends a paladin.

I'd like to help people all the time- but sometimes i do decend into this elitist "seriously, you suck". I cant help it. Incomptence annoys me- but seeing my girlfriend ask questions reminds me of how i once was and stops me decending into madness.

Patience is a virtue.

krizzlybear said...

Hrmm...although the idea of a WoW tutor is certainly possible, I would think that a video game requires less instruction at the beginner level than something more physically intense such as snowboarding. One could use online resources to get a fair grasp on things.

When you get to higher level things, however, such as competitive play, the barrier for coordination and skill is ridiculously high, and instruction from a "pro" starts becoming really useful in improving one's abilities.

Tessy said...

You must be a wonderful mom Larísa and I bet that smile on your daughter's face will live in your heart as long as your trust and support in her "crazy" idea by treating her to a private teacher will live in hers :-)

Anonymous said...

My wife and her friends started playing when US-Ravencrest was launched. They levelled together to level 17 and then went into The Deadmines. They wiped ... a lot.

She came to me for advice.

They went back again the next day but this time, with me standing behind my wife and with everyone in Vent. Through the course of the next 4 1/2 hours, I explained marking, kill order, crowd control, aggro, mana conversation, pacing, overhealing, line out sight pulls, rotations, buffs, debuffs, and many more concepts. The run was interrupted several minutes times to answer questions and to review objectives we set for specific pulls.

It was a successful run; maybe a dozen wipes but most were the results of trying something for the first time.

I was very proud the next week when they cleared Shadowfang Keep; they wiped ten times but they did it entirely on their own.

The five ladies are now core members of a 10-man raiding guild.

Larísa said...

@Zupa: thank you!
If you enjoy it I really think you should try it out! Actually it shouldn’t matter much if you’re 80 or not as long as you’re teaching mages at lower level. But I guess you don’t have much time for it since you’re probably want to spend your online time leveling on your own until you’ve catched up…
It’s a bit silly, this fear we have to not be “good enough” in the eyes of someone who normally plays a tank. I can totally understand you, but it’s not rational. Shouldn’t we rather try to suck all knowledge we can out of the experts? And providing the same service to those who’re trying our main class on their alts?
I agree about how big difference the attitude does. I really can be very forgiving if I’m given the right information from the beginning and know what to expect and therefore can decide for myself if I’ve got time for a lot of trial and error this time or if it won’t work due to my schedule.
Yeah, snowboard really looks tricky. Especially one of the turns where your belly is facing the mountain and you more or less are going backwards. I wouldn’t do it, that’s for sure!
Yeah, it will take a bit of self confidence and courage to stand up and offer yourself to be a teacher. It’s like begging for criticism, people always look for reasons to complain…

@Pangoria Fallstar: that’s interesting suggestions about having an instanced ”beginning”!
And oh, how I’d like some “lessons” as you describe. Of course I go to EJ as anyone else, but please! The current thread about mages post 3.1 has about 200 pages or so and I STILL can find a simple link to the supposedly best spec in it!!!
It’s probably true that there are more “game beginners” in WoW than in many other games, due to its success. I’ve got the feeling that I’m far from alone in my gaming virginity. And the need for teaching is huge, in spite of the complaints from the experienced players that “a monkey” could play wow since it’s so easy.
I seriously don’t know in what way I could possibly be more awesome than thou, but I take it as a compliment and bow graciously!
And the Limerick… hm… I DO like to play around with words and language, but trust me, it doesn’t come easy in English to me.

@Moondancer: Wow @ skydiving! I guess WoW is my substitute for it… 
Actually I DO love a bit of real life adventure. I like mountain trekking (I’ve written about that before), even though I can’t go as close to steeps as I’d like to since I get dizzy… About training: I’ve never heard about anyone offering it for profit. But who knows, maybe it exists? If not I expect a goblin experiment in a not too distant future.
@Cassini: Don’t you think class leaders really taking pupils under their wings, learning them stuff, was more common earlier in the game? Nowadays, when the game has been out for so long and there’s so much available information online, I’ve got the feeling that you’re more expected to find out things for yourself. But I really think a mentor system is a good thing. And don’t forget: by now when you have alts, the relationship may be reciprocal. Some people have changed classes in the expansion. The one that you’re mentoring may very well become a mentor for yourself when you’re learning to play an alt character.
@Kromus: Oh, being a teacher for your gf! I’ve got the feeling that it takes some diplomacy. It’s a delicate matter.
@Krizzlybear: Actually I think I’d need to have a tutor not only online on vent, but in the same room as me. Someone checking my use of mouse, my keybindings, helping me to configure my UI better… sigh… just a dream of mine. But I think I could have used that at a low level as well as where I am now.
@Tessy: Oh, those words really warmed my heart! I don’t think she agrees all the time (especially not when I devote to much time to WoW). But at least we had a wonderful week in the mountains, didn’t fight and spent time together playing Settlers and such. Hopefully it will live for a while in our memories.
@Anonymous: I really loved your story! And I understand how proud you must have felt! You spent 4,5 hours with them, but considering how many hours they would have had to spend looking up the same info on internet and experimenting on their own to understand those basic things, I bet that the total time spent was much much lower with you as a teacher. The investment really paid off. And I suspect you even had some fun tutoring!

Carra said...

Teaching something can be fun. I enjoy explaining the best gear setups, the ideal builds, how to improve their game... to other players. There will be people who enjoy teaching in every guild so it shouldn't be a problem to find someone to teach you a few tricks.

Taking up a tank/healer spot, leading instances, being an officer in your guild,... It all comes down to taking more responsibility. I personally don't enjoy taking more responsibility which is probably why I picked a DPS class and refrain from leading. And I miss the self confidence to take the responsibility. Low self confidence and low responsibility seem to go hand in hand.

Anonymous said...

I was meeting up with some pug friends who commented "We met a Tankadin and he was amazing - he was as good as you" (back when paladins supposedly couldnt tank anything but undead). They raved and raved about this mystery player to the point that I felt I would soon be replaced in the hearts of my friends. Then they told me who the other paladin was... it was a friend I had been tutoring. It is my greatest memory in wow.

Unknown said...

Anon: " was a friend I had been tutoring."
I went through this very situation as a relatively fresh 80 hunter that had just figured out enough to start getting compliments from tanks/healers and get re-invites back to heroics "so we can do em faster." I started helping this guy that was decked out in Strength/Defense rating blues, put him on the right path to hit rating, crit, agility, and "better" talent points (rather than a even mix of all 3 trees!)
Sometime later while in a VOA pug I was listening to the raid lead and his helpers and the helper recommended my protegé based on prior heroic experience, which he had not been able to get into before I had stepped in.
Was a good feeling, I agree.