Michael McCreery is a Learning and Technology doctoral student within the Educational Psychology Department at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Prior to attending UNLV, McCreery was a programmer/analyst with the Intel Corporation, specializing in reporting systems design and development in which he has received a number awards. These experiences led him to develop a certification process and corresponding curriculum for the Intel Corporation, in addition to providing instruction both in the United States and India. As a result of integrating his work experience with degrees in Information Systems and Educational Foundations from Portland State University, Michael has focused his doctoral work on complex learning environments, including MMOGs. McCreery’s current projects include the investigation of expertise within the context of MMOGs as well as the development of more rigorous videogame research methodologies.
How Did You Get so Good? An Investigation of
Expertise in the World of Warcraft
One of the most notable game genres is the Massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMOG). From one perspective, MMOGs provide an environment to understand the dynamics of intrapersonal collaboration (Steinkuehler, 2005). From another perspective, MMOGs provide an exciting context for investigating authentic perception-action dynamics within a constrained system (Young, Schrader, & Zheng, in press). Through interaction with the context, other participants, and outside resources (e.g., informational sites, databases, and forums), gamers become proficient not only on the level of human-computer interaction, but also at the level of avatar-virtual world interaction as an extension of intent. In the latter sense, the avatar/character becomes the mechanism by which gamers express their intent within the virtual space as a means to achieve their goals. While it is clear that gamers become quite skilled as they achieve their objectives, it is unclear what strategies are employed in order to develop said skills.
According to research on expertise, an expert in multiple domains exhibits several characteristics, many of which focus on time. However, the nature of expertise as described by Glaser, Chi, and Farr (1988) includes other characteristics that can easily be translated into the virtual worlds of MMOGs (e.g., planning, automaticity, and quick recognition of meaningful patterns). Additionally, MMOGs provide a mechanism for complex communication, collaboration, and intertextual and intratextual information exchange. Becoming highly skilled within these contexts requires significant levels of user-to-user interaction, user-to-resource interaction, and user-to-context interaction.
World of Warcraft is a MMOG that provides the gamer with multiple methods of play. For this inquiry, data were collected from 48 individuals who were deemed highly proficient in terms of intrapersonal collaboration and game related tasks. Participants were recruited from a single guild, comprised of players who have reached the maximum level and ability for one or more characters. Each regularly completes advanced game content (high-end raids), and competes successfully with other players in combat (PvP). This presentation will describe in detail the mechanisms used by these sophisticated gamers in their continual goal to reach expertise as well as relevant educational implications.
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