As I have mentioned in the past, I grew up playing sports. Given that my father was a college athlete, this was a likely no-brainer as my brother and I both showed a knack for athletics from a young age. It also helped that I liked the Michigan Tech hockey team and wanted to be just like them.
As we grew up, we came along at the beginning of the video game industry. Not quite so far back as the Atari, but our family was among those who purchased a Nintendo Entertainment System. Our version came with a copy of Track and Field and a game pad we could stand and run on.
Teamwork in those days consisted of running side-by-side with your teammate to complete your in-game tasks, whether it was running your characters through side-scrolling games like Contra or Super Mario Brothers, or trading places for the next event in track and field. Communication was immediate, because your teammate sat right next to you.
The same is true of sports. If you play a team sport, like hockey, your teammates join you on the bench, sitting side-by-side. You can discuss strategy during those times you are sitting and then try to implement them when it is your turn to play on the ice.
As technology evolved, so have video games. A major revolution in gaming came in the form of Massive Multiplayer Online games, or MMOs. People create an avatar and log into a servos and play with and against others from all over the world.
The most popular of these was, and I suppose still is, World of Warcraft, or WoW.
The draw of a game like WoW, for me, is that I can play alongside my son. Using communication software, we can chat with each other in real-time and devise strategies to implement in-game.
Sounds a bit like sports, doesn’t it?
In WoW, my son and I have participated in raiding. Raids are a group of 25-40 people working together to fight a boss.
You may think coaches have their hands full in hockey with five skaters on the ice or in football with 11 players on the field. Imagine Mike McCarthy trying to sort 40 players on the field at the same time.
Communication becomes key in a situation like that. Communication is also one of the major pillars of teamwork both in sports and everyday life. A team that does not communicate will fail. This is an important lesson sports teaches as we mature.
I studied communication in college. I looked at games like WoW and sports like hockey. What I hypothesized was that MMOs can mimic sports, especially in situations like this.
This past weekend, my son and I have been playing a game called Destiny. Recently, we have taken to attempting raiding within it. Communication should be easier, since there are only six players on a raid team. However, I can honestly say that without good communication between all parties, nothing gets accomplished effectively. My son and I attempted just one single boss fight Monday evening for an hour and a half before some teammates left. We suffered through some poor communication. We never finished the fight.
I have been watching an awful lot of Twilight League baseball recently for work. In baseball, when a team is on defense, they have nine players on the field. Without communication, they struggle. I have seen multiple teams meltdown on their bench and it has led to losses each time a team has endured such arguments.
When I completed my project for my Master’s Degree, I did not really expect to continue to keep an eye on this topic. However, I have, thanks to the ability video games have given me to help my son learn many of the same lessons I have.
While video may seem like a waste of time to some people, I have found that when channeled properly, they can be tremendous learning tools, just like team sports!