What makes us want to excel at certain tasks? Why do some of us slave over combat logs while others look at recount summaries? What drives a person to spend years training for a job others are capable of but unwilling to learn? These questions really interest me, so I decided to write about my experiences with what I’ll call selective perfection.
I started this post a week ago but got stuck until I had a chat with my wife. My wife (being the brilliant, beautiful, and clever physician she is) had some insight into my writers block. Recently she attended a lecture about adolescent eating disorders, and the lecture really centered around one thing: behavioral rewards. The research about these disorders was focused on learning what these teens (overwhelming female of course) got out of not eating. What was the reward for them? Because one thing is true about our species, we never engage in a behavior without some kind of reward. I can’t show you the comic because of copyright but my mind instantly jumps to a Far Side cartoon where a cow drives a meat truck past his buddies. “Sorry guys, but the money was just too good.” Anyway, the point of the lecture was that they were seeing positive results by identifying the behavioral reward and trying to eliminate it.
Playing World of Warcraft, Starcraft 2, Warcraft 3, Heroes of Might and Magic, Diablo, etc. is very satisfying for me. Many of the games that I play (especially the later titles) have a depth and complexity of gameplay that really allows me to exercise my brain. I’m a stay-at-home dad to 2 girls, and a full-time (at least from November to March) basketball coach. These activities do not engage me mentally as much as I really need, so I find value in perusing Mr. Robot forums, Elitist Jerks, and reading Sacred Duty posts by Theck that make my brain hurt (in a good way). Anyone who plays Starcraft 2 in multiplayer knows how fast your brain needs to work to be competitive – it’s very difficult (ditto for Warcraft 3). My reward for playing the games that I love is that they engage me intellectually in ways that other parts of my life don’t – I mean, you can only read “Madeleine” so many times and making PB&J sandwiches is about as mentally challenging as kicking hard objects without shoes on.
When it comes to WoW and its endgame options (professions, raiding, PvP, pet battles) I think I understand the player that just doesn’t push themselves to be their best. They simply don’t get the same value out of exceptional performance that I do. It may not make me happy, but it does make me a better raid leader going forward. It will be easier to identify players that simply don’t fit in with our level of dedication (whether they are more or less dedicated), and I think this will make me a stronger leader and recruiter in general.