The Flow Experience of WoW

My toon in WoW

A couple of days ago, I was reading about flowing experiences in learning from Enhancing Adult Motivation to Learn. Wlodkowski was explaining that when everything is working correctly, you are then fully engaged. I immediately tied this back to my involvement with World of Warcraft (WoW), where on most days, I am having this flow experience. Wlodkowski continues by pointing out that time rapidly slips away and we are fully engaged with all of the skills we have. We are in full concentration. My experience with WoW has been this and more.

My involvement with WoW is both for pleasure as well as being part of  a research project. Two years ago, I volunteered to assist with a research project conducted by two members from the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD). The project was an exercise in leadership and training. As the project proceeded we established a guild, used WoW to develop lessons, and provide training. I personally developed a lesson on How to Create an Operation Order. The guild now helps to orient new members and provides training to those who are interested. Our guild is the Azeroth Training Society and we can be found on the Sisters of Elune server, look up Tubarks, Stonemiser, or Amberhawk for more information. While I find the project interesting, this post is about flow experience, and how I think WoW fits in.

Wlodkowski lists patterns of action which contribute to the flow experience.

  1. Goals are clear and compatible. From the moment you enter WoW, you are coached along with increasingly challenging quests. WoW has a number of different quests to help a player gain game experience. Some quests require a player to collect items, deliver items, provide a secure escort, or simply move to a new area to explore. Once you complete the quest requirements, you turn it in and receive another tasking with an increased level of difficulty.
  2. Feedback is immediate, continuous, and relevant as the activity unfolds. WoW is very good about providing feedback. Quest givers are readily identifiable with a bright yellow question mark appearing above their head. Items you need to collect tend to “sparkle.” If you happen to engage in a confrontation, you are able to rapidly determine if you will expire through the graphical interface. Successful completion of a quest results in a reward of “riches” and experience.
  3. The challenge is in balance with our skills or knowledge but stretches existing capabilities. I believe one of the strengths of WoW is its ability to keep pulling you along in the game. There is always one more thing to do; one more quest to complete, one more achievement to earn, one more level to acquire, one more area to explore, and one more item to create. WoW also keeps you within your “experience” level. Quests too far above your skill level are simply too hard to complete without the aid of others. It is possible to work in a higher level area but as a lower level character, you will create a drag on other members; also, it is not fun to continuously resurrect and run back from the graveyard. The challenge is to complete the quests and advance in level without expiring along the way.
  4. Vital engagement. Wlodkowski ties vital engagement to an activity which adds meaning to life. While I can not say that WoW is a calling for me, I do enjoy the time I can play especially with my guild mates.  The involvement in a research project using something I enjoy has been rewarding for me.

And here is an example where the flow experience did not go as planned. It is called Leeroy Jenkins. Note: there is some adult language.