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Dec 23, 2005



I recently went on an instance run (Scarlet Monastery) in WoW with a new guild I had just joined. They were good people and I was one of the lower-level characters there -- also was clearly the n00b in terms of doing this particular instance. We had one level 60 guy and another level 55 or so character who led the party. Several othere with characters in the 40s helped them and helped the rest of us come along and not do anything too fatal.

The dynamic felt very much like one of teacher - student teacher - student that you describe from the old one room school house. Sure there was the fun of running through the instance, and we did get to fight various mobs, but everyone except the two leaders was there to learn too -- the idea being that at some point we'd each lead people through the area as they did.

I know this has sort of relationship has come up in sevaral games. Asheron's Call, as you mentioned, had it in name if nothing else, while WoW seems to have the substance but not any special provision for it.

It would be interesting -- probably edifying and profitable too -- to come up with other ways to more explicitly support master/teacher/mentor/docent/student/apprentice relationships by the way the world constructs and enables those roles, without having to explicitly name them (and thus take all the creativity and flexibility out of them).


In Dragonrealms, as it's a skill-based game (based on activity generating experience for a particular skill), there is a skill called Teaching which governs your ability to teach another character some particular skill. Most professions require a particular amount of this skill in order to level up, and the best teaching really comes from lots of low-level students.

Occasionally, also, younger players will ask advice of older players regarding spell choice or training habits, and I personally enjoy sharing everything I know about a particular spell so they can decide for themselves if they want it, or if they have it, how to use it.


For several examples of mentoring/learning in VWs - definitely worth reading Nicolas Ducheneaut and Robert Moore's “Gaining more than experience points: Learning social behavior in multiplayer computer games.” [link]. Constance has also written a couple interesting pieces that deal with learning/mentoring in VWs.

IIRC, one of the player goals in ATITD was (is?) to become a mentor - rewards dependent on the feedback of the person mentored.


Eve Online makes characters of much lower skill levels useful in PvP and other capacities to players who have more skills, which usually just means they're more able generalists with a circa 5% advantage and somewhat better equipment. New players can quickly become assets to corporations ingame under the guidance of older players, and I know of at least one corporation ('Eve University') set up specifically to recruit and educate newbies.

I'm slightly torn on the concept of levels themselves - I'm attracted to their simplicity, and the structure that they enable for players to follow, but at the same time they can readily be seen in many games to be very restrictive and artificial, both in reducing flexibility and player choice as well as making specialisation a somewhat silly concept while you generally follow a completely static archetype defined by the developers.

It seems wholy artificial that, say, a level 45 might be virtualy immune to the predations of well organised level 30s, but I think this is only partly the direct fault of having a level based system. A level based system encourages expectations of being significantly better at each level after you go *ding*, where I think skill based systems reduce this, since it's not such a simple matter to decide who *should* pwn the other person where differing skills might suggest that various tactics or situations might put the advantage in one court or another.

I'm not saying it's absolutely better, but I think that there is a lot to be said for there being good reasons for older players to benefit from supporting newer players, either directly or indirectly.

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