Posted by: Makakai | August 5, 2009

Don’t Stand in the Fire

Lately I’ve been reading (and writing) about healing 101 and what makes a successful healer. One of the key points of a successful healer is the ability to keep the party or raid members alive. Now this is a great goal, but if you don’t follow tips #3 and #7 in my Healer 101 post, you’ll “run out of health” and not be able to keep the rest of the raid alive. So today I’m going to talk a little about what makes a “skilled” player (or healer).

Let’s start with what it means to be a “skilled” player.

skill (noun): (1) the ability to use one’s knowledge effectively and readily in execution or performance; (2) a developed aptitude or ability

Learning Curve by Psych Web

Learning Curve by Psych Web

The definition according to Merriam-Webster certainly indicates that skill is something that you learn or acquire over time. The theory of the learning curve (Wright, 1936) is also based on the simple idea that the time required to perform a task decreases as a person gains experience.

Yes, learn or acquire over time, which suggests that the Michael Jordans’ or Michael Phelps’ of WoW have had a lot of opportunity to learn or practice the skills to make them as good as they are. Therefore, Part Time Druid had a very good point about time being a definer of the “successful” players. So essentially a player that has 30+ hours a week to sink into WoW will be a more “successful” or “skilled” player much sooner than a player with much less time.

So, this brings me to the point of “desire” to improve, and by desire I refer to the player themselves deciding they want to get better and I’ll leave the “time” factor out of it. I can’t tell you how many posts in one of the community blog groups I belong to are players asking for help to improve their gear, rotation, etc. So they improve their gear, rotations, gems/enchants/glyphs, and all of the little pixilated points that improve their character up to the point that they can given the amount of time they have to practice their skills.

An interesting twist to this equation falls under a recent series of posts about the difficulty players have in being able to follow #3 in my Healer 101 tips. Yet, this continues to be a problem for many raiders leading to the Snarkcraft post by Seri. I think this stems mostly from a skill that is often overlooked by many raiders: Situation Awareness (SA). The Horde Defense League has a really good post on how SA can make the difference between a good and a mediocre player.

Now, the leading psychological model for Situation Awareness is a three stage/phase process of perception of cues, understanding the cues perceived, and projecting (i.e., anticipating) future changes in the situation. So dear reader, are you following my bread-crumb trail? Yes! I need to get better at identifying the cues in the situation, learning how those cues affect my performance, and anticipating the changing situation. Great, but how? Actually, it’s been staring you in the face the whole time but most players don’t really use this information to actively practice the three stages of SA.

Example time… Let’s take Matticus’ post on Ulduar Fights, specifically the Deconstructor fight. In this fight you have Gravity Bomb, Light Bomb, Bomb bots, and Tympanic Tantum. Let’s say your raid follows the “group in one spot” strategy and you get one of these debuffs. First, you have to perceive the little

Gravity Bomb

Then, move out of the group, to the left or right, until you drop your debuff and can rejoin the group. So once you have the first stage of SA, perception of the debuff, now you need to understand the situation. I bet most players take a moment to determine left or right before moving or that most don’t even catch that little part about the Gravity bombs doing damage to enemies. Good players will understand to go to any adds and pull them into the Gravity damage away from friendly raid members. Finally, we have projection, take a look at Tympanic Tantrum, it’s a DOT spell that means if you are not at full health before or shortly after the Tantrum, you will “run out of health”. So the player has to perceive the debuff, understand it’s effects on the raid environment, and anticipate the Tantrum so that they can make sure they are close enough to a healer to survive it. And this is just a simplistic example!

Therein, lies the mediating factor between time and desire… Situation Awareness. Put this all together and you get some variability in the stage of SA a player can perform at depending on the level of time and desire of that player.


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