…That I didn’t learn in College or Real Life
World of Warcraft. WoW. If you aren’t one of the 12 million subscribers, you’ve probably at least heard of it, or know someone who plays. Thousands of college students have played or are currently playing this game. While everyone freaks out about the economic and business climate IRL (that’s “in real life” for you n00bs out there), I’ve been quietly learning some crucial business and economic lessons from my time spent in game. Since WoW is in many ways the perfect microcosm of today’s world, I’ve decided to “grind out” a PROTIP list, split up into business lessons and economics lessons. Students would be wise to read these, as entering the workforce, and the real world can be extremely challenging. If you learn now, you may not make the same business and economic mistakes too many have made before. Perhaps some of the fat cats on Wall Street could have avoided creating this financial disaster if they just spent some time in Azeroth. Imagine, a world without the economic recession or financial bailouts because CEOs were raiding instead of cooking the books.
Just in case your character is about to be summoned to a dungeon, here’s the Too Long Didn’t Read (TLDR) Version:
Look good, invest smart, build relationships, and don’t screw people over and you’ll flourish economically and in business. I observed these ideas in the World of Warcraft.
5 Business Pro Tips
Leveling and gearing a character in WoW is much like growing a business or furthering your own career. You have to make the right decisions in regards to what you should focus on (be it getting gear, making gold, or other endeavors) and there is no one correct way of doing things. However, just like in business, being sensible and unique, while building solid relationships can be the foundation for a leet character (or paycheck).
PROTIP 1: Appearances Are Everything – When you start leveling, you look pretty shabby. My first weapon was no more than a stick. As a result, no one in game took me seriously. In business, if you look like a n00b (under dressed or over dressed for work, not wearing clothes that make you look your best), you’ll be treated like a n00b. In WoW, if you want to get the best gear, and be with the best guild, you better have all your gear gemmed and enchanted, and better not be rocking low quality items (IE, green colored items and most blues…it’s all about the purple, “epic” quality). When you apply for membership to a guild, the first thing they will do is “Armory” you to see what gear you’re rocking. If it’s subpar, then the guild will think your approach to the game is sub-par and that you don’t want to be the best you can be. That translates to no ginvite (Guild Invite), and no opportunity to get the best loot available. If you are applying for a job, dress well and be confident during your interview. If you look shabby, no way will the company think of you as an asset. The company wants to find people to promote and pay a lot, just like the Guild wants a good player to recruit, and gear out. In the end, it’s all about demonstrating your worth, and that is accomplished at first glance by appearances.
PROTIP 2: It’s Not What You Know, But Who You Know – You’ve heard it many times, and unfortunately, it’s true. If you know the right people, and have friends in the right places, you can have success in many different endeavors. You certainly still need to have talents, but knowing the right people can get your foot in the door. In Warcraft, you always start at the bottom. However, knowing the right people can help you get into groups for the dungeons that drop the best loot. In IRL practice, this means knowing all the Key Players in your organization. Making friends in many places, especially in other organizations, can be a tremendous help if you are looking for a job, or your business is looking for some business to business interaction. In game, if you know geared players in other guilds, you have an automatic back up plan if relations with your current guild go south. If you are a little under geared, your friends can still get you into groups anyway (also known as being “carried”). Imagine knowing someone IRL who could get you a job or at least an interview even though you’re a bit under qualified? It definitely happens. Remember, building relationships is a crucial ingredient in the recipe for success.
PROTIP 3: Make Yourself a Brand – The research associated with brand identity is irrefutable. When you read the slogan “I’m Lovin’ It,” you probably see those fabled Golden Arches in your head. In Warcraft, it can be a very good thing to be identifiable, as long as it’s for positive reasons. If you occasionally spam Trade Chat (the chat channel where any in-game business is conducted) in order to market your profession, and you make a point to always be positive in PuG (pick-up group) settings, then you may find you’ll have more success overall in game. Even if someone doesn’t know you, they may have seen your name around, and will be more likely to do business with you. Getting your character name out there is the key to in-game success. IRL, getting your real name out there can also generate positive results. If you are working for a company, the best way to get superiors to notice you for possible promotions is often through word of mouth, or simply by just being visible. If your boss’ superior always gets a weekly report with your name on it, then he may actually learn who the heck you are (other than as the clown who got trashed at the Christmas Party). If you come up with something brilliant, or do something unique for the company, your name will be identifiable. Just ask Salzman from Accounting.
PROTIP 4: Market Your Profession/Skills Creatively – Too many players miss out on significant gold-making opportunities by failing to market their profession well. Coming up with a unique angle is the best way to distinguish yourself from the crowd. In WoW, I accomplished this feat by creating a unique “chat spam” in order to market my Enchanting services. Everyone who did business with me also got a nice Savory Deviate Delight, which turns your character into either a Ninja or a Pirate when eaten. Amusingly enough, this caused me to get business simply from people who wanted a savory delight in addition to their enchant. IRL, this can be applied to an office setting, or a small business, or even blogging. It seems like almost everyone has a blog, is twittering, and starting their own business nowadays, so setting yourself apart from the pack is even more crucial. If readers, users, customers, clients, or whomever can have a unique and memorable experience when interacting with you or using your product or service, they will be much more likely to return.
PROTIP 5: Don’t Burn Bridges, Build Them – In Warcraft, as in life, relationships can unfortunately sour. You may not get along with everyone in your Guild, just like you probably don’t get along with everyone at work. However, even if your vision isn’t consistent with that of the leaders of your organization, you shouldn’t make unnecessary waves. I knew a guy who was a hardcore raider, and became extremely geared as a result. He was the envy of many on the server that knew of him. Yet, a small disagreement with a Guild Leader and Guild Officer got out of hand. Instead of trying to resolve the dispute and mend the relationship, he /gquit (the infamous command to leave a guild) and started a whole flame war on the forums. The bridge was successfully burned. No other high-level guilds wanted to raid with him, and he certainly wasn’t going to be invited back to his old guild. As a result, his gear level declined as new content was released and he wasn’t there for realm first boss kills. Now, he’s just like every other nub pugging Naxx 10 for item level 200 purples. IRL, if you leave a job, always do so on good terms. You never know when conditions will take a turn for the worse. If you leave yourself with the option of at least trying to go back then that’s better than nothing. Not to mention, companies will be less likely to hire someone who has caused a bunch of trouble with previous employers. Remember, in real life, there are no server transfers.
Economic Pro Tips
The microcosm that is WoW includes its very own, sometimes thriving, often erratic economy. The auction house (AH), trade chat, quests, and vendors, all provide ample opportunities to make some serious cash. Players make a variety of investment decisions every day. Spending 1,000G to level a profession today instead of buying a rare vanity item on the auction house will yield very different financial results. The risk versus reward of decisions in Warcraft can actually translate to navigating the economy in the real world. If only AIG made it mandatory for executives to have WoW accounts.
PROTIP 1: When Investing, Patience is a Virtue – Auction House prices fluctuate significantly from day to day. If selling one item is yielding a significant profit, it probably won’t remain that way for long. If you try to buy something and there’s only one listing, chances are that it will be extremely overpriced. IRL, this idea shows itself on the random fluctuations of the stock market, or even in something as simple as the price of gas. If you go for something just because prices are great today, don’t expect them to remain that way. The best way to avoid making a huge mistake is to watch what happens over a period of time. In WoW, watching the item on the auction house for a few days is usually enough. If the price is holding steady or declining, then you may want to go for it. Of course, the price may increase too, so you have to evaluate the risk versus return always. The point is, making decisions without even evaluating the market itself is a recipe for disaster, just ask any stock broker who has been active in the last year.
PROTIP 2: Pay Attention to Outside Factors Affecting Markets – Outside influences can have a drastic effect on the economy. In WoW, a new patch means new recipes, items, and the like. It also means that if there are new Dungeons/Instances in the game, then people will need materials (or “mats”) for elixirs, food, potions, and other “buffs.” Supply and Demand will usually fluctuate significantly on patch days, so pro players will have this in mind when putting up auctions or buying auctions out. IRL, understanding outside factors can be crucial to success in this economy. Tension between Oil Producing nations and the Western World can directly lead to gas price increases. A natural disaster can affect the yield of a specific crop. Bad investors tend to ignore some of the most obvious cause and effect relationships. If you want to have economic success, being well informed on the state of the world is a good first step. Capitalizing on those fluctuations is another feat altogether.
PROTIP 3: People Trying to Exploit Markets Ruin It For Everyone – This could also be called the Chinese Gold Farmer rule. In WoW, people who buy or sell gold for real-world dollars end up screwing up the economy a lot more than they may know. Chinese gold farmers love to ruin any natural profit that is to be had by dramatically increasing the supply of items on the auction house. Not to mention, Gold Farmers mess with inflation on servers by introducing artificially high amounts of gold. In real life, people like Jim Cramer on Mad Money give out wonderful advice on hedging etc to help “savvy” investors get quick profits. Unfortunately, these types of practices also lead to the real-world economy taking a dramatic nosedive. If you want to be a cheater in WoW, or IRL, then be my guest. However, keep in mind that you are ruining it for everyone following the rules, and if you get caught, you’ll get no sympathy from the public. Just ask former Enron executives.
PROTIP 4: Diversify Your Assets – In WoW, diversifying only makes your Account stronger. Leveling new characters and professions, collecting numerous assets, and doing as many daily quests as you can is all a part of diversifying and making more G. If you have access to more than just two professions, you can adjust to subtle changes in the market and sell items/skills where the biggest profits are to be had. IRL, this means not putting everything you have into one stock, or another type of investment. If you have a lot of diversity in your investments, then you should be much better off, as long as the entire market doesn’t take a nosedive. In that case, you, along with the rest of us, are screwed.
PROTIP 5: Borrow Smart – We got in this current economic crisis in part because people borrowed too much, or borrowed from the wrong institutions. In WoW, borrowing money is a little less cut-throat because it’s typically a friend or Guild Master doing the lending. That being said, it’s always good to borrow only for sound investments that will increase your earnings over the long term. For example, borrowing Gold to get an Epic Flying Skill (the ability to ride a really fast flying mount all over the World…of Warcraft) on a character can be a great investment. You’ll get quests done faster and be able to gather mats much more efficiently. IRL this applies to things like real estate. When the housing bubble burst, many people were screwed because they didn’t make smart borrowing decisions. Conversely, my parents were fortunate enough to make a smart decision and invested in land, rather than just a large McMansion in a gated community. Therefore, even though the housing market is still in the toilet, they are still ahead of the game and have actually added value to their investment.
So there you have a PROTIP list. Now you can get back to pwning nubs.