Friday, March 16, 2007

MMO Math Madness

If you've read my blog before then you know I tend to gravitate to lists and logical explanations about game mechanics in MMOs. I enjoy the min/max challenge of a MMO and gaining new equipment to change my stats to see the result in combat. However, even people who aren't necessarily number or logic oriented also seem to get a kick out of the mathematical emphasis most MMOs have built into them. Discussions between players always seem to be about stamina, crit ratios and the most efficient use of talent points. Its like every player of a MMO is a fanatical expert at statistics.

The best comparison I have for this trend is how sports fans memorize the stats of their favorite teams and players. Some of them even play games like fantasy football which are based on the stats of the dream teams they choose. It seems the trick to turning anyone into a expert at number crunching is simply to attach the numbers to something they enjoy. A pure numerical algorithm by itself is too abstract for most people to get excited about. But if that algorithm is about how to best maximize spell damage or calculate a batting average then you got an audience.

The positive side of this is that in general a person's math skills tend to pick up once they start playing a MMO. Every time you get an upgrade you have to compare all the numbers to your old equipment and make sure its better. You also learn a bit of subjective reasoning during the process since different stats have different values. Thus even though +5 str is less then +8 attack power the str is still better since it provides more then +8 attack power.

Pretty much all the lessons you learn in college statistics/algebra are included in the background of most MMOs. The best part is that since its entertainment to the people playing, the math just sort of seeps in. People tend to scoff at the use of virtual worlds for teaching children but some visionary educators see the potential. After all how many times are kids told that learning is fun then been forced to read the same type of textbooks that have existed since the 1950's. The truth is that the best way to make learning fun is to put it into a game.


Sean said...

This post certainly rang true for me. =)

I got a Java programming job around the time I was looking for main tank gear, so what better way to learn Java than by writing little applications to compare stats! I'm not usually a number cruncher but like you said, I really enjoy the mathcraft in this game.

(Been reading your blog for awhile now - figured I'd post a comment :P )

Relmstein said...

Its surprising how much better you get at a subject when you enjoy doing it. I wonder how many mod authors out there for World of Warcraft started with no programming experience at all?

VictorB said...

My only concerns lie in two things.

THe stigma that videogames have no educational value is one of them. While you can implement gaming as part of the school curriculum, it's not exactly easy to pull off because of the associations we have with it.

At most you can pull off math questions that have WoW associations, but that wouldn't be fair to those who don't play WoW.

The second would be in the stigma of educational games not being entertaining. b ut then, that's more about introducing games into schools than anything else.

Anyway, off tangent. I like how your post makes me think though. Thanks! :D

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