Some of you may know that in addition to writing this blog, I am also the editor of the Wowhead Blog. One of our volunteer staffers on Wowhead is a guy named Evgeni Kirilov (known on the site as ArgentSun) who I work with a lot. He wrote a post two days ago that I would have written if I had gotten the chance to get it down on paper first. The post is here: Gaming Can Make a Better World
The core theme of the post is a talk from TED by a speaker named Jane McGonigal. You can watch the video embedded in that blog post, or you can watch the video directly on the TED website here, but in either case I encourage you to watch—I found it to be incredibly meaningful.
Jane’s speech contains a number of points which I found extremely compelling. She mentions a statistic unearthed by a researcher at Carnegie-Mellon: that the average 21 year old, in a country with a “strong gamer culture” has 10,000 hours of gaming experience under his belt.
This isn’t just an arbitrary number, she draws two meaningful parallels:
- 10,000 hours is roughly the amount of time a student will spend in school from 5th grade to high school graduation, if the student has perfect attendance.
- 10,000 hours is the “magic number” that Malcolm Gladwell arrives at in his book Outliers, as the amount of time it takes for someone to achieve mastery in a certain skill.
I’d like to go into a little more detail about this than Ms. McGonigal did. I read Outliers some time ago and enjoyed it a great deal, and was delighted to be able to draw a parallel between it and gaming. In chapter 2, The 10,000 Hour Rule, Gladwell talks in great detail about the formulas for success, and one of the conclusions he comes to is summed up in this quote from neurologist David Levitin:
“The emerging picture from such studies is that ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert—in anything. In study after study, of composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice skaters, concert pianists, chess players, master criminals, and what have you, this number comes up agin and again. Of course, this doesn’t address why some people get more out of their practice sessions than others do. But no one has yet found a case in which true world-class expertise was accomplished in less time. It seems that it takes the brain this long to assimilate all that it needs to know to achieve true mastery.”
Mr. Gladwell’s book is a delightful read, and I encourage you all to look into that as well—for all of its merits, not just its relevancy to gaming. Gladwell makes one more point later in the chapter that I wish to reproduce:
“The other interesting thing about that ten thousand hours, of course, is that ten thousand hours is an enormous amount of time. It’s all but impossible to reach that number all by yourself by the time you’re a young adult. You have to have parents who encourage and support you. You can’t be poor, because if you have to hold down a part-time job on the side to help make ends meet, there won’t be time left in the day to practice enough. In fact, most people can reach that number only if they get into some kind of special program—like a hockey all-star squad—or if they get some kind of extraordinary opportunity that gives them a chance to put in those hours.”
Now, looking at that paragraph, look back up at that image and read that statistic again.
What this means is that people all over the country, and the world, are putting in that tremendous, difficult, onerous, magical number of hours learning a specific skill—gaming—without even meaning to. We didn’t even realize it, but we are part of an entire generation of World-Class Expert Gamers.
Up next: What do we do with all this expertise?