Sunday, November 28, 2010

The 12 Intelligences of WoW

I read a really interesting article in the New Scientist Magazine the other day about the 12 intelligences that they measure in modern IQ-tests. IQ-tests have been under much scorn and critique, and with all right. The question has long been - what does an IQ test measure anyway, and does a high score on it really mean that you're smart in areas that matter? When IQ-tests first were put into practice in the early 20th century many of the flaws about IQ-tests were that they were culture-bound. Also you had to be able to read and write to be able to take them at all (which still most often is the case). Question could often center around things that might be obvious to people in one culture but not in another. Even the way we see objects are affected by culture, so creating an IQ-tests that measures IQ (whatever that may be) un-objectively is really difficult. But people have been trying nonetheless for more than 100 years. And the 12 intellegences is the latest attempt to describe a number of brain functions that are important in our day-to-day life and that by excelling in you will be "smarter" than others. You'll be able to complete tasks better and faster than others.

But this isn't a post on whether IQ can be measured, whether it is important or if it even exists. It is more of an exploring post. Taken that these 12 intelligences are true, in what way do we get to use them in our everyday WoW-gaming experiences? I'll present the different intellgences, what they mean and how we use them outside a gaming experience, and then go on to explore if it is something we also use when gaming.

1. Visuo-Spatial Memory
Visuo-Spatial Memory, or VSM, is what we use when we are imagining things or process spatial information. Any time you have to think about something you don't directly see you use your VSM. VSM is "simply" any images you have stored in your brain.

This is used in anything and everything we do, just as much outside WoW as in it. Anytime you want to remember how a specific piece of gear looks or how far it is between the auction house and the mail box in some city you have to use your VSM.

2. Spatial Work-Memory
Spatial Work-Memory, or SWM, is what we use when we are trying to remember how to get from point A to point B. Everytime you walk from your home to a friend, to town, to work/school you have to use your VSM, load that information into your SWM and come up with the best route. Cues in your surrounding can give you pointers on where you have to head next to get to your goal as fast as possible. Also whenever we close our eyes and try to remember where something in the room is we are using our SWM. It's like step 2 of VSM. When using mental maps you are using your SWM.

This is something we use in WoW all the time. Any 3d-game requires that you can orient yourself in the surroundings just like you would outside the game. One can imagine that we get few better opportunities to practice this skill than by playing such a huge game like WoW. Still after 5 years there are times when I have to pause and think to remember the best way to go from Darnassus to Southshore. And I still haven't found a good way to get from Ironforge to Menethil Harbor! And sometimes I take huge detours just because I forgot that there was a better way to go.

3. Focused Attention
To cut response time, the brain likes to hardwire things. Whatever we do often, or whatever response to a certain stimuli we usually use, we'll have easier access to than other stimuli. For example when reading the word "red" you'll automatically think about the color that corresponds with "red", instead of sifting through all the colors you know and settling for one, each time you read the word. We use these kind of short-cuts in everything we do, if we didn't we would have to pause and think about everything we experienced, just as we do whenever we experience something we've never encountered before. Being able to work around these kind of mental-short cuts is what Focused Attention is all about, because sometimes you don't want to use your automatic response, sometimes it is better to use another response.

In WoW this is probably best exampled in the skilled pvp-player. Every gamer has a series of responses that work best for most situations, and in PvE where the fights usually are very predictable we don't have to go much beyond this. But to be truly awesome you have to be able to work around and away your regular play-style. You have to be able to, under a split second, calculate whether doing A or doing B (or something completely else) is the better choice. In pvp-fights this is more often true, since the opponent isn't a scripted fight, but another player that brings into the fight all the irrationality and illogical behavior that only a human can(?). In a pvp-fight you often have to supress your first respons because another might be more appropriate for that unique situation alone, and the better you are at doing this, the better pvp-er you'll be.

4. Mental Rotation
Mental Rotation is being able to rotate objects in your mind, because you don't always have the possibility to actually grab the object and flip it around. In a game like Tetris we'd use this alot (although you can rotate objects in tetris, the best gamers are the ones who can rotate coming objects before they enter the screen). Actually, Mental Rotation is an often occurring part of puzzle games overall.

Just as in real life we rarely have to mentally rotate things in WoW to be able to go about our daily business. When we explain tactics to our fellow group members we sometimes have to be able to rotate the room mentally to be able to correctly explain where stuff will happen. When doing this, do you prefer to use the screen-directions or the map-directions? Do you say "left from where we are standing now" or "west on the map"? If you use the latter then you, and your party members, are better at rotating stuff mentally.

5. Visuo-Spatial Memory + Strategy
Remembering that VSM is about using cues in your vicinity to locate yourself in the room, this intelligence means using those cues to determine the best place to be. A game like Memory, which requires you to pair objects scattered across a board and lying upside down, we use VSM and Memory. You have to remember where among all those objects a certain object (or several actually) that you need lies to win the game.

In WoW we'd use this whenever we have to move from incoming stuff during a boss fight. When you know that the area you're currently standing in soon will be filled with goo/fire/deadly beam you have to quickly locate another area to occupy. We do this by remembering the layout of the room and what other things we have to be careful off all the while standing close to tanks or enemies depending on our role in the fight. Many fights in ICC use this principle, like for example Rotface or Festergut. On Festergut HC you have to keep a distance to everyone (as ranged), watch the incoming Malleable Goo and run to a Spore whenever they are up. This means that you at all times have to keep track of your own location and the location of several other objects of the fight, and quickly calculate the best way to move when you have to.

6. Paired Associate Learning
Paired Associate Learning, or PAL, is what we use to gather Paired Information. Pairing information means whenever you think about one thing, information about that thing pops up. Whenever you think about your mom you see her face and maybe her telephone number/birthday/name etc, usually whatever information you need most at the moment. This is how we remember information about certain objects and people in our surroundings. This is not to be mistaken with conditioning in which we pair a happening with a certain response. Paired Association is about information, not behavior. Conditioning is more like Focused Attention that I already mentioned.

As with many of these intelligenses, PAL is based on basic functions of our mind and as such nothing we can work without anywhere, be it in a game or not. Whenever you hear the name of a skill and remember any information about it, you're using Paired Association. The more you know about the game, the better you're at pairing information to the relevant places and objects. So when someone screams "Defile!", Paired Association would be to know what it does. Conditioning would be to run away and Focused Attention would be to give some thought to your running. It all comes together.

7. Deductive Reasoning
Deductive Reasoning, or DR, means coming to a conclusion based on a set of rules or pre-existing data/knowledge. If the ground gets wet when it rains and the ground is wet, we might come to the conclusion that it is raining. The more information and correct assumptions about correlation one has the likelier it is that one will come to the right conclusion.

We have to come to conclusions all the time. For instance, when tanking you might have information on what mobs you're fighting, what kind of cc your group has and how good the players in your group are. Based on this you will come to a conclusion on what would be the best way to pull the mobs. Or when reading up on your skills you might find a good way to use your skills so that they synergy with eachother for more power. Most conclusions you make in the game will have come through deductive reasoning on some level.

8. Visuo-Spatial Processing
Visuo-Spatial Processing, or VSP, is being able to sort out the important things in a midst of visual information. Looking through a crowd you might want to find your friend who has a red jacket and dark hair. Being able to find him/her means you have to process all your visual information for these cues.

VSP is actually one of those things that people argue is used more in games than in regular life. In games visual cues are usually among the most important things. We can't feel or smell anything in the game so we usually only have audio and visual cues for information. This means people who play alot of games often become rather apt at quickly scanning the area and picking out the important parts. In games like Call of Duty or Medal of Honor, or any shooting game where you have to find a camouflaged target before he finds you, you'd practice this ability quite alot. I know Love is alot better at finding hidden targets among rocks and vegetation than I am. We do practice this in WoW as well, after all we have to react when we're standing in fire or we get a huge DBM warning in our screens telling us to do something special.

9. Visual Attention
Visual Attention is the next step of VSP. After having sorted out the important things in your visual field, you'll want to focus your attention more to some of them than others. If VSP is noticing, Visual Attention is deciding what to look at and what it means to you. Visual Attention is also about finding what is "wrong" in the picture, but not necessarily as fast as you do with VSP. Visual Attention is processing the details.

As with VSP we use Visual Attention alot in WoW. When we're raiding and someone says something in gchat, we might notice (but probably won't) through VSP, but keep our attention elsewhere as long as needed. Visual Attention allows us to decide whether to keep track of the tanks health bar, you standing in fire or something completely else happening in the perifery of your screen at the moment.

10. Verbal Reasoning
Verbal Reasoning is alot like Deductive Reasoning, only with written or verbal information specifically instead of just any information. Therefore not much more is to say about it.

11. Verbal Work-Memory
Whenever you read a number, or get it read for you, you might repeat the information. This is to prolong the existance of this information in your Verbal Work-Memory. The Verbal Work-Memory is "better" than the the visual one, and therefore we use these kinds of tricks to help us remember things for longer periods of time.

In WoW I can imagine people using this if they want to remember a series of tasks they need to perform. Perhaps they just got some boss tactics explained to them, and silently repeat it to themselves not to forget it. Or they want to remember how to do a certain rotation they just read about on the internet. Or what mats they needed for that certain item. There are tons of places where you would want to remember something for a short period of time, and most people use this method.

12. Planning
Sounds simple enough, but it is one of the things that makes humans so special. I'm not saying humans are the only ones who are able to plan ahead, but we're definitely able to plan the farthest ahead (at least to our knowledge). When getting children, a career, or a car we often have to plan many years into the future. But planning also means completing a series of tasks during a very short period of time, and that is generally the case in games like WoW.

Since few people expect to play the same game for several years, we usually don't plan very long ahead. In a game like WoW, that has been around for so long already, we probably do alot more planning ahead than in games generally. Any player playing the Auction House would need to plan ahead several days preferrably. Any player in a raid often has to make very minute planning of what tasks they're going to perform. Especially when being a dps, where you can hope to keep some sort of "rotation" active. Rotation could actually translate into "expecting to use a series of tasks in a predefined order".

Most importantly, all these intelligences work together to form a whole. We very rarely use only one in any given situation. In a raid fight you need to be able to scan the area, know when to move and not to, know what skills to use and under what conditions and so on. When doing this we use all of the abovementioned intelligences in some part. And whether we'd like to call it intelligences or IQ or whatnot, it's pretty dang neat what we manage to do at our keyboards everyday.

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