7 CEO lessons that I learned from the World of Warcraft

This post is in memoriam for the Crimson Gauntlet, the best guild of Defias Brotherhood. Good times.

I have some fond memories of playing World of Warcraft. At first I played a rogue, class that’s primary purpose is to deal lots of damage to a single target. This made it a very fun class to play, especially in PvP environment. However, because it was so fun class to play, everyone played it. This wouldn’t normally be a problem, but the game is designed so that the best content of the game are on a higher levels. This content is mostly contained in instances, where only a certain number of players can be there at the same time. This means that every spot on a group matters. If the group consists of too many damage dealers, there would be not enough healers or tanks to complete the instances.

At that time, it was more likely for a nerd to get laid than to get in a Molten Core raid group without a guild as a rogue. And even with a friendly guild, chances were slim. When I hit the 60 level mark, I was one lonely rogue in Ironforge.

I had practicallly three choises. Either:

1) stop playing,
2) hang on and try to get some guild rogue spot, or
3) re-roll an utility class character.

First two options weren’t that tempting. I liked the game way too much to quit, and option number 2 wasn’t fun either. There are only so much ass licking I am prepared to do in a virtual world. So, I decided to re-roll. Re-rolling means that a player starts a new character. It’s never easy, because you have to invest bucket loads of time for the development of the new character. And so that the matters would be even more worse, leveling a healing class at that time sucked so much balls that there aren’t actually any proper words to describe it. It wasn’t fun, but I had to do it.

So, I re-rolled a priest.

Priests were the most sought out class of the game. At that time, it was normal that priests were courted from the level 15 and up. I was even asked to join a UBRS raid at level 52 – which I did. I had friends, loot and so much raids that I couldn’t count. Life was good.

Now, I don’t play WoW anymore. I play with my business (yeah, I know: business is serious stuff, but so is WoW). There are some disturbing similarities on playing a priest in WoW and being a CEO. Everyone plays the game a bit different. Others are more prone to lead a company more like a tank, others prefer the DPS role. I prefer the healer.

So, what did I learn from playing a healer in WoW?

1. You are the backbone of the any group

Sorry damage dealers and tanks, but that’s the way it is. Sure, the holy triangle of aggro management – healing – dps is important, but its the healer that keeps the group going. Group can survive with a mediocre damage dealer or tank, but it won’t survive with a crappy healer.

When you play a healer, you don’t play solo. You are responsible for the well being of the group. If you fuck up, all will die. If you twitch on a wrong moment, tank gets splattered on a floor, and monsters will come and tear you a new one. Pretty simple.

Before you get the loot and epics, you need to pry the booty from the dead hands of the previous owners. It’s bloody and time consuming business. Both in game and in real life, the biggest and most awesome loot is only obtainable with a proper teamwork and strategy. And to get there, the whole group has to tackle many barriers, including fire, acid, goblins and evil gnomes.

Its pretty much the same in real world too. Well, not fire and acid, but evil gnomes, definitely.

2. …but you are squishy on your own

If you are healer, you don’t want to be seen. You want to be in the back, in the shadows and out of the line of fire. You are squishy, and you can’t even kill a rat without breaking a sweat. Alone you are easy kill, but when combined with a proper group, nothing can stop you.

It’s the same in business. CEO has to keep the group together, pop up some heals and dispel some curses, and when CEO is out of mana, the group stops on their tracks. Sure, you can push the group for a multiple runs, but you end up dying all the time, war fatigue will eventually kick in. There is only so many failures a group can take.

3. DPS is important, but not that important

If you see the normal specialists in your company as a DPS characters, you get my drift. They are crucial for the group too, because without a proper damage output fights would never end. Eventually, a healer runs out of mana, and a tank gets killed. End result is destruction of the group. So, you need to have damage – lots of it. But it doesn’t matter how many damage dealers you have, if you don’t have proper amount of healing or tanks. And even if it’s nice to gear up damage dealers for some extra DPS, its irrelevant, if the healer walks in blue items on an end game raid.

Playing a DPS is actually most fun to play. You don’t get that much pressure or responsibilities and you get to fiddle with your epics in peace, until you are needed in a fight. And yes, everyone likes to be a DPS player. Sure, you need to focus on the strategies too, but most of the time its enough that you don’t step on anything that has fire, acid or evil gnomes. Unless you are told to.

Again, its pretty much the same in business. You need to have proper tools for the damage dealers, but it’s not that important, if you look at the bigger picture. You need equipment that has best bang for the buck, not the shiniest epics. You can get that shiny E-Peen Expander 2000 -sword later, after your group knows the strategies properly.

4. Tank pulls first

Every group needs a one proper tank or more. Their whole purpose in the group is to draw enemy fire and suck it up. That’s why they are called tanks. They are flashy, big and noisy. They are so annoying that any enemy wants just to stomp them flat. They go in first. They get healed first. When they die, all die.

I think that the tank is most hardest role to play. It has something to do with the mindset. Sales people are like primary tanks: they go out there, poke the bushes and see what pops up. Usually its something nasty with teeth and tentacles, so it’s better that the first opener is someone with a tough skin and skills to deal with angry creatures.

And yeah, tanks get pounded a lot. They love to get beaten, over and over again. Good tank gets their kicks out of a proper fight, where he/she can only focus on the Big Boss. They take the damage, direct the bosses attention to the right place, until the whole group can initiate the tank & spank phase and close in for the kill.

Tanks can’t do it alone, though. They need proper support and care from the healers and DPS. They need the shiniest gear, the toughest shields and the biggest sword there is. Primary tanks get the first picks of the loot, and everyone else is secondary. It doesn’t matter how sharp the rogue’s knives are, if the tank is wearing tinfoil.

Its the same in business. It takes a special mindset to be a sales person. And even if you wear some big shiny armor, that alone doesn’t make you a good tank. You need skills and talent too.

5. Life is a ”Whack-a-mole” -game.

Funny thing about being a raid healer is that you actually don’t see that much of the game details. It took me 20 or so Molten Core raid runs to actually look the scenery. And when you play a raid healer, your whole screen is full of little boxes that changes color from green to red. Those boxes are other people. Sometimes those little boxes yell at you. As a healer, you are only interested in tanks and then the others. My normal raid night was 6 hours of playing a whack-a-mole game.

I have had my fair share of players crying at me, when someone got killed. There is only so much mana and time, and it has to be shared for those who need it the most. Group is more important than a single member. Sorry about that, but this is the way it works.

Its pretty same in the CEO mmorpg too. You prepare, level up, stack up, and when its time to act, you whack the moles. You just can’t focus on minor details, when the group survivability is the primary goal. Sure, sometimes you miss click, and a someone gets shafted. It’s tough.

6. No slackers allowed

In game, you can get away some slacking, but sooner or later, when the bosses get tougher, slackers become more evident. If you can’t get past the minions as a group, someone isn’t doing his or hers share of the burden. The larger the group, the harder it becomes to spot a slacker. You need metrics. Every proper raid guild checks the stats after the fight: how many heals, how many points healed? Curses dispelled? What was the sustained DPS per ranged damage dealers and melee damage dealers? And so on.

You can slack in a single fight, but eventually you get booted. Nobody likes slackers. Such is the life in business, too.

7. You need some rest and refreshments too

After a good run, its tempting to make another run after the first successful one. This is not a good idea. People are tired, even though the victory is fresh in the memory. You just can’t push people over their limits, because there will be consequences. Tired people make stupid mistakes.

When the boss is dead, its better just to celebrate and rest for a while. Gold is shared among players, and loot is distributed so that it benefits the whole group. Its also a good idea to take a few moments to give compliments for those who have participated for the group effort.

After all, work should feel like fun, not a constant grind.