Imagination and Memory, then some WoW News
Not about WoW
I think I’ve just read one of the most important studies I’ve come across in years. I’ve always enjoyed reading about how the brain works, and I’ve applied a lot of what I’ve learned to the classroom, despite the fact that almost every educational “advance” I’ve seen come from elsewhere has gone against what I’ve learned. I believe, in fact, that’s part of what makes me a good teacher. I’ve read and strongly recommend books like A General Theory of Love and Nurtureshock for years, so it surprises me that today was the first time I came across the research done by Demis Hassabis, a former game designer-turned neuroscientist in England, not in a book about biochemistry, but about immersion in the modern media. The book is The Art of Immersion by Frank Rose.
I won’t do too much biography here, but suffice it to say Hassabis worked for Lionhead studios on games like Black and White, got frustrated with how stupid AI was, and decided to learn about how human brains work so he could then incorporate similar mechanisms into AI. His approach was to wonder what had been overlooked for the last 100 years, and it finally struck him when he considered a more recent view of memories, that we rebuild them each time we remember something (which turns out to be true). He realized then that the act of remembering, that is reconstructing memories, could be linked to imagination.
It was. His study showed that people with memory impairment also had imagination impairment. When I read this, I got all tingly and got goosebumps, a surefire way for me to tell when something amazing is happening, though usually it’s related to student revelations in the classroom. One of the constant complaints in modern education is that students have less and less retention, that is the ability to remember things that they’ve been taught, from lesson to lesson or year to year. At the same time, I’ve seen a dramatic reduction in the amount of free-play imagination time in kids. We hear about overscheduling, state mandated tests for third graders, and the like. It’s not a coincidence.
Play, then, helps memory. Whether it’s simple “house” or “cops and robbers” or Legos or even Chess, the act of imagining a scenario, be it a fanstastic scenario with Lego super-heroes (you know I’m speaking from experience on that one) or a strategic scenario about how to capture your opponent’s King, builds memory. Having a stronger memory helps higher level thinking skills, as Bloom’s Taxonomy implies (though modern education seems to think that you can skip the bottom of the pyramid and move up to the top right away, which of course is structurally impossible). Put directly then: Play makes you smarter.
It probably doesn’t come as that much of a revelation to people who work a lot with kids, but the fact that there’s research now that backs it up gives me hope that this can be transferred into classrooms. Of course, the research in Nurtureshock‘s been out for a decade and many of the tenets of that book are routinely ignored in the public school system, so maybe I’m being premature. Still, though, if the higher education institutions I work for ever make the “mistake” of giving me an education class, I’ll at least be able to pass this tidbit on to a few future teachers.
For a WoW update, let me tell you that for probably the fifth time I’ve sworn off endgame PuGs. I reached 85 with my shammy, having healed my way through dungeons all the way. I went into a regular on my toon well enough geared for a heroic thanks to cheap 359 boots, scouting waves cards for cheap on the way, and the Thrall end-game quest line (not to mention the dungeon drops from getting to 85), but I didn’t think I was heroic ready yet. My first regular was Grim Batol, where I had a tank and two dps who CLEARLY had no idea what they were doing. They completely ignored boss mechanics up until Drahga, where they allowed themselves to be blown up one after another by the fire elementals.
Luckily, my healing and my wife’s rogue dps were good enough to finish the boss without them. By burning the boss and just getting blown up, they’d taken the dragon down to few hp, and it was only seconds of my wife evasion tanking before Valiona left. She handily mopped up Drahga while I frost shock kited and add around. Overall, my healing was just fine; we finished the dungeon happy and only slightly annoyed by the noobishness of the other players.
My second was Halls of Origination. The tank marked nothing, stood in the shadow lancer’s aoe damage effect, and we nearly wiped on the first pull; luckily I was able to keep everyone alive. At the first boss, the tank dropped down at the appropriate time to pull the lever, but did NOTHING about picking up adds, so when the entire party followed, the others were massacred by the snakes. I healed as much as I could, but was spending a lot of time just keeping myself alive, since every heal just generated more snake aggro. We survived the first drop and burned the boss to the second, at which point I was out of mana. The tank did the same thing, and everyone died. “Bad heals” was the tank’s analysis.
I truly don’t know why I got so angry, but suffice it to say that I flipped out. I stomped around my house, cursing and carrying on like a madman, which very rarely occurs but, unfortunately, sometimes does. Bad healing? That imbecile didn’t pick up a SINGLE add and ran me out of mana from healing everyone else in the party instead of just him. I “Brutes’d” him (named after Brutes of Burning Blade, a character I met very early on in my WoW career who was extremely mean to me for no apparent reason and who got the treatment I describe here every few weeks for a few months afterwards), where I make a new character on his server, send him a very rude tell, then log off and delete the character. Blizzard still hasn’t figured out a way to deal with that, but if the gold sellers get to abuse it, I should be able to as well.
I’m not proud of what I did, and I kick myself and am embarrassed that I got so upset, but that’s it, at least until I foolishly forget, but it seems unlikely since I’ve only 3 more toons to get to 85, and I know two of them will be INSTANTLY retired upon doing so. I’m done with PuGs, I truly think forever this time. I’d avoided them as a tank because they so callously ignore marks, strategies, and so forth, making my job harder, but I thought perhaps as a healer things would be different. They weren’t, they were only worse, since tank attitude has been so elevated by Blizzard’s gift system.
Let me put it right out there. Healing is hard. Nothing else in the game is. I’ve tanked end game, healed end game, and dps’d end game, and the ONLY time I’ve ever felt stress was healing. The ONLY time it’s been a job is healing. Everything else is easy (though I might say DK tanking is “harder” than other tanking; I’ll leave that one out of my tirade). If you’re not healing, then I’ll happily listen to your theories about this and that, but the fact of the matter is that you don’t really know what it’s like to be with a bad group. To you, it’s an inconvenience, dear reader. To the healer, it’s a nightmare.
Tanking hasn’t been hard since Fel Reaver. DPS was never hard, though it is competitive, which is not the same thing. Healing is hard.
At any rate, I hope I didn’t offend you, dear reader, with my tirade. I spent the next day just leveling my alts with my wife, which was thoroughly enjoyable as we mindlessly dpsed in dungeons and bgs. That’s all I’m good for now, it seems. I’ve too much anger stored away about all the little meaningless slights from PuGs to do anything else. It’s not a situation I’m happy with, and I certainly sank to his level this time (and in Brutes’s case – he’s not on BB any more; I checked as soon as I transferred there months ago to see), but Blizz’s complete inability to create a coherent, polite community has left me unhappy with an otherwise good game.
Stubborn (and broken)