World of Warcraft players are the ideal employee, says John Seely Brown

Researcher John Seely Brown details why World of Warcraft players are the ideal employees for corporate structures in a video for knowledge forum Big Think.

"I would rather hire a high-level World of Warcraft player than an MBA from Harvard," says Brown, who specializes in researching organizational structures. "Why is a game, a massive multiplayer game that has maybe 12 million people or more playing it like World of Warcraft so important at both the individual level and maybe at the corporate level? To understand these massive multiplayer games like World of Warcraft, do not think about it as just gameplay, but look at the social life on the edge of the game."

Brown points to the lack of a traditional bonus-based structure within guilds as one of the successes of World of Warcraft. Guild members are incentivized to play purely out of a passion for the game, not by being offered bonuses for playing the game. Players will research various items and abilities individually of their own volition, in what Brown calls a self-organized "ideation structure and an idea refinement structure."

Brown looks to the structure of guild politics as another success, stating: "These guilds are truly meritocracy-based. So even if you were the leader of this particular high-end raid, at the end you do an after action review and the after action review each person is open to total criticism by everybody else."

While in a traditional work structure a manager will invent a system of measuring the employee's abilities, in World of Warcraft this is put in the hands of the players themselves, who can create their own system of measurements to facilitate their own performance in the game. In imagining how the 21st century workspace could be re-designed, Brown believes employees should similarly create their own systems of measuring their own performance.

Regarding World of Warcraft, Brown describes the game as "an amazing learning environment with powerful learning tools that I think we in the education world can learn a hell of a lot about and we in the management world can learn a lot about. But it gets back to this notion of passion, it gets back to this notion of curiosity and it gets back to this notion that this is an interest-driven phenomenon that unleashes exponential learning of a dimension that's almost unimaginable any other way."

Brown's statements closely resemble those of former EA chief creative officer Bing Gordon, who compared running a company to managing a World of Warcraft guild during a SXSW Interactive panel last year.

More from Polygon

The horror of Five Nights at Freddy's

  • Dark Souls 2: Crown of the Old Iron King Overview

  • Spacecom: a fast 4X built for multiplayer

  • Pillars of Eternity builds on role-playing classics

  • Tour the 1 KB hard drive built inside Minecraft

Latest Discussions

Log In Sign Up

Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new Polygon username and password

As part of the new Polygon launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to Polygon going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new Polygon username and password

As part of the new Polygon launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to Polygon going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.



Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.