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Friday, 10 February 2012

What is Skill?

What is skill? The obvious definition of this is the degree to which you accomplish a goal compared to others or to how you perceive the intended result. There are for example a skilled way to eat a sandwich and well a non-skilled way to eat one usually resulting in a messy situation. For the purpose of this post I will attempt to break skill down into its components to allow us to understand it better.

I will be starting with the primary components of skill. These primary components are
the perception of a goal,knowledge, execution and adjustments. First when discussing someone’s skill at a task we must first perceive what they are trying to accomplish. In my first example the goal to which is being described is eating a sandwich without making a mess. To understand the skill of someone you first have to maintain that you are talking about the same/very similar goals. The second component is knowledge to how to accomplish that goal. We can surely say someone is a more skilled sandwich eater who knows to hold the sandwich breads parallel with the ground to prevent the insides of said sandwich from falling out(as opposed to holding it vertically). It is important however to remember that knowledge can be lost to your memory and that retention of knowledge is just as important as ever knowing it. The third component is the execution of said goal.  We now understand we are trying to pick up a sandwich without causing a mess and plan to pick it up parallel to the ground before moving it towards our mouth. It is at this point we enter into the details of actually getting it into our mouth. How we describe execution is with strength/speed and accuracy/balance. Execution however has physical limitations on what we are capable at the time of attempting our goal. Knowledge is how we overcome these limitations to a degree. The person who at this point jabs their hand into the sandwich when they try to pick it up is clearly an example of low execution skill(and possibly ALS). As is also the guy who squishes the sandwich as he picks it up.

At this point we are now at probably the most important point in any of the components of skill. This is adjustments. This component however is different then the others. While they refer to your actual skill of accomplishing your goal, being able to adjust is dealing with your potential to increase your skill. It is the process by which we gain our knowledge and is done retroactively or is a precursor to the attempt of accomplishing the goal. If for example two people eat a sandwich without making a mess 95% of the time we can see that if one of these people is more open to realizing that he could use a napkin then the other person it is more likely that he will become more skilled at not making a mess while eating a sandwich. 

When we extend this to MMOs we can see where other peoples shortcomings often are. Many people who raid know what to do just aren't able to do it. It also works both ways. Plenty of people are able to Raid just don't know how to do it. There are also people who never seem to learn to play better. This can either be an adjustments problem or a knowledge problem. The easiest way to tell is simply to tell them how to do it. The guy who has an adjustment skill problem will do better when you tell him what to do. The guy with a knowledge skill problem is hopelessly lost. The guy with an execution problem needs time to work their adjustments. As for the guy with a weird perception of their goal. You should avoid them at all costs.


  1. The way I've always defined things to friends when explaining any goal-oriented activity is that there are 3 concepts:
    - Time based goals. Can you do jumping jacks for 5min straight?
    - Event based goals. Can you do 100 jumping jacks?
    - Skill based goals: where an event must take place within a given slot of time. Can you do 100 jumping jacks inside of 5min?

    Clearly, this is a simplification of the concept, and as you've detailed in the OP, there's a lot more that going into it.
    Good post!

  2. Yes the idea of the post is mostly to explain where people fail at a given task. Simply saying someone just isn't good enough or they can't react fast enough or are to stupid often doesn't highlight where the result came from. Did they not react fast enough because they didn't know to expect what was coming or are they at the threshold of their speed.

  3. nice posting.. thanks for sharing.