An online gaming community is a fascinating construct to examine. Hundreds to sometimes millions of people are deposited into an online forum in which they can interact with hundreds of other plays from anywhere in the world, but under the convenient shroud of anonymity. The name you make for yourself is the name of your character, and it is by that nickname that you hold fame or infamy.
What’s even more interesting to me is the establishment of player run organizations, created for and by the players. These organizations hold the unique attribute of being completely pliable, flexible and diverse. The constraints are placed by those that are members of the organization and can mimic any real life political structure, real or philosophized, that fit the needs of the organization. Games like World of Warcraft don’t allow quite as much autonomy in this respect as some other games, but the medium is still there to construct a guild that has a specific purpose and is governed by a set of rules and standards.
I enjoy analyzing these player created institutions and watching how they progress, experiencing whatever influences they encounter, from within in the organization as well as from the outside. Take the jump for a look at raiding guilds and other games that are classified as “social simulations.”
Raiding guilds are perhaps one of the most restricted and structured player created organizations in the World of Warcraft, and are successful when they are because of a solid goal in mind. This is not to say that organizations such as a roleplaying guild or a PvP guild may not be successful or that they don’t have goals, but a raiding guilds goals are generally in the public eye, and they gain notoriety by achieving those goals.
By default, a rigorous process must be introduced to ascertain the suitability of an individual to a raiding guild. Compatibility checks include social compatibility, how someone interacts with the rest of the guild and meshes with the other members, work ethic compatibility, which gauges the applicants ability to effectively perform in the atmosphere and situations that occur in the guilds frequent activities and interactions, and the intelligence compatibility check. The intelligence compatibility will measure an individual’s ability to communicate effectively and clearly, to be intelligent about representation of the guild, interactions with other players on the server, and determine the applicants ability to adapt to situations, be flexible, and not be an asshat in general.
As with every organization, internal politics happen. Unfortunately, most of these political issues tend to bring the guild down, though sometimes it can strengthen the members. Allow me to provide an example from a game I used to play. There was once a fascinating web-based game called GoKrida that I participated in. The game as a whole is classified as a “social simulation” and was completely player controlled aside from some moderation issues, a few policies to keep the game fair and the code. Players were free to create their own planets, at a cost, and create any organization they wanted. When I started playing, I came into the world where most other players did (there was a series of gates that you spawned from based on your elemental type) and there was an organization that made sure new players weren’t harassed by older players, and helped them get a handle on the game. I joined this group as soon as I will skillful enough and helped them patrol the gates and keep interlopers and those that meant trouble, away. I was simultaneously a member of other governments on different planets (mostly because I had a metagame advantage of knowing a lot of players personally, and living in the same town as the coder and owner of the game) but this gate patrol was the organization that I was most involved in. After awhile, I obtained such a rank that I could contest the leader of the organization for command.
Tactics for this action aside, I chose to cut off the leader’s ability to do anything by going behind his back to the other members of the organization. This was a political decision that helped stop anything he might do that would lock contenders out. He was fairly corrupt and not well liked by any but his right hand man. I had a good portion of the organization on my side, and we cut off the official forums and used my own over night. He called me out on this being a “coup” and started slandering me. I’ll admit that my actions were exactly politically honorable or fair, but circumstance dictated it the easiest way to effect a needed change.
I got pounced on and some of my followers took his side. I withdrew from the organization, willing to let them cave in on themselves if that’s where they wanted to go, and made so auxiliary connections. This opened up options for me to do other amazing and really fun things in the game. The political turmoil here though is a good example of what can happen in a raiding guild (or really any guild for that matter). When the guild members feel like a change is needed, but the rules and regulations of the guild are so strict or happen to be limiting in this fashion, then the health of the guild plummets. People aren’t happy to be there any more and perhaps only stay because it provides them with the number of weekly raids that they want.
Now some people may be content to simmer in an unfavorable situation because of some of the perks they get anyway. This can reflect poorly on the guild and the leadership. What sort of leader wants to brag about a guild that is full of people who aren’t happy in their situation and have no power to fix it besides leaving? And don’t fool yourself into thinking that they’ll keep quiet. Everyone finds a way to vent frustration. The easiest method is to talk to your friends on the server, or people you’re running a dungeon with. This causes a bad rap and with the introduction of the LFD tool, this can blow much further than just your server.
So how do I maintain a quality guild with solid principles, but with happy raiders too?
The answer, in my opinion, is to have a mindset that matches the guilds ideology and goals. Don’t over extend your power and leadership to a section of your personality that you’re not comfortable living in all day, every day, every week. Leading a guild is a commitment, and you must have a strong passion for what you’re doing, otherwise you’ll burn out just like anyone else. The responsibilities are huge, but you can’t let that infringe on your judgment calls when it comes to guild policies and how to adjudicate issues and problems.
Your rules and policies can’t be so intense that they scare prospective new raiders away, but not so lax that you won’t be able to attract the old school, highly experienced raiders. It’s a fine line that you have to walk carefully depending on what you want. The best experience I’ve had is a good mix of older, experienced raiders, my raiders that I’ve been with for a couple of years and who form my leadership, and new raiders. The new raiders that I’m talking about are the ones fresh into the hardcore raiding scene, trying to make a name for themselves and prove that they are reliable, knowledgable and skillful. You have to be lenient with new raiders because sometimes they aren’t sure what they’re getting themselves into. Be calm, gentle and friendly, but don’t slide past the bounds of degrading your status as the leader of your guild. The guild leader has to be firm and fair. If you are making personal judgments and biases you’re doing it wrong. This will hurt your guild and your image.
I have a policy for new raiders that stipulates a trial period. The visible portion of this trial is when they actually hold the trial rank in the guild. This period of time, usually 3-4 weeks depending on how often we’re raiding at the time, is the public trial phase where my other guild members get to socialize with them as newbies and trial members. We help them to an extent (but never baby them, otherwise you’re ruining the whole point of the trial period) and make sure they’re feeling comfortable. After this period of time is up they get moved to the member level rank that the rest of my raiders usually share, however they’re in the second part of their trial at this time. It’s only monitored by myself and a few of my officers, but we watch to see if they’re actually cut out for the hardcore raiding scene and if they can survive on their own. The leadership provides the atmosphere and a little guidance, but each individual raider is responsible for their skills, abilities and results. If a person can’t manage to stay healthy and positive in this environment, and can’t follow through with their responsibilities while at the level of a full member, then they generally don’t get a place in the guild.
This is the sort of handling that is required to maintain an influx of new and interested members to build the strongest raiding core you can. You can’t skimp on rules, but you can’t be so aggressive with them that you frighten away any prospective members.
…So what do I do if I’m already in a bad situation and want to fix it?
There are a number of options on how to mend a guild that is falling apart, however success depends largely on how focused you and your officers are on fixing the problem. If thoughts are straying and interests are elsewhere, don’t expect to be able to save your ailing guild.
The first and most promising, but admittedly most difficult, option is to mend whatever issue is tearing the guild apart. Each situation has to be approached differently, but any way you slice it, it needs to be solved. Call a meeting of your officers if you haven’t already to discuss what’s going on, where the tear is and how to fix it. It would take another full post to explain possible fixes for each situation, so I won’t go in depth here. Develop a game plan. Figure out some options on how to fix the problem and then execute the plan. It’s always a good thing to consult your guild members too. They are, after all, the ones that you’re trying to retain, so knowing their opinion is a very valuable use of time. Some good ways of doing this are a guild meeting, a thread on your guild forums, or a notification in the guild note requesting that all members send a quick letter to the GM or officers detailing what they’d like to see changed in the guild. The best of these options is a meeting so that discussions can unfold and issues securely addressed. Ventrilo or other modes of voice communication are the most accessible to most members, even if they don’t have a mic. Include the micless by facilitating a chat room as well or perhaps using guild chat. When you have member input as well as a brainstormed outline from your leadership, it’s much easier to address the problem and make the changes necessary to affect a change in atmosphere and mentality on the part of the members.
Another, not as promising but slightly easier option is to remove the problem by removing the source. Depending on the issue at hand, this may be as simple as asking the member of the guild that is causing the problem to leave. In more extreme cases, it might mean dealing with an officer that everyone disrespects, or something similar that makes the guild more vulnerable as a whole. Be careful though because in some situations removing this member may also indirectly remove a large portion of the guild if they support them on whatever issue you’re dealing with. If this is the case, consider that maybe something you are doing specifically is the problem and reassess your actions. You don’t always have to be right, and sometimes you can garner more respect from your guild members and officers if you admit a mistake. This leads us to the next option:
This is probably the least favorable of the options aside from kicking all your raiders and starting over, but sometimes it’s your actions that are causing most of the problems. If this is the case, strongly consider stepping down from the position and assess whether this will help or hurt the guild more. This is a hard decision to make, so enlist your officers and a few trusted guild members to help you ascertain that it is the right choice. This solution only fits a small portion of the issues that a guild may encounter, so be careful when choosing this option. If the guild is experiencing problems that are damaging to the raiding mentality and to some people’s reputation and you decide to step down, you’re removing the leadership that is supposed to be supporting the guild. When in disarray like this it’s hard to elect a new leader without bias. Stick with it for as long as you can. If you don’t you could end up the target of insults and you might find that the friends who previously respected you may not anymore.
Keeping the guild strong
Whether you’ve just solved issues or are starting new, it’s important to encourage the guild to stick together and grow as a team. This may seem like a cheesy refrain from a summer camp, but it really is a good idea because it works. Options here include guild activities outside of raids, and sometimes outside of the game, contests and recognition of achievement. You can also improve communication between your guild members by creating or upgrading a website from just a front page to a forum with interesting sections, and an intriguing webpage that shows off what the guild has done and what the members have accomplished. If there’s anything that the hardcore raider likes, aside from downing difficult content, is being recognized for downing it. Create a hall of fame on the website with a picture of the player’s character and a brief description of the achievement they’ve accomplished. Most guild websites already post a news item with a picture every time one of the raid groups downs a difficult boss, but this is personal and encourages people to strive for recognition.
World of Warcraft is a unique platform through which social interaction can occur. In the context of the raiding guild, you can emulate real life governments, you can make your own mistakes, and find compelling solutions to mend what you’ve done, and you can learn. It’s important to keep everyone feeling included, as with any social activity, and involved. Idle players are bored players, for the most part. With so many different facets of the game to explore, and a near limitless amount of time to explore and experience it, there should be no lack of challenges to conquer, quests to complete, roleplay to enact or dragons and old Gods to kill. Sharp blades and favorable luck, friends.