Late-night Thoughts on Guild Dynamics

Once upon a time, I knew absolutely no one in the World of Warcraft.

So I introduced my brother to it.

He joined up with something like three guilds before I even joined one. He met people. He’s always been the more socially outgoing of the two of us, and it seemed that trend would carry over into WoW.

My brother had joined Fated Heroes while I was in Kindred (which then morphed into Kindred Knights). I got a lot of pressure to join FH and, eventually, I succumbed, on the very day I dinged 50, which was, I believe, early February of 2006.

I have been playing with the people I have met in Fated Heroes pretty much since that day. It’s where I met Tia and Kam, Majik and Toga, Daey and Dar and so many others.

I was thinking about guild dynamics tonight because Daey, who has been an officer in each incarnation of Apotheosis since the start, recently stepped down from officerhood and, due to work and other commitments, he’s been unable to raid regularly (read: pretty much at all) this whole month. I’ve kept in touch with him and we’ll see if this upcoming reset works out for him now that hockey is over for him and go from there.

Dayden, one of our officers in the last incarnation of Apotheosis, and through Firelands in this version as well, has returned to the game after a long period of staring out of his window during all the free time he had. ;) Except he’s unavailable for, oh, three weeks, smack-dab in the middle of his trial.

I’m okay with both of these situations — Dayden because he gave us notice way ahead of time and Daey because I’ve been in contact with him regularly throughout his absence and has given me straightforward information about a timetable for his return.

I then got to thinking about how it might look to others in the guild. “Weird,” they might say, “Daey hasn’t been in a raid in like a month!” Or “oof, that’s right, Dayden’s not around for the next three weeks, man, that’s weird.”

At that point, I started thinking, “you know, if people have a problem with it, although I have no evidence thereof, they can…” and I trailed off in mid-thought. No, they cannot just “kiss my ass,” which was how that thought would have ended. ;) “But why not?” I asked myself. “I’m the GM and while that doesn’t mean I’m a dictator, I should occasionally be able to be dictatorial, right?”

No. It doesn’t mean that. Being the GM means that I, above all others, should hold myself to a certain standard of behaviour and, within raids, skill/familiarity with my job.

“What is the point of being a GM if you can’t do X, Y or Z for your friends?” I found myself asking, even though I don’t feel I’m doing that at present.

The point of being a GM is to help manage things, make things run smoothly for everyone. I have never been a fan of using one’s power (either in-game or in other, RL situations) to manipulate situations for one’s own benefit. Had there been a healing legendary this expansion, I would have been the first to say “nope, I should not get the first”. In my mind, being the GM does not mean my friends (and family, since my brother does still play) should get a free pass. And I don’t believe Dayden and Daey are, and no one’s complained about them and their situations (no, guildies, you should not start now), but it started this really interesting series of thoughts in my head, which I thought I would share.

I play WoW for a few reasons. One of them is to play with my friends. But they were, once upon a time, all strangers to me. Over the years, some have quit playing, others have moved on elsewhere. You cannot count on everyone to be as dedicated as you might be to the group or the guild or the game. There will, inevitably, be turnover and you’ll stop seeing friends log in. Or maybe it’ll be you who stops logging in.

Starting up a guild with the goal of “to play with friends” is noble, to be sure, but the biggest warning I have to anyone about that is you will rarely be able to only play with your friends. Billy has class on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so he’ll miss Tuesday’s raid. Clyde will step in for him Tuesdays, but he can’t make Sundays. But Sophie is there on Sundays, but can’t make Tuesday or Thursday. So you go recruiting and you hope to receive applications from qualified, skilled, like-minded individuals.

But here’s a secret — no one you recruit will ever be exactly the same as your current group of friends. And hell, even in that group of friends, there are dissenting opinions and there will, inevitably, be some form of drama somewhere that may, or may not, be dealt with in a respectful way.

As soon as that one “outsider” joins the guild, all of a sudden, it’s not just a group of friends anymore. Now you’ve become a team that integrates people who have the same goals and availability and, hopefully, skill/talent/ability. That team integration is one of the biggest hurdles any guild faces and it’s also the reason that policies and rules and regulations need to come into play in a guild. It may be possible to not have any rules when it really is just a group of friends, but as soon as that “outsider” joins, they have a lot of catching up to do in terms of how the guild works.

Apotheosis didn’t always have rules and policies, but we added them as we came across various situations back in Burning Crusade, and those rules and policies have served us very well over the years. We still maintain them and we still add in clauses and such as we encounter them in new situations.

So even when you’re forming up and you’re all “hey, yeah, I get to just play with my friends!” be aware that the dynamic will inevitably change and new people pulled in may not have the same background and ideas as you. It’s not a bad thing, but it means things that you’ve taken for granted need to be codified (you know, written down) for the new people to learn and accept them.

In looking at the Heroic Blackhorn kill shot, I see familiar names, but I only see two that have raided together since 2006; Madrana and Majikmarine.

I see Chronis (Division) and Kaleri and Merkavah and Nowell, all of whom I raided with at various points in Wrath of the Lich King. I see a bunch of people I’ve been raiding with for about a year and I see a few newer names.

Much as I like these people (and I really am quite fond of my guildies overall), they were not the people for whom I restarted this guild. I have a responsibility to these people, the “new” people, although I really don’t think of them that way any longer. That responsibility is to uphold the guild’s standards, maintain order and lead us through the various encounters in current raid content.

Sometimes, it astounds me to see how far Apotheosis has gotten from the original incarnation, when we were just a bunch of people who wanted to play together and eventually down Illidan. It’s grown into such a diverse community of people — raiders and non-raiders, left-wingers and right-wingers, members of the GLBT community and heterosexual people, people of different nationalities, religions and ethnic backgrounds.

So I don’t mind that our little guild has grown from a group of in-game “friends” to a great community and I don’t mind that it means I need to ensure things are fair for everyone. I do, however, have to chuckle at how naive I was, back on June 1st of 2007. I really did think we could have this perfect little haven where rules and policies and such weren’t necessary and everyone just innately understood how we did everything. In that little idealized society, it wouldn’t be a big deal that Daey’s been unable to raid or that Dayden will be missing time. It’s not a big deal in Apotheosis at the moment either, mind you, but I’m forever anticipating such issues and thinking about how such things will be interpreted.

Sometimes I miss being that innocent about things like guild and group dynamics, but my sociology education and being a GM are the two things that have really caused me to be hyper-aware of how others might interpret things and how I should work to pre-empt those misinterpretations.

5 comments

  1. Megacode says:

    Its good to be proactive than reactive all the time. Planning ahead definitely helps prevent future headaches. Good writeup :)
    So does this mean your sticking around in MoP :)

  2. Kurn says:

    Megacode – Planning ahead is so valuable, I can’t even express it. :) And while the jury’s still out on MoP, planning ahead now means that if I decide to quit, at least the guild will still have a stable base/core group of people because I won’t leave them hanging. Best for me to be prepared for my continued involvement and make sure the guild is stable before anything else.

  3. Gorbag says:

    When I was in high school, my dad and a few of his friends started a paddling club. They started out drafting a charter, creating a newsletter, and scheduling meetings using Robert’s rules of order, with minutes being kept and the whole 9 yards. I remember asking him why they were doing all this tedious crap for a club that was essentially 5 people who liked to paddle, and I remember his answer clearly: “My goal is to create a self-sustaining organization independent of my, or anyone else’s, drive to keep it alive. We are creating the structure that will support this organization when it is a group of 50, or 500. If we do this right, the organization will outlive all of us.” There are now thousands of members in multiple states. My dad still gets the newsletter, but aside from paying his dues the thing runs itself. Create the structure, tap the right people, and you’ll be amazed at what you can build.

  4. Cassandri says:

    I think you’re being a little tough on yourself. As one of those players who has been with the guild for 6 years… You know when these long term members drop out of game for 3-4 weeks that they’ll be back. That theyre not flaking out at the end of a patch cycle only to return when theres new and interesting content – and oh yeah they want all the new gear k thx.

    What’s 3-4 weeks in the scope of 6 years? I think you have some perspective as GM that many of your current members just won’t have. Nothing wrong about that – as long as you explain yourself and everyone is honest and upfront.

  5. Hestiah says:

    I think about it often, because I have some pretty fond memories of the previous incarnation of Apotheosis, even though I was always only a friend-rank. I mean, I was also only really around towards the tail end of BC too, so I never forged those friendships with anyone before everyone parted ways for WotLK. It was you. And Daey. And that was it.

    I think about all of the reasons for coming into Apotheosis and raiding with you before Cata dropped. I think about all of the reasons I had for not raiding. And whatever those reasons were/are, I still am very fond of Apotheosis.

    It will always have a place in my heart… WoW communities be damned. My main may not always be there, but my heart always will. I can’t imagine how you do it, separate those old feelings with the new ones. The old friends from the old. The different, fairly extreme, changes in how the guild is. But I am proud of that motley bunch turning into such a workhorse.

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