Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Guild Drama Breeding Grounds

Being in a guild means meeting new people. Usually we think this is a good thing, otherwise we probably wouldn't be in a guild or even play a game like WoW in the first place. But occasionally, meeting people means getting into drama. Not all drama are bad drama. Personally I enjoy a good venting now and then, and since I suffer from the "Must have the last word"-syndrome and "Can't admit I'm wrong"-disease I've have had my fair share of word-fights. As long as they don't interfer with the rest of the guild I think they're rather enjoyable. Usually it is difficult to not have a huge argument affect the guild negatively however, so it's understandable that most people prefer to avoid them.

The point of some guilds however, isn't just to meet new people and socialize, but to gather these people in an (more or less) organized manner to tackle some of the group content in WoW, be it raiding or pvping. And sometimes these two worlds just won't come together in perfect harmony and you have to choose which one is more important - the social aspect or the game aspect. In my previous guild we struggled with this for months, trying to keep a strong social core where everyone knew everyone, whilst also trying to do some serious raiding. It didn't work out very well. Especially not when parts of that social core decided to stop raiding and we had trouble replacing them. But there are other things that can turn out to be problematic too, issues that are common in most raiding guilds. These issues usually put the question in focus, on whether the guild wants to focus on the social or the game aspect, and most guilds will have to make a decision about this sooner or later. Here are some problem "breeding grounds", as I like to call them, that seem to pop up in guilds every now and then. You'll probably recognize most of them and if not - better be prepared. Although I'm talking about guys here, all of these can obviously apply to girls as well.

The guy who lets his friend play
I'm using "letting your friend play" as a metaphore actually. Although I bet there are people who occasionally let someone else play their character in raids without telling anyone, I'm rather talking about people whos performance tend to sway wildly from awful to awesome. One day you go "this guy is a disaster", the next time he just doesn't do a thing wrong. People in officer chat go "o.O" as he owns everyones ass, and the next time he fails on simple stuff again. I haven't encountered many like this, since most people are either good or not so good all the time and not just some of the time. You notice at once if they're cut out to work in your team and for your goals or not. But sometimes you find a guy who might be a great player ordinarily, he just seems to get into bumps in the road every now and then. Sometimes there's a reason - he's had a fight with the missus, lots of work, no sleep, etc. Occasionally there just is no way to explain why the guy performs so differently. Since you really have no way of telling whether he will be up to tackle the fight you're on or not, it makes it difficult to know whether you should choose him over someone else or not. He's a potential blank, he's a potential great asset. The real problem about these guys is probably not that their performance varies (everyone has bad days), but that they can't tell when they're not up to raid. Most people would say "ah no, I'm so tired I could sleep standing" or "I've got this mad cold, I can't even hear my own heart beat because I'm so stuffed" to explain that they're not fit for raiding, but this guy would give it a shot anyway, not realizing he's hurting the entire raid by doing so.

If someone says they're ok, it's difficult to say otherwise. And it's rather troublesome to have to give someone a test-fight every raid to really know whether they seem to be at their a-game or not. The best thing to do is still to have a talk with the guy and explain the problem. That is assuming that there is an underlying issue that explains his performance. Sometimes you will just find a special snowflake who, without apparent reason, performs very differently. In that case there is nothing to do but decide whether he is worth the hassle of replacing everytime he isn't working, or just replace him permanently.

Guy is gone, gets replaced, comes back and wants his spot back
There are several reasons to why someone takes a break from WoW. Sometimes it's voluntarily in which case one could say that they get to suit themselves if they get replaced, but not always. In our guild we've recently been struggling a lot with people who've had various forms of computer issues. Whether it be bad internet or bad computers, they're constantly lagging, disconnecting or just completely unable to even log on. These guys could be great players and great people, but suddenly they are forced to take a break, for what could last several weeks until the issue has been resolved. Most of the time they don't even know how long the break will be for, since the situation and problem is out of their hands. Since the rest of the guild don't want to be put on hold while the guy sorts out his computer problems, they recruit someone who can take his place. Then the guy returns, and wants his spot in the raid back. Problem is, the new guy is a great guy and player too, and no one thinks that just having him for a couple of weeks as a stand in is fair. So who gets to be put on the bench? The old guy or the new guy?

It's tough to bench the old guy since he's been a loyal and great member of the guild, and also can't really be held responsible for having internet or computer problems - he was forced to take the break. You could try to tell the new recruit that he gets to join the guild, as long as he accepts that he'll be reserve as soon as the old guy shows up. But finding a recruit who is willing to just be a stand in for a couple of weeks until the "real guy" comes back is extremely difficult, considering how many guilds out there that are looking for competent people these days and that can offer a lot better conditions than that. You could try to solve the situation by having someone else already within the guild fill the spot, but that still means you have another spot to fill somewhere else, and won't necessarily do much of a difference. You could decide to have the entire guild go on a break while you wait for this guy - I doubt many people will think that is a good solution, unless you know exactly how much time you're dealing with and it aint too long. Maybe the best solution is to take the bull by the horn and pug the last raid spot for the weeks necessary (or fill it with some non-raider friend/guildie). You're really going to have to choose between fixing it now and have a problem later (recruiting a new guy) or patch it up as good as it gets and hope your guy returns fast (pugging, stop raiding). In any case, it's a sucky problem to deal with.

Great guys bad half has to play
So far I've never encountered a great gamer girl who insists that her sucky boyfriend has to get to join the raids, but I have had a couple of good gamer guys insist that their noob girlfriends must get to join the raid. I've known great girls with sucky boyfriends, but generally that never turns into a problem. In any case, let's leave that to another discussion. This issue can manifest itself in other ways too, like having a group of friends where one in the team really sucks while the other ones are good, but they all insist they have to play together or no one will join. I don't really mind people who want to play together. I've never had that requirement when I've played with Love (we're not even in the same guild anylonger), but I do understand it if one half doesn't want to be left out everytime, or how the gaming half could feel bad for not spending time with their partner. It doesn't really matter whether you think the idea is ok or not, it will turn out to be a problem for the guild they end up in - especially if the bad half shows up midway. It's easier to handle if they both show up on your doorstep and say "if you want one of us, you have to take both of us". The guild could just say "no, that doesn't suit us unfortunately" or "yeah, that's totally ok with us". It's a lot worse when a great guy and player in your guild suddenly gets a girlfriend and then decides that she has to be part of the raid (or she decides for him). Then you have to decide whether this guy is good enough to warrant having to carry one tenth (or less troublesome perhaps, one 25th) of the raid, or not. What could be worse, having to fit this new person into the raid might mean having to put someone else out of it. Discussing it with the player usually doesn't work, because to him it's probably not a choice - he wants to play when the girl gets to play. You could try discussing an alternative solution, like having her join some special alt runs, instead of your core runs. Problem is, he might only want to run those alt runs himself then. It all really depends on how important this person is for your regular raids, and how sucky his partner is. If those two together don't netto a total gain to the raid, you must consider replacing this person, even though that's usually a really difficult thing to do. If the gain is neutral, maybe it could be worth it to keep him happy.

Great guy turns bad
I see this with every expansion, and sometimes even within expansions. Someone who used to be a great player, just suddenly doesn't cut it anylonger. Since he's been with the guild forever, he still signs and joins each raid, but everyone knows that their performance could be, and sometimes even has to be, better. These people are often veteran guildies, and so even recognizing that there is a problem could be a difficult first step. These people have been part of the core raiding team since forever, probably even since before you joined. Removing them from the raid is like removing a carrying foundation of a building, or so it seems like anyway. I've mentioned this before, but we've had a couple of these people hanging around in my guild. They're always great people, so that is reason enough not wanting to remove them from the raid. Unfortunately, they've lost the fun in playing, and just sign out of habit. You notice at once, they don't have the patience for mistakes and they don't bring their happy face to the group. At some point you have to realize that the foundation has lost its capabilities to carry the load, and has to be replaced - for the better of everyone involved, including the player. The biggest problem about this is that the person in question almost always has to realize that this is the case himself. Having someone else question the quality of the veteran player in the guild, someone who's surely hasn't been in the guild as long as he, or contributed by even half as much, is a big no no.

Overall I've noticed that guilds are really bad at accepting change. They say they want one thing, but just as long as it doesn't mean changing this and that! I want everything to be like it was in Burning Crusade! They seem surprised at the fact that people usually work nothing like they thought and planned they would. Often they try to mediate the two worlds (social and game) until it just doesn't work anylonger, and in worst case scenario the guild crashes under the strain. I understand that you don't want to replace people you've played with the last couple of years with someone you barely know the name off. But again, one has to make the choice between the social and the game aspect, and whatever you decide for, you have to be prepared to take the necessary steps to achieve (if that really is what you want). Being ready for it and having a plan for how to handle the situation when it arises (because it will) is recommended.


  1. Oh Zinn, I must restrain myself to not turn this comment into an essay, but yeah, I've met them all, sometimes several times, sometimes they bring a wave of drama with them, sometimes the guild seems to be able to contain them - "breeding grounds" is a pretty suitable word.

  2. Exactly!, It's one of the reasons why I had to leave my previous guild especially in this part "Guy is gone, gets replaced, comes back and wants his spot back".

    Anyway, Thanks for a great post Zinn. =)

  3. Great post! I have a specific policy for my "standby" list that helps me with people who need to leave for awhile then come back. All my raiders know that when they come back, they may have to wait on the standby list for a few weeks until their spot opens up again. If that happens, they also know that they're at the very top of that list, and they're the first person I'll ask to fill in if we need it.

    I also have differing policies depending on the cause of the break. If RL happens or someone's computer breaks, I'll usually fill with a guildie or a pugger for a couple weeks before moving them to the standby list. If they just burn out, I'll probably replace them instantly. Either way, the person who filled the absent guildie's spot will usually volunteer to give it up before I even talk to him, so I haven't had a problem yet.

  4. I've seen most of these as well - but fortunately not the "bad partner" one. We've had some people who have brought their signigicant other to the guild, but fortunately only as a social member rather than a raider.

    I would like to add a scenario to the person leaving and then coming back. There are those that leave for a good reason, but there are also ones who just "can't be bothered" anymore. Or they "quit".

    Then they return, and they expect their spot back. I'll be honest though, depending on their actions when they left (if they were standing up the raid a lot before they left etc.) I will possibly not want them back.

    If they were a good player and did their share until they left, yeah I generally have no issue taking them back as long as I have a spot for them. But if they were playing hookie with the raid for an extended period of time before finally leaving - I'm definitely less inclined to take them back. Because who's to say they won't do the same thing again the next time they get bored/want to watch a movie instead?

  5. Really nice post Zinn. I feel that I should chime in as a girl who once, misguidedly, brought her sucky (now ex) bf into the guild. I was a founding officer and ended up wrangling him officer status.

    I put pressure on him to pull his weight by at least doing some recruitment, but he was flaky and fickle, changing mains all the time and doing nothing to deserve the post.

    In the end I demoted to a regular in the guild, and my life ;)


    PS. My word verification for this was 'Trall' So close!

  6. @Ironyca
    They do bring flavor to guilding, whether it be sour or sweet ^^

    Aw, I hope you've found a better guild for yourself now!

    That really sounds like the best way to deal with it. Just make absolutely clear how you will handle a situation and why and you'll eliminate as much drama as possible. I wish my guilds has such foresight ^^

    I've had that happen in my guild actually (come to think of it, in both my guilds), and personally I didn't like how it was handled. I'm imagining that something went on that I don't know off, otherwise it just feels like favoritism tbh...

    I think it is an easy thing to do actually, and usually you probably have a good idea with it. You hope that this person will actually become an asset to the guild (and also it is someone you have better control over, which usually is a good thing), but for other people in the guild it might just look like "oh, he's the bf of the GM, of course he becomes officer".