The Path of Calm

It has been a strange few months, full of changes that gave me real pause to consider gaming in a new light. This post is a progressive train of thoughts written to help me express the recent events, and process them. Some folks wanted to walk the path of the Titans, I want to walk the Path of Calm.

Foremost on my mind recently was the harsh and troublesome conversations we had to have with guild members. I’m not going to blather out the name or details as I think there is nothing new in the story that has not been smashed out hundreds of times on hundreds of message boards, but it was the first time that I felt very significantly affected by the selfishness displayed by some of the folks involved. It has further changed my opinion and attitude toward gamers and how to manage games.

In a few short weeks we (the guild officers) had several players constantly whinging about loot, indirectly attacking other players well beyond the typical “they suck” type comments, and pushing the guild to cut players that were not perfect – to the point where even some of the openly nice and calm folks started to get frayed emotions. And not just one major issue, but a few people mixing opinions and thoughts, till it started to really affect the thinking of the leadership outside the game.

The first series of events appeared when one “side” of the player-team-issue was asking the officers to make an us-or-them call, and the other side was equally frustrated for different reasons, but not aware of the scale of the drama. In the middle are the other raiders wondering why the pulls are taking 15 minutes, and the officers trying to play for enjoyment – it was nothing new except the scale of the feedback, which was intense.

We went digging through the responses and the feeling of those involved, as you can imagine it was messy. We chatted amongst ourselves, mainly to make sure we were still sane and helping each other. We talked to the folks involved; sometimes handled it badly, sometimes handled it well, and sometimes nothing else but a face-to-face was going to fix anything. In the end the people with the issues were yelling the loudest or not listening at all, and unsurprisingly when they started acting normally again most of the trouble disappeared. In affect I think the anonymous nature of the Internet helped these people fluster themselves into a position where they could only be dramatic. They could not back down without looking silly, so had to get harsher rather than quieter.

What particularly got under my skin during the events was the attitude of constantly whinging and not offering any suggestion or actions that would not totally demoralise and alienate the others involved. Sometimes the personalities of the officers made things slightly worse too, but it is totally unreasonable to expect an officer to remain inhumanly neutral while they are dealing with frustrating events. An officer is just a person who is willing to get involved. They are held to a higher standard, and sometimes attacked with that standard when they can’t be perfect. I’ve read many places that it is a thankless job, and I can’t agree more.

I’m glad its over, and glad that we didn’t have to gkick everyone involved. I’m pleased that the officers kept it together and helped each other. The core of the guild is the players that don’t have ego, and I really would like to talk to these people more and more. In general I’ll look to support the folks who are fun and zero drama over a dramatic high performance raider, or a paranoid idealist every day of the week.

A second funny (as in groan-funny, not ha-ha-funny) event was an old mate taking issue with conversations of him recruiting from our guild totally out of context, adding some paranoia, and then flipping out. In this story (which was running concurrently with the above) the mate was thinking about starting up an old retired guild. Like you’d expect he was feeling out old members and testing their interest. A few of those members mentioned it to the officers, and I took it upon myself to chat to the mate, as we generally get along well.

Like you’d also expect the leadership of our guild wanted to make sure that we didn’t get too badly nurfed by the old guild if it was to be reborn. Our fear was that there was a possibility that too many players would be poached, which would weaken our ranks, but really I didn’t need to worry. Mostly the players he was chatting to were not in our core raid group, but are people that I really respect and like. Low drama great people who have really positive attitudes. Of course I didn’t want them to leave, but I also didn’t want them to feel pressure either way. To my knowledge none have left yet, and it’s been a few weeks since this blew-up and then blew away.

The drama was mostly invisible to everyone, except a few of us who were directly talking; and for us it was confusing, illogical, and strange on both sides. For myself in hindsight I felt like I should have just ignored it totally. Not even given the thought the time of day, and let the players decide on their own. Next time I’ll try to remember to say something like, “sure, you should consider it, but we’d hate to lose you and understand totally.” And to the mate who wanted to start-up the old guild I should have just said almost the same.

Players will be players, and all the rules and policy in the world actually have no enforceable control on what another player decides to do. They can do as they wish, all the officers and other players can do is control how they react and what they do in response. My plan overall was for the re-born guild to partner with us for the runs, where we might assist each other. An alliance of players, where we didn’t need to worry about poaching, as all the players and characters could swap in some method that helps both. Naive really, but I’m glad it’s over.

And now the part where I scream a bit:

  • I hate these type of situations, and find it difficult not to just gkick people involved.
  • I hate the fact that some people consider themselves inherently superior to others. Especially when none of us are perfect.
  • I hate that some of our darn good people are so drained by the human management needs of this task, that they’d rather not login. They are in affect paying for an entertainment service that they love, but cannot use due to the drama issues. Its crazy.
  • I hate the paranoid type of people, who can’t see beyond their ego to actually receive feedback to improve, and who miss opportunities.
  • I hate fact that I hate; it’s not why I play. It is not why I do anything in life.

As a counter-point to the rant above – there are those conversations you have that are helpful. Players stepping up and taking responsibility, or just showing some faith and support are wonderful. Players who are always selflessly giving their own time, without any real reward beyond just helping. Players that like to do silly things that make you laugh out loud. And players who are always up for something.

We have them in our guild, and I wish I could clone them. Give me a crew of 100 people like that, and we’d have the best darn guild on any server. I hope they know that they are appreciated too, and I’m trying to think of a way of saying thanks that will resonate permanently; in a way that will always be remembered (email me, suggestions are welcome).

And lastly the small event that I want to share is the somewhat ironic event that I was once an officer, and now have been made the GM for the Insidious guild. I consider this to be a temporary arrangement, where I am just keeping the seat warm for one of the other officers or old GMs to step into. I don’t care if this lasts a very long time, but it is important to me for the guild to keep the same feel of ownership; for people to understand it is a role to be performed, not a mantle to effect an agenda.

I’m spending my online time speaking to members about loot, or discussing their raid spot, or what we should do with great people who can’t play as often. Sometimes I’m trying to get folks to be less silly or passionate. About not being temporary idiots when they deal with real idiots, and how we can keep the guild rolling without making it a full time job or having a magic wand. Internal discussions take a lot of time.

There are also small questions (like what to do with guild gold now that everyone contributes a little) which are important questions, but something that we can easily overlook in the face of drama. Something on my mind is how to run things without it feeling like an unpaid job, and how to keep myself positive.

More to learn I guess. If you got this far, thank for listening.

Happy Killing.

Being a guild officer

Over the years I’ve been an officer in a few guilds along the wow ride, and for better or worse it seems to keep happening. Probably it happens for the better in terms of slightly nudging the attitude of the fellow officers and guildies, and maybe for the worse in terms of my attention time and stress levels.

If you ever want to speak to a bunch of wow players who are sick of whinging and loot drama, just buy an officer a cold-brew; you’ll hear plenty. And god help you if you’re one of the loot-mongers and the officer has already had three drinks.

So in the spirit of sharing for everyone’s benefit, and also keeping myself sane, here is a few things about being an officer.

A good officer will:

  • Be outwardly calm
  • Seldom (if ever) speak openly against policy. May raise concerns internally amongst other officers and leadership.
  • Operate within the boundaries of their perview. ie. Stick to the areas where others know they’re working.
  • Always consider the style of the organisation, especially where it is dissimilar to what they are used to.
  • Help reenforce and also continue to influence/enhance the style of the organisation. This means not trying to engineer change overnight, but maybe chance a policy for the better over a season.
  • Officers will seek to learn from and communicate with each other.
  • Officers will depend on each other, trust others, and delegate.
  • Officers will follow the rules far more than every other member, including the leader.
  • Step aside if they cannot follow the rules in the spirit they are intended.

Officers need:

  • Boundaries of authority and action.
  • Known points of escalation
  • Power to move and act independandly of the leader
  • A frequent point of communication with the leadership
  • Can do things for the leadership which even the leadership cannot.
    • Eg, can hold to the principals when the leaders might be compromised by a friendship or personal involvement.

An officer will not:

  • Call out a non-raid issue for discussion during a raid without a bloody good reason.
  • Be a loot whore, greedy, or generally favour themselves over others.
  • Disregard the spirit of a rule to enforce it strictly and without compassion.

Ok, that all said – why am I raising this?

Because I see many folks who are officers & leaders in name only. The kind of idiots who lead by reverse-example. Or just such poor selfish mongrels that they should be prohibited from controlling anything, but instead they get promoted for being the loudest.

So what also needs to be added to the list above, is that the leadership (be it one person or many) need to select officers carefully, and never just because the person is a mate, or a good raider, or loud. You’re just setting yourself up for a drama ride of your own creation.

Thankfully this is few and far between, and all I have to do is follow my own advice.

Happy killing.