Some truths about raid guilds

I love raid guilds. The truth is, had I not plunged into the world of raiding and guild administration so early on in World of Warcraft, I would have never played the game for as long as I did. Social mechanisms intrigue me, their dynamics and politics. Raid guilds are in so many ways perfect reproductions of a “mini-verse”, a complete representation of a society on small scale. I don’t know much of guild structures outside WoW because I’ve never played another MMO to the same extremes and length, but I don’t think the differences can be significant. Guilds are all about how people work: groups of people trying to get along to reach a common goal. Plus a smaller group inside that bigger group, trying to establish some structure and direction. Like small states or companies, they have become very professionalized in their approach, with their recruitment strategies, raid agendas and dedicated departments, from “personnel” to “marketing”…. running a raid guild and playing in one can almost resemble a second job. It shouldn’t feel that way, mind, but in terms of organization there a stark resemblances – after all, why change what works?

There are plenty of raiding blogs and websites out there, run by experienced players and guild leaders, all full of great advice, “do’s and don’ts”, class-/setup-/raiding strategies and whatnot. But they hardly speak of that other side of raid guilds: the intriguing social mechanics that happen behind closed curtains, the sober and cold side of leadership, the calculation and logistics, the unhappy choices and secret dramas that occur. Or in short: the reality of running a raid guild with all the good, bad and ugly. Not the successful stories with shiny heroes and self-sacrificing martyrs, but the less brilliant but necessary work that is being done to keep an enterprise running. And the attitude that goes with it.

Matticus is one of few GMs that come to mind who is a long-time blogger and has, over the course of the years, let his audience take part in less shiny bits and pieces that come with leading a successful raid guild. The reality of guild politics, the need for strict rules, disciplinary action and that constant struggle for balance while trying to be competitive, are things that frequently shine through his articles and guides without much pampering and without silly drama. Beruthiel is another blogger who ponders the less convenient sides of leadership every now and then. In general however, guild leaders and officer teams rarely spell out for you what they put so bluntly in their private meetings – for obvious reasons.

From where I am standing now, I can speak freely without many restrictions; I actually believe that I have done so in the past when I was still a raider, guild founder and healing leader for the raid guilds I have been in. There’s a time for diplomacy and there is a time for blunt truths in guild leading and I’d like to think that I have often been the bearer of inconvenient truths. But some things are easier to spot at a distance now; and some insights grow over time. You become calmer about what might have infuriated and blinded you in the past; less passionate maybe, but more composed. Less afraid to call a spade a spade, too.

I miss that in many articles I am still reading on WoW by raiders and raid leaders – the courage to blunt truths. WoW is such a fantasy world where everyone likes to present himself a little more epic and heroic than he truly is and that’s fine, for that’s what escapism is there for. We have that “idea” of ourselves in MMOs. But I recall many situations where some sober truths on raiding would have gone a long way – maybe even prevented certain struggles I watched unfold before me in the guilds I haven been part of or have seen come and go. Or maybe these are simply the truths that I personally would have wished for a lot sooner. The dispassionate facts that are good to hear for anybody, raider and leader alike so they don’t go down that unhappy road many have gone before them. No matter what raid guild you are in and what position you hold, sooner or later you will face the same situations and crossroads and a lot will depend on your grasp of reality.

Guild leaders all know how it feels to struggle filling raids, to work with lacking setups, to try and recruit along with fifty other guilds. How it feels to update guidelines and sad looking rosters late at night, to write that third and last PM to an unreliable member, to tell a weak raider he needs to improve or go. And raiders (that includes guild leaders) all know the situation to feel better or worse than their team mates, to be frustrated about officer choices and canceled raids, or to look back on a horrible raid week, wondering why they even bother playing the game. We all experience the human feelings, failings and mechanisms that occur when personal dreams and illusions clash with the reality of our guilds. Then, we will whine a little or analyze ourselves vs. “the others”, all the things we do, the things we’d like to have and the things we don’t get despite being our due.

Three truths for raid-/ guildleaders / officers / first ranks

The truth is: you are doing this for yourself. You should be. There will be times when you’re doing all the extra work for yourself more and there will be times when you’re doing a lot of extra shit for others. There will be times when you enjoy it more and times when you don’t. But you choose to do that extra every day when you’re logging on, nobody is making that choice but you. And it’s your responsibility to keep a balance between the two and not burn yourself out. If you do, you have only yourself to blame. Don’t go talking about “I did all of this for you people for little in return”. If you feel like that indeed, you went wrong somewhere and maybe should take a step back or three.

The truth is: you should not expect much appreciation or thank-yous from others. Firstly, they will never know and cannot possibly know how many extra hours of discussing, writing or just thinking things over in bed at night you have done over the guild. So don’t expect them to know. Secondly, you have chosen this path yourself for any combination of reasons, enjoyment, necessity and maybe being a bit of a control-freak too – so, don’t ask the world for a big thanks. Yes, you are doing a lot for your guild, yes you probably keep it running for the moment, maybe even keep it from breaking apart – and from time to time that deserves note and a pat on the shoulder. But you should never forget that you’re investing that much time because you have that much time to invest, whatever the reasons for that may be. A year from now, your life might have changed so considerably that you too will not be able or willing to do it anymore.

The truth is: you Sir or Madam are replaceable. The world won’t end if you quit. Your end and the guild’s end are not one and the same. And if they are indeed, you went wrong somewhere or things are just altogether over. Nobody should shoulder so much that he feels irreplaceable, nobody should have to. And in 9 out of 10 cases you are not. You might think you are because the thought flatters you, but you are not. And maybe it is “your” guild as you did start it all, but it can go on without you, if you actually did a good job in sharing, delegating and building a functional team of officers. You might be surprised at how well your guild picks up without you: how unexpected new people will fill the gap you have left, because your presence does not take up all that space any more. Yes, maybe your guild won’t be the same guild after you, most likely it won’t – but it will go down a new path and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Maybe it’s even something you can watch with pride.

Three truths for raiders (=everyone)

The truth is: raid guilds are a contract. Raid guilds are a deal. And if you are or become a constant burden and liability to your team mates at some point, for whatever reason from attendance to performance, you should have the grace to quit. If you join a raid guild, you sign a contract: the guild offers you something, you offer something in return. You are bound to fulfill this. And while you might be a great guy or fun gal and have a wonderful personality, what your guild is looking for first and foremost are raiders to reinforce their team. They want to kill bosses, they want to progress, they want to loot. They will want these things today and tomorrow. And it’s cool if you can help with all that and be a character too; but if a character is all you are, you are putting your mates and officers in a constant dilemma they shouldn’t have to be in. They should not have to choose between you the nice guy and you the raider they must carry. And no, it doesn’t matter if you have good reasons to suck or not, you probably do but that’s beside the point. Save your guild from unhappy compromise and choices by doing the right thing yourself. Leave, for god’s sake, find a more suitable guild – there are so many out there. Also, there is no shame in quitting. Alternatively, go inactive/veteran or whatever boon your guild might grant you as a way out.

The truth is: if you have never formed and/or lead a raid guild yourself, you will never know how much extra time and work your guild leaders put into the game, what pressure they shoulder at times and what secret dramas and screwups they deal with that you will never hear about. Maybe you have some past experiences at leading a raid or heroics, maybe you’ve even been an officer in some casual guild – still, this applies to you: you will never know how much extra time and work your guild leaders put into leading a successful raid guild long-term. And for that you don’t owe them eternal gratefulness, but it wouldn’t hurt at all to remember this every now and then, when you go to sleep at night looking forward to the next raidweek with all the blissful ignorance that one enjoys who is not in charge. It wouldn’t hurt to take some note and have some respect and trust in those that keep organizing things. This is what you really do owe them if nothing else.

The truth is: you are a big fish in a small pond. Yes, really. You’re not the greatest player in this world, of your class, on your server – chances are, you’re not even the best player in your guild. And if you are or feel you are, there are many explanations of why that may be – be it that your competition is rather busy, pitiful or your head simply too big to perceive your own flaws. No matter in what guild you play and on which server, 99% of the time your “guild fame”, your class pride or personal e-peen has the significance of a dust speck. Feel free to check the world’s guild ladders sometime. Yet, should you still feel your greatness is shamefully wasted on your peers, the best advice I have for you is to leave. Don’t make your guild miserable for not meeting your expectations, go and test yourself against other waters and see if the grass is truly so much greener on the other side of the fence. You might get surprised. Either way, it’s not just better for you but a whole deal better for your current guild too, if you hit the road. While progress drive is a fine thing, nobody needs jerks around that have clearly missed their bus stop.

Addendum

These “truths” are very simply based on personal experiences I’ve made through the years in WoW, difficult people or situations I have had to deal with as a raider and guild leader. They’re my insights, based on mistakes I have made myself or seen others make – traps we can easily fall into or see others step into without the ability to prevent it, that worst of feelings. They might be humbling points too, smashing an illusion or two; and while nobody enjoys such feelings (much), I think this applies to any given (competitive) raid guild and is good to realize for yourself and at times necessary to point out to others. May be it offers a more sober and realistic perspective on some things, one that will help you not to lose the ground beneath your feet. Maybe it can even be liberating.

At the very least, it can put your momentary struggles into perspective. You see, you are not alone. I realize that these are not the sort of rosy red and comfy truths people like to talk about in public, the ones that make you feel fuzzy about yourself or raiding; but they’re the sort of points I often wished people had considered before they joined our own guild (which I might want to add, was a very tolerant place considering its progress orientation) or had been pointed out more often when necessary. I still have the firm belief that in the long run a transparent and honest way of dealing with the reality of raiding will make your guild leaders and raiders a more down to earth, streamlined and humble group of people. And ultimately a more successful team.

19 comments

  1. I haven’t even finished reading yet, so I may post again later, but I had to stop right now (after the “part 1,” I guess, before you get into the subheadings) and say that this is a powerful piece. I’ve been RIGHT there in many raid guilds, but I haven’t raided in months, and I can feel a lot of those old feelings coming back. This is going to be a great post. More later.

  2. Okay, I finished, and it is an excellent post. You hit the nail on the head about being replaceable. I’ve quit a few guilds (never so much in a huff, but still quit) and have sort of secretly wanted them to go wrong. Of course, they never did (well, one did fall apart but it was already doing so when I quit). Of course, the rational side of me wished no harm to my previous guildies, but the irrational part was still a little shocked that they did so well without me. That truth is a hard one to handle, but true nonetheless.

    Also, the point you made about having the grace to quit may be the most important point in the post, for officers and non-officers alike. Be it raiding performance, attitude, or interest, it’s important to know when to quit. We sometimes get an onward and upward or death mentality about things – Never surrender, etc, but, honestly, WoW’s just a very time-intensive hobby that could be dropped without too many ripples. Be graceful enough to reflect on your gameplay and interaction and know when you need to go.

    I stepped out of healing once because there was honestly a better druid healer in the guild. Part of me didn’t want to compete (he’d have won), and part of me knew it was better for the other raiders for him to go. Of course he turned out to be a colossal jerk, so I got back in anyway, but the points stands.

    Great post!

  3. This was a very thought provoking post for me. It’s easy to feel unappreciated when trying to lead any sort of guild, I think (having now done both casual and progression oriented) – but you’re absolutely right that it is a role one chooses for one’s self.

    I’ll be linking this on my guild forums, though. Because it is good for everyone to stop and take a moment to think about where they are and what they’re getting out of it.

    Thanks for the food for thought!

  4. @Stubborn
    Thanks for your commentary! and I like how you posted in two parts, hehe! :D
    I think it’s very human to have these feelings you describe when leaving a guild, especially if you’ve done a lot for its success and might feel un-appreciated. I don’t even feel that it’s so much a wish to see others fail, but simply a very human wish to have “mattered”. the thing is though: you DID matter, you were important for as long as you fulfilled your job, maybe you were even excellent at it. but that doesn’t mean things won’t continue without you. and if they do, this doesn’t lessen any of your achievements – if anything, it’s making them bigger.

    Personally, I was very glad to make this experience after leaving my “own” guilds; maybe it’s also different when it’s a guild you have helped founding and did not just join at some point. the idea that they might break apart if a few of us core members leave, was a horrible one to me, but I had enough faith in my guildmates that somehow they would cope and I’m very glad they did. in the end, we only have so much significance in the greater scheme of all things – and that is a good experience to make in life, although it is a humbling one too.

    As for knowing when to quit, I agree it is quite possibly the greatest achievement of all and even the greatest players and guild leaders may fail at it. I don’t think I have ever had more respect for a mate than when he/she stepped back from a raid or even a guild rank because they had that much self-perception and that much care for the guild to realize it would be selfish or plain bad. to put the guild above yourself and your own ambitions like that speak of great character, one that should at least be granted in guild leaders but then, reality is often different.
    still, I am lucky to have met a handful of such people during my time with WoW. if you ever come across such a bunch of folks, you should hold on to them real tight!

  5. @Alas
    Thanks, I’m glad you found something to share with your guild. You never quite know how some people will take such messages as it takes a certain amount of time and growth to reach these points (at times painful growth too – but then I wonder if there is any other), but ideally it’s something that helps people (or at least such is my intention). :)

  6. I think you’re really spot on with this post – and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, even if it’s a painful truth.

    The point about knowing when to step down or step away is a potent one, and I feel that it’s one an officer in my guild could possibly take to heart.

    Don’t get me wrong, I really like the guy and he’s a great player – but since the end of Wrath he’s had nothing but complaints, no offered suggestions to how to improve/change what he perceives as wrong – just complains.

    He groans when we raid because he hopes we won’t so he can do other things. He groans when we don’t raid because “people don’t care enough to show up”.

    Maybe it’s just me, but I’m starting to feel that he needs at least a break from WoW, because he’s bringing my spirit down with his negative attitude.

    And I’m sorry for rambling on about this personal guild issue, I guess your post hit a nerve!

  7. @Saga
    Ahh, no worries at all – I can relate a lot to what you’re saying there myself. I think we’ve all been around very negative players at times and felt our own spirits dampened by them, either because we felt they were actually right or because we were tired of hearing the same shit over and over.

    I remember several times when we had to approach such raiders for going overboard with the negativity, asking them to be more supportive/constructive or else consider a break (to put it mildly first..).
    it always depends on the situation of course: is it something concrete you can adress or is it somebody constantly using guildchat and forums as an emotional outlet. but I think in the second case you have every right to confront somebody like that.

  8. Congrats on a really well written, truth-filled, thought provoking article. I think your paragraph that begins, “The truth is: you are doing this for yourself. ” Is the heart of the message and is indeed truth. I believe that what you’re saying applies to any type of online community and not just raiding guilds. Keep up the good work!

    The Game Preacher
    http://gamepreacher.com

  9. It’s a decent read but I do think you have to be careful when talking about absolutes like “truth”. Essentially none of us is omniscient and truly cannot know the motives of anyone unless they wish to make it clear. This is your view and not “the truth” ;) doesn’t matter if you make it bold or not =p. No-one is ever truly selfless but to claim the out and out truth is that every guild leader everywhere is doing it entirely for themselves is flat out wrong. I personally have never been much of a follower – I am not a control freak, but I don’t like to be in freefall with no method of guiding my own direction. That was ofc a big motivation for me to lead a guild but don’t confuse having a choice with being selfish. They aren’t the same thing, not at all.

  10. @Stumps
    …and hence the Addendum, where “truths” have been put in quotes and where I’ve clarified, imo to ample amounts, that they’re “my” truths based on my personal insights. I do believe they apply frequently though. :)

    I don’t think that leaders are “only selfish”; that’s just putting it into another extreme that I haven’t really intended in this article. the points are there as reminders – or a provocation of thought, so you question yourself over what applies (to you) and what does not.
    it’s good for leaders never to forget that leading is something they choose to do and that it’s their choice. you lead because you enjoy leading. you lead because “you feel” something needs more direction or because you’d like to influence that direction. the emphazis is y_o_u. you’re getting something out of it or you wouldn’t be doing it. and of course other people benefit from that too and there will be times when you do it for them more than for yourself – but you wouldn’t do that forever. there should be a balance, just like I wrote.

    and you do have qualities of a control-freak, my dear… ;) there’s not just full-out crazy control-freaks, but plenty of leaders have parts/traits like that or you wouldn’t feel the urge to sort or control things more than the average player. you call it “gravitating towards leadership” which is just another way of saying that leading is what you enjoy and where you feel at ease.

    I don’t use the term in a only negative or absolute way – hence the “maybe a bit of a control-freak”. I certainly don’t feel like a control-freak overall, I know that both of us often picked up jobs simply because we couldn’t bear nobody (or incompetent/unmotivated people) doing them. but that too is part of an urge to control, no? or maybe it’s just our demand for exquisite quality. :P

    (p.s. I don’t think Adrenaline is a great example for this particular issue; when it comes to organization, delegating and having a functional officer team – well, I think loads was exactly right there.)

  11. I started raiding and ended raiding in Wrath. I saw all these “truths” that you pointed out, and most often what I observed is that people either joined or were recruited into a raid guild without proper, if any, vetting.

    Although at first I found it very “uppety-uppety” to make someone apply to a raiding guild, I understand the wisdom in such a procedure. It allowed for the efficient transition for a person and the guild, more efficient than “hey, wanna join my raid guid?”…”sure”…then after a while…”dude, this guild sucks, I’m out”, and so on.

    Honesty solves most problems in the world, and it certainly would not only solve but prevent problems with raiding guilds. To be honest with yourself first, then to others, would yield a more positive social and gaming experience for everyone.

    Excellent post, it took me a day or so to read it but I’m glad I did.

  12. @Gronthe
    Haha, thanks mate – I hope it didn’t take so long because of the heavy reading, though! :P

    And honesty can solve so many things, can it not, and yet it can be so hard to be honest, most of all with yourself.

  13. “The truth is: you should not expect much appreciation or thank-yous from others.”

    ^^This! 100% this!

    I’ve never understood when guild leaders expect thanks. It’s like when parents expect thanks from their kids. You don’t do this job for thanks or gratitude.

    You do it because YOU find it rewarding in and of itself. When you get to the point where you expect thanks or gratitude from others, I would say its time to step down.

  14. Ahem. I don’t know if I agree on the “you should know when to step back because you’re holding back your guild and that’s selfish” statement. Is it really your responsability to be a mind reader, to figure out what’s on the mind of others in the guild, things they’re hiding for you and not telling you openly? Why should we play guessing games? The risk is that you actually guess the wrong thing – especially if you’re new to gaming, maybe female your younger and perhaps not entirely confident in your own capability. You might bail out for the wrong reasons imagining you’re doing “what’s good for the team”.

    If there are players that shouldn’t be in the raiding team I believe it’s the responsability of the leaders to deal with it and take those “difficult conversations”. It comes with the role, even if it’s uncomfortable. Don’t shuffle the burden over to the raiders, expecting them to be mindreaders.

    Honesty and straight forward communication always works best in the long run if you ask me. That’s what builds trust. That’s what builds teams.

  15. @Keredria
    I agree. Then again, I understand why leaders can get frustrated and wish that sometime people would notice the effort they put in, or would at least hope their team draws even in keeping their own end of the bargain.

    many leaders would probably not feel un-appreciated or ask for much, if they didn’t get lousy feedback in return for their exra efforts (raiders not showing up, raiders not communicating etc.) at times. basically, if the balance is amiss like that, you just feel frustrated a lot more, because you put a lot in and others still don’t get what their job is. maybe those times are what really winds you up. And still, if you’re doing so much and it doesn’t even hit home, it’s your choice if you should stay, yep.

    @Larisa
    It’s Larisa! How nice of you to step out of the shadows sometime, hehe..
    I see your point and in essence I agree. but I think this applies more to the particular case of a raider with performance issues that he is unable to grasp himself. in which case it’s certainly up to the leaders to give honest feedback and if necessary, stay consequent about their set rules. I don’t know how you could be oblivious to your own performance in a serious raiding environment, but of course it happens that somebody just needs help like that. that’s the leaders job then.

    but I can also think of many examples where I don’t understand in the least why people do not have the grace to step down themselves; if I perceive that I am holding the team down, or if I already know I won’t be able to nearly attend enough, or if I already know I will leave for a 6months break real soon, then I would be the one to take initiative. the raiding and attendance rules are open and clear to everyone, nobody can claim ignorance of them. I wouldn’t expect the leaders to slowly get behind my situation and then go through that endless procedure of chat 1-3 with me – to me that’s parenting which I do not need. at the very least, I would approach them myself and communicate the issue openly, so they know and can decide (and if needed, prepare) much easier.

    I always had the highest respect for those of our members who gave us fair notices in advance or told us they would go inactive right away because they really didn’t think it was fair to the rest of the raid team to keep a raidspot under their current circumstances. it takes a great person to have that much self-perception and to put the team’s well-being over your personal wishes (which might be to just raid along as long as possible).

  16. Great article. I’m experiencing some hard times at the moment in my guild because I’m burned out. I’m leading the guild for a year now, along with two other officers. We are a very competitive guild and winning and keeping our first rank on the server have been tough.

    “The truth is: you are doing this for yourself.”
    That’s true and I love doing my officer job. But at the moment I rather feel a bit like : “you are doing this TO yourself.”

    It’s time for me to get some holidays. The guild will be running less hard during the summer and I expect to work a bit less for the guild because I need rest. My performances in raids are affected at the moment because I’m tired and that brought my mood even more down. To feel I’m not that reliable in raids than I used to be was the last thing I needed at the moment.

    It’s really a hard decision to make, when you put so much into a guild, for a long time. Guildies are not only guildies, they are also friends. I know I have my place among them, and in our raid, but I need some rest.

  17. @Nefernet
    “It’s time for me to get some holidays. “

    The fact that you realize this so clearly and realize too, how you’re not any good to anyone in your current state, is a very big step and speaks a lot for you as a person and leader. you’re the only one who can determine this line, when it’s too much for you and often taking a break is all you need.
    and like you said, its not just the fair thing to do for the guild, but mostly the fair thing to do for yourself – we’re in charge of our physical and mental well-being.

    I wish you good luck with your guild – enjoy the time off to recharge your batteries (you deserve it), to get back fresh and restored after if you so wish! :)
    /salute

  18. @Game Preacher

    Thanks muchly! :) And welcome to the blogosphere – I just had a look at your blog, I will have to keep an eye on that!

  19. “you are doing this for yourself”

    I think I disagree with the wording, but agree with the sentiment that it is, at the end of the day, a conscious choice to remain an officer. But accepting a leadership role isn’t about doing something for myself, not from where I sit anyway :)

    I think sometimes people don’t understand what they are getting into, or things change. My guild went from having about 7 active officers down to 3 over the course of BC and Wrath. The change in responsibilities and time was noticable. It is something that every so often I will look at and ask myself do I really want to still be doing this, is my heart still in it. So yes, it is my choice, but it’s not something I do for any personal gain.

    A fantastic post, and I wish more people understood these truths. I’ve had raiders want special treatment because they turn up to raids. They don’t do anything more than that, just turn up. It takes all my willpower at times not to point out that was the agreement – they applied as a raider to a raiding guild. Turning up was part of their agreement when we accepted them as a raider, and I should have to give them extra rewards for doing their side of the deal.

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