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.
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.