Guild Chat: Reflecting on 2016's MMO guild issues and commenter advice
We're finally rid of the crazy rollercoaster ride that was 2016 and are now taking our seats aboard the crazy train that'll be 2017, meaning that there's no better time for me to look back on a year's worth of (sometimes) sage advice and supportive suggestions that have been given to our readers in need throughout 2016. The comments section is more often enough far more instructive than the advice given from my own singular perspective, so it's only right that I pull out some of the best of that wisdom as I revisit some of my favourite topics from the last twelve months.
In this edition of Guild Chat, I will take you on a trip down memory lane, looking back on 2016's best entries and pointing out how readers furthered the discussion by adding their two cents to the dilemma at hand. I hope that you'll feel inspired to look back on any editions you missed at the time and will add your own personal favourites and best reader advice in the comments below.
"Good sports players rarely just appear out of thin air and start in the major leagues. They go through high school teams, college teams and even minor league teams. That is what raiding guilds need to emulate if they want to thrive, but most leaders are unwilling to put in the effort." --Koolthulu
I usually don't have one standout favourite when I revisit my column articles, but I have a particular soft-spot for my first Guild Chat of 2016: Reader Amatherand wrote in to ask whether setting high and exacting standards for group selection and being ruthless in following through could be classed as bullying after some guild members who felt slighted and passed over started throwing around the dreaded b-word. I asked Amatherand to consider how clearly the selection criteria and guild mission had been laid out to help him evaluate how fair his expectations were, and also asked him to look into his approach and manner to ensure it wasn't the deliverance of the message that was causing tension.
"It's bullying but it's the game devs that are doing it. They're relegating these weaker links to second class citizens. In modern MMOs gear is the new level cap. Raiders get a special snowflake level cap and everyone else is supposed to sit around worshiping them and be inspired by them." --dorn2
The comment response was overwhelming, and the topic at hand ended up being much more divisive than I had originally suspected it would be. I generally try to explore various different sides of an argument and give different advice depending on where I perceive the breakdown in happy guild functioning had occurred, but it's fantastic to read the comments and see how strongly you all feel about topics such as guild cohesion, online bullying, and fairness in group selection. Reader Koolthulu elegantly summed up the anti-elitism argument -- with the caveat that calling elite group selection bullying is fairly extreme -- by comparing potential high-end MMO players with budding sportsmen and women, highlighting that the individual progression of guild members is just as important to the development of a guild as the overall progress is.
Conversely, dorn2 hit out at the inherent imbalances in MMO development that are engineered to keep us playing, blaming devs and their bag of mechanical tricks on the fact that so many players feel bullied and left out of the most appealing MMO content. While I find this unfairness is more of a byproduct of traditional MMO designs rather than a specific intention of the developers, I can totally see the logic in the argument made.
"Leaving a guild as a leader is difficult at best and I was thinking of a way to deal with the power vacuum and what would be best for the guild as a whole. I had 4 officers directly below me. I knew which one would end up winning that and I knew it would not be a good or fair result for the majority of the guild members and would ultimately destroy the guild as well as the other officer's inability or refusal to lead the guild in the PvP format it was founded on. So I made a decision to lock these four officers into a council after my departure to ensure stability. I assumed over time they would either continue this arrangement or reform in a proper fashion." --Saxxon68
Leaving a guild because the spark just isn't there anymore is enough to break some of us out in a cold sweat, especially when long term gaming buddies could take offence and the reader in question, Bryonylia, wished to create as few ripples as possible. Although I gave her plenty of advice for leaving without rocking the boat too much, such as keeping the goodbyes short and sweet and never slighting her previous guild to a new one, I feel that leaving a guild is only as difficult as a player makes it, so that was the theme of my advice for Bryonylia.
Most of the commenters echoed my sentiments, with some hilarious meme responses and quips thrown in for added flavour. It seems that most of you are happy to simply /gquit and go without fanfare or reservation, which is the case for the majority of players I'd suspect. There have only been a handful of occasions in my entire MMO career that have elicited a different response from me, and those involved parting ways with real-life friends who were switching servers to play with other friends of ours. Even in those cases, we worried more about guild restabilisation than any hurt feelings on either side of the coin.
One commenter, Saxxon68, stood out with his story from his Guild Wars 2 WvW guild-leading days, and I was shocked to read that he was still receiving angry messages and effectively hate mail a staggering two years after he passed on the guild leading mantle to a council of four officers. The extreme case highlighted why someone might have reservations about leaving a guild that has a solid history that has forged players together in notoriety, and it also deals with the power vacuum that power players leave behind when they make the decision to retire or switch up how and with whom they play.
"The more equitable the merge is for both guilds, the better you're going to do in the short and long run. Be aware of what your guild's demands are in advance, and where you are willing to compromise. be upfront and honest in both your looking for merge "ads"/posts and in your negotiations, and be prepared to walk away if need be.
"And once merged, don't treat the other guild's membership unfairly compared to your own. Worst thing about our first merge is some of the members of the guild we merged with treated us like outsiders. It can be a balancing act but if the merge is going to work then both groups of members need to gel well with each other or it's just not going to work and will cause you as leadership a lot of grief." --deekay_zero
Few guild actions are as tricky to navigate as a guild merger, so I'm not surprised that it became one of the more contentious topics to be covered during 2016. Though it's notoriously difficult to get right, I supplied reader Thomas with as much advice as I could to arm him with all the tools I had in my arsenal after my experience of managing a merger. I suggested that he clarify the old rules to the new management in detail and negotiate a grace period for any infractions of new rules while his roster settles into the new structure. I also pointed out that Thomas needed to establish his role in the new guild before agreeing to the merger so his guildmates could have a strong point of contact that was consistent during the merger.
I loved the sensible measures laid out by deekay_zero: Ensuring that terms are laid out clearly, desires of all parties are spelt out, mutual resources are agreed upon in advance, and the guilds are similar in size and scope to stamp out numerical imbalances are all fantastic points to note before agreeing to merge. I hadn't thought about shared space outside of the game world, so that was a particularly appreciated addition to the discussion.
Over to you!
I really wish I was better at being succinct when it comes to these annual reflections: I could have easily showcased stellar comments from each and every Guild Chat article! Thanks to everyone who takes the time to help my reader in need by leaving some personalised advice in the comment section: You make this column a joy to craft each month by adding a richness of response that can't be found in just one woman's take on the matter at hand. You lot are hilariously honest in your appraisal of any given situation and the direct answers you give to problems are a breath of fresh air. Shout-out to regular commenters CthulhuDawg and Polyanna for always shooting from the hip and making me nod along as I read every time: I could have quoted each of you a thousand times!