Guild Chat: Balancing real life and MMORPG commitments

Welcome along to another advice-filled edition of Guild Chat, the column in which I attempt to huddle together with the Massively Overpowered community in order to help a reader in need with his or her guild-related issue by offering both my opinions on the problem at hand and a space for other readers to add their thoughts on the matter too. This time, reader Ken has asked us for help with how he can let his guild know his personal boundaries for when the demands placed on him cross the line and become too much for him to adequately balance with his personal life. Ken loves sinking time into World of Warcraft and completes both raids and PvP with his guildmates with great success, but the demands placed on him outside of the times when he runs this high-end content is increasing as his guild seeks to aim higher and higher. He wishes to know if he’d be unfair to say no to some of the additional demands on his time so he can maintain a good gaming/life balance.

As ever, read Ken’s full submission below alongside my thoughts on how to best maintain a good balance between high-end content completion and real-world pursuits, and then give Ken your best advice in the comments section.

Hi Tina, I’m hoping you can help me to find a good game-life balance again because recently it’s not been good. I play WoW and am fairly good even if I do say so myself. I earned a place in one of the top 3 guilds on my server and am smashing through raids and PvP with my crew.

My guild leader all of a sudden isn’t seeming happy though and I think it’s because she broke up with her girlfriend and has a lot more time on her hands and isn’t feeling generally good or taking good care of herself. She wants us in on alts to do dummy runs and noob guides through raids, saying it will make us play better on our mains if we drill on alts and help the guild field more groups and have a solid sub bench. She has buddied the top raiders and PvPers with noobs too and tells them to go teach rotations, builds etc. like it takes up no time.

My usual hours were 2 raiding nights a week with 4 hour slots and then maybe an additional 8 hours in PvP and other stuff and I think that’s good enough on top of college and life. How do I tell her no when she’s expecting too much of my time? I don’t want to cause friction with my girlfriend and I feel that if I’m good enough to cut it each raid selection then I don’t need to bank more hours. Helping noobs is nice but only when I have the time, it shouldn’t be a thing I have to do. I’m not leaving the guild after all the progress we’ve made but I do need to box her in.

–Ken

Before I launch into my advice, I want to make it clear that I am assuming Ken is happy with a loaded gaming schedule due to his full submission and the fact that he sought a high achieving guild to join in the first place. My advice in this edition is catered to someone wishing to maintain such a schedule and won’t fit for more casual MMO enthusiasts. You should never feel pressured to exceed your comfortable gaming limits and the TL;DR version of my advice for more casual gamers would be to simply switch guilds or apply my guide for dealing with overbearing leaders.

Understanding your guild leader’s motivations

This is a fantastic question that crops up much more often than you might think across a wide range of gaming communities, Ken, so know you’re not alone in the balance struggle between real-world commitments and giving your best to your guild. It sounds as though your particular case has been made that much more complicated by your guild leader’s recent IRL troubles because she now has an unusually high focus on in-game control to make up for her recent lack of control over the difficulties she faces at home. This is really unfortunate and I feel for her: Although I never entered the same league of overbearingness as your leader, I threw myself into the very same game after a difficult relationship breakup many moons ago and put in an uncommon amount of time that I blatantly didn’t want to spend with my own thoughts if I’m entirely honest about it. It was easier for me to perfect the characters on my screen than to reforge myself after losing my main source of consistency and stability, but the latter task didn’t go away just because I ignored it or drowned it out.

What is problematic in your leader’s case is that she’s dragging you all in with her because misery loves company, which means she might want to read the debate on whether progression-seeking behaviours can become bullying in extreme cases. It sounds as though your guild is exceptionally strong and she’s clinging on for dear life in case that somehow crumbles too, without considering how realistic that might be or how the increased demands on her guildmates might affect that. Feeling for her doesn’t mean that I think you should suck it up or that her demands on your time are acceptable. I’ll take you through how to tactfully maintain boundaries with her as she refinds herself and also how to best clarify your limits in terms of time put into the game and guild. Your guild leader will realise with time that she is clinging to the high levels of control and buzz of achievement she gains from running your guild because of the lack of those things in her personal sphere, but in the mean time we need to ensure that neither your real or game life doesn’t suffer by while she figures things out.

Draw up an availability calendar and stick to it

It’s probably best not to directly argue against her behaviour in the first instance because you’re clearly a close-knit bunch of people and you don’t want to cause her to have an extreme reactionary response to the perceived slighting of her leadership. The kindest initial reaction you can have to her signing you all up into a virtual escapism with her is to respond positively but in a way that helps safeguard your vital free time, so with that in mind I’d suggest that you give her an availability calendar that you can reliably be expected to hold to for most weeks without causing you to tip the balance that you have struck between your love of gaming and the other important aspects of your life.

Feel no guilt in giving her a schedule that only contains one or two additional hours on it above what you already commit to raids and PvP: The important part of the schedule is to protect your time while providing your guild leader with times in which she can call on you and expect a positive response. The more she can trust in your ability to deliver, the better, so don’t be tempted to add hours on there that would make the rest of your life tense or more demanding. If you cannot commit to a set schedule due to flexible working, college assignments, or any other changeable commitments, block off possible hours and give her a total that can be reasonably requested from you outside of your other workloads, and then she can ask for your help in those hours and “book” some of the free time where it doesn’t exceed the number of hours you’ve told her you can dedicate to gaming.

Dealing with demands outside of schedule

Should your leader then request time outside of the parameters you’ve set for her, you have a fantastic, non-emotive resource to point to in order to duck out of the responsibility. A quick “Sorry, I can only do schedule this week. I’ll be on later for that training raid!” is all that need be said in such instances, and if she persists you can then take a much harder stance with her because you’ve gone to such lengths to accommodate her. Upon persistence, give her a specific reason for why her demand isn’t reasonable: Point out how many hours are on your schedule and highlight some of the real-world things that you need to keep up with in that unscheduled time. Sometimes people get so wrapped up in their own troubles that they forget how other people’s lives move ever on around them, so feel free to burst that selfish bubble when it threatens your game/life balance.

One of the most important things to remember as you go through this scheduling process is that you shouldn’t pick and choose which tasks you will and won’t do in hours you’ve laid aside for guild activities, just as she cannot eat up your time outside of the hours you’ve set aside for her. If you give her two hours on top of your raiding and PvP schedule, for example, and your leader wishes you to complete an hour of raid training and an hour on the dummies with a newbie, that’s what you should do. Keeping that trust within the safety of clear boundaries is vital if you want the worst of this controlling, unconfident period to be over with as quickly as possible.

Encouraging her to take a break

Ultimately, you might well find a short term dip in your achievements while your leader recollects and rebuilds her life, and it could get to the point where you need to help encourage her to take time away from the game in some capacity. You’re no doubt quite close if you spend so many hours of the week gaming together, so if you notice warning signs that her mental health is suffering or she’s not taking personal time to look after her basic needs, point it out to her in much the same way you would if one of your real-world friends was in the same boat. If you notice her online without breaks during meal times, for instance, point out to her that she should grab some food before you get bogged down in content clearing for the day. She might well be blind to how excessive she’s getting, and anything that reduces this will encourage her to be more realistic with her guildmates.

Although you’re not responsible for her self-care and you don’t own her behaviour, I’d like to think that you’re worried about her as well as yourself in this craziness and want to help where you can. Jumping on voice chat and talking candidly about how she’s coping isn’t a bad thing: Challenging her extreme escapism gently and giving her an outlet will help relieve some of the pressure your guild is no doubt feeling right now, and it could also help her come out the other side much faster than if she is left to her own devices. Watch how she interacts with you and others, and should she become obnoxious, rude, or overbearing, help out whomever she is targeting by backing them up and telling her to step away from the game for a while. No one should accept forbearing bullying in a game setting, even if you are a bunch of high achievers who feel that “shape up or ship out” is a way of life.

However this plays out, never feel that you can’t click that log out button, no matter what threats are made to your status in that guild or place on raiding or PvP teams. There’s always somewhere else to go if all else fails, so don’t feel tempted to neglect the people who share your real life or the responsibilities that keep your life ticking over. Missing hand-ins, skipping date night, or not taking the time to decompress all come at a cost, so tread the waters of elite gaming carefully. Good luck!

Over to you!

Have you any specific tips for Ken as he copes with the demands of his guild leader? Let him know in the comments below.

Many thanks to Ken for this submission. If you have any guild issues you’d like to put to Guild Chat, feel free to email in your submission.

MOP’s Tina Lauro is on-hand to deal with all of your guild-related questions, queries, and drama in Guild Chat. Whatever your guild issue, she’s sure to have a witty yet sympathetic response. If there’s a specific topic you’d like to see dissected, drop Tina a comment or send an email to tina@massivelyop.com.
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