Guild Chat: Keeping romantic relationships from affecting MMORPG guilds
Welcome along to Guild Chat, the column through which the Massively Overpowered readership can band together to solve the guild-related queries and problems of readers in need. In this edition, reader Roxxus is worried about forming a romantic attachment with an in-guild love interest in case it affects the guild’s group dynamics and ruins the fun that the pair is currently having as platonic guildmates. Roxxus seems to be concerned about how to handle an online relationship without opening up that blossoming romance to the external influences already present in his or her guild, and the pair is perhaps considering getting together without telling anyone else in the guild. Read on for Roxxus’ full submission as well as my ideas, and don’t forget to leave your own thoughts on the matter in the comments.
This is a difficult one to write but I’m falling for a guild member and want some good advice. I’ve liked this person for the longest time as a friend and we have now connected more than I originally thought we would over TeamSpeak. She asked me if I would like to call this chemistry something more and if I think of her as my girlfriend and I want to say yes but we never met in person and I have never seen her on video even so it feels crazy to me even though I do feel something for her and want it to be more.
We live in the same place more or less and only have to drive an hour to meet but I haven’t made the drive yet because I don’t know if this is a real thing or not. I also am an officer in the guild we are in and she isn’t and I worry that people will say I’m showing her preferential treatment or something if I tell them we’re together. I also don’t want any future rows or breakups to ruin what we have in our guild because we have worked very hard to make a great bunch of strong PvPers that get results. If I do this how do I set boundaries or keep the relationship secret from the guild?
First of all, congratulations on helping to maintain a successful guild that has such fantastic dynamics that personal relationships can flourish: This is not an easy state for many guilds to maintain, and it’s refreshing to receive a submission that isn’t regarding a problem with poor guild setup. I can see why you would be worried about rocking the boat when you’re a part of an established, successful guild, but I always like to remind people that prioritising real-world relationships over in-game guild dynamics is typically the best option. You could meet up with this girl in real life and not feel the same spark you do online, of course, but this could likewise be the start of a fulfilling and long-term relationship that carried great importance in your later life. It’s worth making the leap to find out, so let me guide you through the steps I would take if I was to find myself in your shoes.
Humans place a staggering amount of emphasis on labelling and boxing everything in their personal spheres to make the messy world make as much sense as possible, but sometimes it is better to let relationships take its course without popping confining definitions on there during the getting to know you phase. I notice from your submission that it is the lady you’re developing feelings for that is pushing for a label on whatever is brewing between the two of you, and it makes me wonder if perhaps you’re worried about making the relationship official before you’re comfortable to just as much as you’re worried about letting the guild in on recent developments. If I’m wrong, feel free to ignore my advice for you here, but I deeply suspect that the online nature of your meeting makes it difficult for you to call this an actual relationship.
Don’t feel at all pressured to call this lady your girlfriend at this stage: She may well be craving that validation of her own feelings and confirmation of your own, but that doesn’t mean that it is the right time to do that. The fear you have about the validity of this blossoming romance is clear to see, so steer clear of announcing the relationship to the guild and don’t let yourself be tied into anything before you have a massive heart to heart about how you’re feeling. Organise some time for you both to discuss this and make the drive to see if the chemistry persists in real-life.
A great many couples meet online and form lasting relationships based on that virtual contact: Look at online dating sites, Tinder, and the huge number of stories like your own to be shared on MMO fan sites and forums. Having said that, you always run the risk of coming across unpleasant characters who are not who you think they are based on their online personas. I hate to bring up catfishing when you are feeling nervous as it is, but I can’t help noticing that you mention the fact that you have never seen this woman on video or in person, which is always a warning sign in my head. Don’t get me wrong: People can and do have entirely valid, genuine reasons for not appearing on camera at the drop of the hat, but I would be reluctant to move any potential relationship forward without meeting in person first.
Physically meeting can be an overwhelming, potentially scary process, and when you throw on the added pressure of trying to impress someone you’re attracted to, it can be all too easy to put off in-person meetings. Remember that you can make this as low-key as you like: Involve other vaguely local guild members and call it a guild meet, attend a large public event together so you have plenty of options in case things don’t work out, and don’t be pressured into defining things or progressing the relationship before you’ve had that opportunity to meet her properly. Share your fears and make it known why meeting up is so important to you: If she is who she says she is, she’ll be feeling much the same way about your real-life identity if video chats haven’t happened.
The short answer to this question of yours, Roxxus, is that your personal life is just that, so you don’t have to tell your guild about your relationship if it makes either of you uncomfortable to do so. This isn’t a workplace and no one is going to sue for conflict of interest: It’s fair to assume that in any group dynamic some members of the group will be closer than others, and this is largely why guilds run better with a team of leaders who can more fairly arbitrate any muddiness caused by these interpersonal relationships. I’m by no means telling you that your relationship should stay a secret, but I do want to make it clear that you are in no way obligated to discuss the personal nature of your fledgeling relationship with your guildmates.
Should you both meet in person and feel the same spark you do when talking online, you’ll still only be beginning your romantic relationship with each other: Giving yourselves time to get more acquainted with one another and focusing on developing into a loving couple should take priority over deciding who to tell and when. You might find that if and when you are ready to let the gang know you’re a couple that they already have worked it out or suspected that you’d get together some day, so it may not be as big a deal as it seems to be in this unsure period. When you’re more comfortable with what you have going on between you are less unsure of where you both stand, telling people will come much more naturally anyway, so get the relationship off the ground first before worrying about guild dynamics and other external things.
Breakups are difficult no matter if you share a friendship pool before the relationship or not since the natural progression of a relationship tends to blur “ownership” of each person’s friends anyway, but the fallout is entirely manageable by reasonable adults and half the battle is in acknowledging that you don’t want any relationship breakdown to impact on your gaming. Guilds can cope with changing dynamics provided the guild leader is aware of the problem: Letting your guild leader know that you’ve had a falling out and would rather not mingle in teams, for instance, would be wise, though you shouldn’t feel the need to divulge all the gory details in doing so. Remember that drama can only spill out of your relationship if you let it, so agree not to complain about each other to your guildmates (and any other mutual friends who would be placed in the middle) after arguments if you don’t want them to take sides or interfere.
Letting what-if, worst-case scenarios prevent you from taking (managed, ordinary) chances is a sorry state of affairs, so don’t let fear of things not working out totally eliminate the chance of something special blossoming from your time spent gaming. Good luck and let me know how it goes with your lady friend!
Over to you!
Have you ever conducted an online relationship in an MMO guild or gaming group, and if so, did it have any sort of knock-on effect? Share your words of advice with Roxxus in the comments below.
Many thanks to Roxxus for this heartfelt submission. If you have a guild-related issue you’d like to see discussed in an edition of Guild Chat, email me your submission for consideration.