Guild Chat: What to do if drug use impacts your MMO guild

Welcome along to Guild Chat, the column through which we all band together to help someone get on top of his or her guild-related issue: While I give my two cents here in the article, plenty of useful advice and different perspectives on the matter at hand emerge in the comments section. This time, reader Michael has a rather challenging issue to deal with that hinges on his guildmates’ drug use. Michael’s guild centres around an online friendship group that began in MOBAs and has recently been adversely impacted by the behaviour of several members of the group who live close to one another. These members have, for as long as Michael has known them, taken recreational drugs while gaming, but recently Michael has noted some personality changes and volatility that is uncharacteristic of his friends. He wants to know how best to deal with the issue and bring back positive relations in his guild.

You’ll find my two cents in the comments, but this is a massive topic that needs a measured approach. The submission does not include specifics of what drugs the friends are consuming and whether or not those substances are controlled or otherwise legally restricted in their country. I am in no way qualified to give professional advice about drug consumption and all advice given is in support of seeing a medical professional who specialises in drug dependence and addiction. Add your own thoughts in the comments, of course, and see Michael’s full submission below.

This is a bit of a weird ask but I thought I’d give this a try anyway. I met some friends by chance playing MOBAs and we ended up tight and playing other games together. I made a guild in the MMO I play before I met them and those guys joined too. The problem is a group of them live together and are social drug takers. They take recreational drugs together when gaming, which I didn’t notice in our time in other games but is very noticeable now we play for such long stretches. It changes their character and they’re really obnoxious, loud types now that I don’t like. It’s a daily problem and I think they need to quit drugs because they’re clearly addicted and my guildmates hate their behaviour. I don’t want to kick them all but I just want to stop the worst of this stupidity from getting worse still.

This is quite the conundrum, Michael, and I’m going to need to make a set of assumptions to help you out here. I’m going to assume that you are close enough to these people that simply cutting your losses isn’t a viable option, and I’m also going to largely ignore the legal repercussions and moral debates surrounding drug use since they vary so widely. My honest advice is to leave the drug issues in the hands of those who know these people best since they are best equipped to help, but here’s how I would approach the matter if I had no other choices.

We cannot control someone else’s drug use

The first point that I wish to make clear is that, no matter how much we wish we could, we cannot control the actions of others, Michael, and this case is no exception. If your friends are ultimately happy with their drug use and aren’t specifically breaking local laws or endangering others, you’ll find that there really is very little you can do to change their activities without having them onboard. I’m assuming that they are candid about the drugs they take if you are so aware of it, so I’m of the mindset that they don’t find their drug use to be problematic and will be happy to continue on the same path. While you or I may not agree with that choice and would worry about the potential damage sustained drug use might cause to the people in question, the decision to stop taking drugs is often a deeply complex one that isn’t in our hands to make.

Having said that, we can most definitely set behavioural expectations for a collective of people and hold that group of people to those rules, so if the drug use is causing unfriendly behaviours and any unpleasantness that goes beyond general disapproval of their drug taking, it is time to point this out to your guildmates. It isn’t fair for their habits to impact on everyone else’s leisure time, so if there is fallout caused by the drugs then it’s fair to bring them up. Before you do so, however, you’ll want to get a better handle on the reality of the situation and put aside any preconceptions or opinions you have about drugs and drug users to maximise your chances of successfully managing the situation.

These ships carry so many flags.Gauging the extent of the problem

I am by no means educated in drug types and recreational drug use and I don’t pretend to be familiar with the properties of the unspecified recreational drugs your guildmates are taking, but what I can say is that not all substances are addictive or illegal. What you personally understand about drug law may not be the same as what applies to your friends if you are in a different country or even state if you are in the US. As such, it would be jumping the gun on my part and yours to call your friends addicts or suggest that law enforcement needs to be involved. You need to know precisely what you’re dealing with here and do what’s best for your friends as well as for your guild: There is a vast difference between a group of people smoking marijuana where it is legal to do so than taking methamphetamine illegally, for example, and the differences lie in both the addictive properties of the substances at hand and the effect each will have on the user. Perhaps your best source for the information you need is the friends within that same group who do not live close to this band: They have known your affected friends for longer and might have more details.

Once you know what substance — or substances — you’re dealing with and how regularly your friends might be taking this, you then need to arm yourself with some unbiased, fact-based information about the topic. There are some fantastic resources for this online that I’d highly recommend you scour for advice: One of my favourites is UK-based site FRANK, which aims to give honest advice for anyone affected by drug use. It features a drug A-Z that will be handy to consult if you’re a little patchy on modern drugs of choice.

An online intervention?

Depending on what you’ve found out, you might decide that your friends are simply a little lairy and brash when high and that pointing out the negative effect their behaviour is having on the guild-at-large will be enough action to stem the behaviour. If a civil warning to calm down a little is not sufficient to curb the obnoxious antics in this instance, it might be best for both parties to part ways so your friends can find a guild that is more flexible with rowdiness and you can restore peace in your more muted flock. That’s not to say you need to part on bad terms: I would simply explain that the guild isn’t a great fit since it’s a mixed audience that isn’t on the same wavelength but that you’d love to still join them in-game as always.

Should you have cause to suspect that the problem is more serious than this, confronting your friends and talking about the behaviour and the drug use just as you would with your real-world friends could be best, especially if other people in your mutual friendship group are also worried. If you do decide to confront your friends, ensure that the conversation is judgement-free and that you get across how worried you are about them: The minute you call their drug use stupid or talk dismissively about their compulsion to take them (should that prove to be the case), you’ll have lost their attention and will never make a compelling argument for them seeking help. Do not involve the wider guild: This is a sensitive topic even if everyone knows about the drugs. Have a voice chat with the affected friends and trusted members of the wider MOBA friendship group.

Giving support if it’s needed

I would recommend leaving the conversation in an open state where you mention that you’ve done some research into what they are using and you’re worried about possible effects and that you’re available to talk about it. Remember that there isn’t much you can do for them from a remote location if the problem is severe, and if they are battling addiction then they’re not likely to be open to your help due to shame and denial even if you are willing. Letting them reach their own conclusions after you have armed them with information and support resources is the best realistic outcome here, and you shouldn’t feel guilty about that.

The first thing you need to understand to support someone through drug dependence or addiction is that there are reasons that compel them to take the drugs and that there are positive effects and feelings that stem from drug use. These positive effects will vary from drug to drug, but the important part is not to dismiss how good drugs might make your friends feel and what negative feelings they might be using drugs to diminish. Each person will have his or her own story, but your mission will remain the same: You’ll want to understand your friends’ unique compulsions in order to best frame the next step.

The process of dealing with drug dependence or addiction is a long, complex one that will need professional oversight: The role you’ll play will be helping your friends find the correct type of local and professional support they need. Serious addiction is not going to be fixed with a cut-it-out conversation, and you might find that your friends need several months of rehabilitative care. Don’t take the weight of their problem on your shoulders: This is most definitely a burden that you should encourage them to share with their closest friends and family while they seek the help they need. Ultimately, you are a removed online face, and unless you are uncommonly close, you won’t have the sort of close bond needed to act as the main support figure through this process.

Over to you!

I hope that Michael is able to unpack this complex issue with the help of some mutual friends and that things calm down in his guild soon. It’s a minefield of a topic that I’m sure some of you have much more experience in dealing with, so we’d both appreciate your comments on this issue.

If you are struggling with drug-related issues, talk to FRANK or seek local help as soon as possible. You’re not alone and addictions can be successfully managed.

Many thanks to Michael for this interesting submission. If you have a guild-related issue you’d like to have featured in a future edition of Guild Chat, message me for consideration.

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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21 Comments on "Guild Chat: What to do if drug use impacts your MMO guild"

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Alex Malone

As others have said, focus on the behavioural issue, not the drugs.

I would start with a neutral chat – explain to them the issue and inform them that something needs to change. Invite them to suggest the change, rather than pushing a change onto them.

Following the chat, my expectation is they’ll likely move on. If they don’t move on, they’ll probably make an initial effort to calm down, then quickly slip back into old habits. Chances of them actually changing in the long run are extremely slim, so I would prepare yourself for losing some friends.

Also, from your description of them becoming obnoxious and loud when under the influence, my guess is they’re either on cocaine (in which case you stand no chance) or have been drinking alcohol (which is legal, so they probably won’t see the issue). Most other drugs, they’d either just appear monged out to everyone, or would be incapable of playing.

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neil shelton

Its not just that people are using in their personal lives. Iv known of entire clans that pump down stimulants like Sudafed and other stuff to stay awake, keep that edge, and play way longer than usual. Very harmful to the body.

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Blue touchpaper

Drug use from my experience in guilds over the last 12 years in various games seems to be extremely common among mmo gamers . I would say at least half the members of each guild I have been in used pot on a regular basis but the use of harder drugs is a lot less common .

Solution legalize Pot, tax it and spend the money on universal healthcare .

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Dean Greenhoe

Thanks for taking the time to bring up an issue like this. And thanks to MOP for allowing the use of this space.

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Tandor

I wouldn’t deal with this primarily as a drugs issue, I’d deal with it as a behavioral issue relating to the adoption and enforcement of guild standards. If someone is being e.g loud and obnoxious then are we saying that’s only a problem if it’s caused by drugs but not otherwise? Surely not. I’d simply lay down some ground rules for all guild members and if anyone flouts them for whatever reason then they get one warning followed by dismissal from the guild.

If the players concerned are messing around with drugs and it’s not causing any real or potential safety or health issues to them or any other players then it’s not for you to get involved in that, outside of the basic guild management aspect where they’re simply becoming a nuisance to you and other guild members. However, the advice to contact the developers if there are real concerns over the safety and health of the players is good advice. You aren’t their keeper, but it’s a simple human response to want to alert others to the danger signs so that they can pass the information on to the appropriate experts/authorities.

If the players concerned here are close real-life friends rather than just online pixels with voice chat that you have got to know over time then clearly there are wider issues of friendship etc. However, I have to say that one of the key reasons I stopped bothering with guilds in MMOs some years ago was the problems being caused by small cliques of real-life friends who thought they were more important than anyone else in the guild.

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mike foster

I’ve been on both sides of the drug equation with an addict in the family and myself using pot to deal with insomnia (and occasionally recreationally). There’s a lot of good advice in this post — the law stuff especially (in CA it’s totally legal for me to eat a pot gummi-worm, in TX it most certainly would not be).

The trouble with drug use and intervening is that there are so many factors that are out of your control or scope of knowledge. The best thing to do is set a standard for behavior you will/won’t accept and draw your boundaries around that. If you’re worried about someone’s safety/future you can bring your concerns to them (frame this around your worry, not the drugs/judgment), but a lot of times this just doesn’t matter that much, especially to an addict (or it does, but they can’t change because of the whole “being an addict” part).

The only advice I can give is to understand that there’s a limit to what you can do, and that it’s not your fault if someone keeps going down a destructive path. A lot of the damage addicts create comes from the “but I could have done more” feelings they pass on to others — be careful to protect yourself and don’t mistake the limits of your concern for a failure to take responsibility for someone else’s actions.

More practically: Most online games have a protocol for player self-harm. If you ever feel like a guildmate is going to hurt themselves or others in an immediate way, reach out to support and they will alert authorities. Obviously this is slightly different than ongoing drug use, but it’s good to know it’s there.

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Mewmew

No offense is intended here – but I think they’re talking about more hardcore stuff than marijuana. Loud, obnoxious behavior normally isn’t a side effect of marijuana. That’s usually something else that’s far more dangerous, addictive and harsh and has a far greater affect on ones personality. Using marijuana doesn’t tell you what it’s like to be a real physical addict or use more harsh drugs, things based on opioids, cocaine, amphetamines. As a marijuana user, you really haven’t seen it from both sides because that just isn’t the same thing at all. It’s barely closer to these other things than sugar and caffeine are. Marijuana just isn’t in the same class and doesn’t have the same impact at all. Like anything it can become a problem, but it’s not the same as these harsher drugs are. It’s so very far from them that it’s not really comparable.

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mike foster

I didn’t say I was an addict. I said we had one in the family — meth and alcohol abuse ending in suicide.

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Bryan Turner

It’s their lives and no one has any say in how they live them. Does it ever occur to any one that their behavior is personality related, I used to be a heavy drinker but I was more than capable of following guild by
guidelines and following Raid Leader instructions with out being an ass hole about it ( if anything sobriety puts me in a much worse mood but hey ).

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deekay_plus

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BalsBigBrother

This is one of those things I think that while you as an individual may see an issue with and want to help it might just be the case that you can’t. So you will have to reconcile yourself with that and hope for the best.

By all means address the issue if they cause problems in the guild but keep it simple: “Dude when you are drunk / high or whatever you are making things unfun for other members. Sort that out or we will kick you.” Follow through with it too if it persists and make it clear the reason they were booted.

Other than that unless someone specifically asks for help then there isn’t a lot you can do imo that won’t push someone further down the rabbit hole.

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Lateris Ablon

One of the two most difficult issues I ran into when being a guild leader a few years ago was 1.) Anger issues and 2.) Alcohol abuse which led into issue #1. In the end they still drank excessively which was a miserable experience for raiding, and they were asked to leave the guild after a few months of talking with them. In terms of the anger issues, that person was demoted form a raid leadership position. I had some users from “Colorado” which were just forgetful and always eating food while on the mic. Pretty much zero anger issues. In terms of other use, I never had meth heads or other heads in my guild that I was aware of or brought to my attention. Alcoholism and anger issues were the main distraction for our tenor. In my experience alcohol was the worse drug for a guild user to use when they were over the limit of coherence.

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mike foster

Yeah the distinction between recreation and destructive is important. Sometimes I get in Discord and my friends are a little high or drunk, but all that means for us is that we’re probably not playing ranked. It’s not part of a broader and ongoing destructive behavior pattern.

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A Dad Supreme

“… but recently Michael has noted some personality changes and volatility that is uncharacteristic of his friends.”
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Well he has no way of knowing if it’s the drugs that’s doing this or some other stressful/tragic thing that has happened in his friend’s life so not sure why he’s equating the two.

Personality changes can occur due to drug use but many times, even people who don’t partake of them often show “volatility” and personality changes just from simple, everyday life challenges.

I would say don’t talk about drugs with someone he thinks he knows as a ‘friend’ but only met on an online situation without truly knowing what’s happening in their lives, and definitely don’t try and draw a line between drugs and behavior.

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Alex Js.

This is extremely simple: if those guildmates (same applies to any kind of “real life friends” or close relatives) want to poison themselves with drugs (any kind of) – let them do that. It’s their personal life choice and you should NEVER, ever be concerned about that or interfere in any way unless they’ll explicitly ask you for some sort of non-financial help to get rid of their addiction. And if you don’t like their behavior changes (regardless of true reasons) – kick them out, or leave the guild and start your own/join another one where people would not behave in a way that is unpleasant to you. Problem = solved.

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Sally Bowls

IMO, address the symptoms/behavior and/or move on; you aren’t going to solve anything in a video game.

My guess is alcohol is the most common drug. I certainly knew a somewhat eFamous guild where a pleasant officer was abusive to a number of people when drunk. It also depends on the game. While I don’t watch eSports, I love love love EVE Alliance Tournament. I am seeing advertisements for a “guild”: Shut Up And Drink, Alcohocaust. “drunk roams” are a term. If Playing Under the Influence is common in the MMO, I think complaining about the impairment itself – not just the symptoms – is even less likely to be effective.

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Dystopiq

Either bring up their behavior to them and discuss it like adults or leave. Plain and simple. A guild does not need to be a social obligation.

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Ket Viliano

Most of the guilds I have joined happen to be full of drinkers and tokers. Bearing in mind that the vast majority of people play games on their off work hours, it should not be surprising that many if not most of them eschew sobriety in favor of a tipple.

If you want to play in a dry guild, seek one out, there are sure to be some family friendly groups that play sober. I can see good reason for this if you like competitive play or PvP.

If bad behavior is causing problems, deal with those problems. There is no way you can address an individuals bad or disruptive habits over the internet, except by kicking or banning them, should their behavior warrant it.

One more thing, if your guildmates are doing dope deals in comms, yell at them to take it to Skype. You know, for opsec reasons.

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Slaasher

He should not address the drug use at all. If he is having issues with them as part of the guild then deal with THAT issue accordingly.
In my experience trying to deal with an issue like drug and or alcohol use while gaming with people who you don’t really know can only lead to trouble you may not be able to deal with effectively.
“And that’s where the trouble began your honour….”

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Ashfyn Ninegold

Yup. Address their behavior in chat, raid, or wherever they are disruptive or inappropriate. Don’t make an assumption about why they are behaving that way. And, by the way, they may feel free to be stupid because they know the Guild Leader and are tight with him.

And also, if they are your friends, why are they putting you in this position? Allow them to destroy your guild or kick them? What kind of friends do that to you?

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Ket Viliano

This is really the best advice.

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