Guild Chat: Rebuilding a real-life home and an MMORPG guild all at once
Welcome along to Guild Chat, the column through which many Massively Overpowered readers get the help they need to achieve better balance within their guilds through the help of our commenter community and my musings on their dilemmas. This time, reader Jase has a well-established, small Final Fantasy XIV guild that has suffered from cliques and division since he was forced to take time away from the game after the hurricanes tragically destroyed his home. A small band of officers got very used to doing things their own way in his absence and were neglecting the wider member base and excluding them from endgame exploits at peak gaming times, but none of Jase’s measures to fix the issue has helped and the guild recently had a mass exodus of members caused by these officers. Jase is left wondering how to rebuild at this point: Although the members have rejoined, they only did so to use the resources the group worked on together and they are trying to get him to relinquish full guild control to them.
Read below for Jase’s full submission and my thoughts on the matter, and don’t forget to share your ideas with this guild leader in need in the comments section. His submission is a lengthy one with many twists and turns, so give it a good read to help with your advice.
I have come into something of a pickle I have not experienced before. Having been both a member of guilds since 2001, as well as having been leading them for about as long, my four-year-old guild in Final Fantasy XIV comes stalled completely. I feel as though I am now faced with either giving up on my guild aspirations for Final Fantasy, or to hit the reset button.
The guild has always catered to a more casual, friendly, and close-knit sort of mindset. We historically accepted anyone who was a kind individual regardless of their expertise in the game, skill, or class level. My top officer team had been officers for about 2 years, and while we have always been small (rarely more than 20 actives), we strove to do the best we could and were usually content being small.
I grew busy last year, and then when the slew of hurricanes ravaged the coasts my house was destroyed and I was forced to step away from actively playing the game for a good 5 months. Upon my return, I found that these officers were forming the first official raid team, which was awesome. However, I soon learned they were going to operate during what has traditionally been “guild hours” (7-10 PM), and they seemed unwilling to allow myself or others into their team, even though they had a spot or two open. I told them they could have their raid team, but for the guild to sponsor it, it would have to operate outside of normal guild hours.
Rather than adapt, they scrapped the entire idea and lost ambition for raiding. A few weeks go by and I begin to realize they had formed a clique mindset, rarely invited anyone outside of their little group to do much of anything in the game, and would grow defensive or get pissed when I would bring it up.
About two months ago two of the eldest members and top officers left the guild five minutes within each other. One joined a larger guild which had an active raiding scene, while the other left seemingly because the first was now gone (they were very close), but also apparently because they felt too stressed with their duties as the top officer (yet they never once spoke to me about taking things down a few knots). Their departure had a ripple effect, as while I was repairing my house the two of them had grown even closer with those in the guild, to the point they had essentially become the heart of the guild. We lost three more members within a 48 hour period, and others were thinking of leaving too. Morale was low, and there was little I could do short of starting a new recruitment drive.
I promoted two members to a higher rank to help, and they seemed enthusiastic at first. The second officer to have left returned a week or two later, but as a normal member. The guild was barely doing anything as a guild. It was more like a everyone doing their own thing and only occasionally uniting to do something. Recruitment was non-existent, and nobody wanted to help and seemed angry that I was attempting to recruit.
It was at this point I began to feel as though the members were intentionally excluding me from their activities. It looked as though they were still doing end-game content with the member who had left, and were not inviting me and when I would ask to tag there was almost always an excuse to dissuade me from coming.
At this point, while I admit it may have been selfish, I made a guild rule that between 7 and 10 PM EST guild officers must only invite guild members to their parties, and only when spots are open could they invite non-guild members. I also scheduled two in-game recruitment drives a week for each officer, which would have totalled to two hours a week of recruitment per officer, which I felt was very lax. After I logged off, a mass exodus occurred and only myself and three others were in the guild. The two recently promoted officers were among those who left, as were virtually all the other officers, active members, and the officer who had left the first time.
After a few days I received a message from the officer who had now left twice, saying I had no right to tell people who they could play with, that they could do what they wanted and were fed up with the whole “guild” obligations. I was rather devastated as I had grown close to some of these people for the past three years or so, and once both of us cooled off the officer said they wanted to make a guild where everyone was equal in rank, could do whatever they wanted, didn’t actively recruit, etc. Now with basically nothing, and seeking a sort of affection with these people, I offered to allow them to use the stuff we had worked so hard to obtain over the past 3 years (large guild mansion, 3 airships, etc.), but with one caveat – I was not going to relinquish control of the guild or of its assets. The officer reluctantly agreed, and all of them returned with their shiny new rank (and all other ranks were demolished).
I have had little interaction with them since, and I just log on to tinker and do miscellaneous stuff. I am friendly with a few of the members, but feel betrayed and kind of broken. I don’t really know where to go from here. In the back of my mind I feel like it’s a lost cause and I should just tell them to go their own way and then remove them all from the guild, while the other side of me says these are my friends and it would be selfish and wrong to do this. It doesn’t help that one of them has been acting kind and friendly towards me when I am on, and then apparently when I am not online is harassing people to convince me to relinquish control. I suspect he wants to find some way to obtain the ownership of the guild estate, but that could be paranoia on my part.
What would you do in this situation?
Jeez, Jase: This is a really crummy situation you’ve found yourself in, and that’s before I even consider the guild situation! I’m so sorry about your home and am so glad to read that the rebuilding efforts went well for you. I can’t even begin to imagine the scale of the losses faced by those who were hit the hardest by the hurricanes, and to have that hurt compounded by the resultant in-game woes is shocking. I’m hoping that, with some direct and balanced communication and a heavy dose of compromise, my offerings can help you rebuild your guild from the ground up, either with your existing members or without. Choice and consequence will be a recurring theme in my advice: Ultimately, you have little to no control over how others play and how they’ll interact with your guild, but that isn’t to say that their choices don’t have consequences in terms of their ongoing membership and access to guild management tools and resources. I’ll boil this down somewhat and give you some options for moving forward.
Time waits for no man and change happens when we aren’t looking
One of the most horrible yet oddly reassuring facts of life is that, no matter what we might go through or however crazy life gets from our own perspective, the world has around us continues spinning. No matter how upturned our circumstances might be and how close we might think we are to others, they very often have an uncanny ability to get on with things without us, and this is exactly what happened in the five months during which you had to rebuild your home. Although moving on and changing our habits and preferences over time is natural, it can be rather hurtful to those who are left behind, which is the sad position you found yourself in when you returned to your guild. As sad as it is, however, your officers were put in the position where they had to lead without you through no fault of their own, and even though you would have never left them if you had any choice in the matter, you do have to accept that changes which happened in your absence were inevitable and were not done maliciously.
Furthermore, I have to point out that your actions when you got back may not have ingratiated yourself to your officers who presumably did their best in your absence. Gaming time is precious, and I agree with them regarding the danger of dictating how and when members — including officers — spend it. Their response verges on petulance, the sort you’d see if a boss went on holiday and then reasserted control when they came back, but I understand the motivation behind it since games aren’t supposed to be work. I can absolutely understand your logic behind these decisions, however, so don’t beat yourself up over this: It is very concerning to see cliques form at the exclusion of the wider roster, and this problem alone is the cause of many guild dramas. You’ve demonstrated some brilliant repairing acts since, and I hope this can help you pursue a new beginning for your guild with some time and effort.
In my mind, it is likely that your officers simply defaulted to whichever path gave them the easiest ride in your absence: I can totally understand why they made the decision to simply group up together within that context. Having said that, they had to expect that things would perhaps change again once you’d restabilised, so I find their current resistance to work with you more than a little disheartening considering your circumstances. As you say, their relationships with each other have strengthened while their friendships with you have been iced somewhat through your absence in their daily grind, so the power dynamic you’ve been facing since your return is very different than it was when you left. What we really need to look it is how we reassert your position in your guild while also restabilising your guild before it disintegrates, and this leaves us with two paths to choose from: We can either plan to work with these officers, or you can start to rebuild without them.
In or out?
It’s crunch time for your officers: Now that you have commenced the repairing process by inviting them back, it’s time to see if some common ground can follow from heartfelt apologies and open communication. They might well have only come back to the guild because of the guild mansion and airships, but I’m an optimist and would like to think they came back because your guild means something to them. From my perspective, if you were happy to restart the guild from scratch, you’d never have reinvited them in the first place after they left, so I’m fairly confident that both parties have plenty to gain from rebuilding this guild together. Having said that, if you meet further resistance, cutting ties cleanly and opening recruitment all over again is totally a viable option to you that will be more beneficial in the long run than having off-again, on-again officers stepping in and out of the picture every time they disagree with you. It isn’t fair to you for them to crash in your guild because there’s nowhere better to hang because it freezes your progress and locks you into a position where you can’t adapt and rebuild. They are either your members or officers, or they are out.
Discuss your feelings with them all together: All too often, we hear different stories from different people, so I wonder if talking the guild as one group to find out what path they’d like your collective to take might be more beneficial. It could be the case that people left to avoid drama and conflict and not because they actually align with the officers in question and I know that if you had been missing for a while many members will go along with those who they’ve seen active more frequently. You’ve been back for a long time now, so you should have enough of a presence to change this now, particularly if you’re advocating for the wider guild community to be included more frequently. Drop the talk of guild timeframes and you’ll have much more success: Many people will run from a rigid structure when offered an easier choice, so this is the first compromise you can make.
Rebuilding from the ground up
The first step if your officers decide to stay should be to take stock of who is left in the guild and to reestablish a guild charter of sorts: If the bulk of remaining members favour the no-ranks, freeform approach that your officers suggest, you’ll want to strongly consider sticking by this path, but if you find that this idea only appeals to the officers you need to use the thoughts of the majority to make this clear to them. Whatever the outcome of the group chat I mentioned, you’ll have some level of compromise and change to enact to keep everyone happy, so it’s best to be as specific as possible about how and when this will happen to make it easier for everyone to stick to their word. Capturing this meeting in writing, even if it is hasty bullet points, means that you can refer back to the points raised and know you’ve cleared the list. Involving your officers and members in the rejuvenation efforts like this lets them know with certainty that you want to work with them rather than control them. Facilitate the content they wish to run regardless of time of day and don’t argue about who is involved for now: Simply take a no-nonsense approach to free spots and fill them despite the excuses.
It could be the case that no amount of compromise will allow you to move forward as a unit, so I need you to note that losing members and officers is a small price to pay for your ongoing happiness in-game. Some people prefer to run “benevolent dictatorships” in which they have overall say on all guild matters and do not use officers or leadership councils because they feel the reward of their effort leading should be having that level of control over their own guild: So long as members are free to leave if their aims change away from what suits the guild without any ill-feeling, I don’t think this is a bad setup, though it admittedly isn’t my style. There are always going to be players who enjoy playing as you do and those who do not: Perhaps the passage of time has simply moved your old guildmates off your trajectory and you need a fresh set of friends to game with. Finally, the very last thing I would do is feel pressured to hand over the reins of your own guild: You also worked hard on it and were its leader for a reason, and if they wish to run their own guild they can begin one themselves.
Over to you!
Whether you and your officers decide to stay together or part ways, I wish you luck in the game and out, Jase! I’m hoping that plenty of readers join in with some suggestions in the comments as well: If you have experienced a similar break and then a frosty welcome back, let him know in the comments.