Leadership is difficult. You have to get a group of people to work together when they may or may not be naturally inclined to do so, and on top of that you need to make sure that their cooperation is directed in the right way. Even when you have utter control over an organization, it can be difficult to lead effectively; having an organization filled up largely by random people with usually world-shattering powers doesn’t make things any easier.
That having been said, a lot of MMO leaders are still really bad at their jobs. Digital representations of the Peter Principle in action, in other words. So here’s a look at some terrible leadership in MMOs and the leaders who are not, at this point, fit to lead teddy bears to a picnic. Hardly all of the incompetent leaders out there, of course, but the column is Perfect Ten, not Perfect Couple Hundred.
1. Thrall, son of Durotan (World of Warcraft)
Everyone is tired as hell of Thrall at this point, and with good cause, but what tends to be overlooked by World of Warcraft fans is that he wasn’t the “good” Warchief. He was an awful Warchief.
As Warchief, Thrall established a new homeland for the Orcish people that butted right up against the land of the Night Elves, and he solved this dispute by doing absolutely nothing other than wringing his hands and alternating between “Well, we’re Orcs, we do what we do” and claiming everyone needed to work together. The two major political alliances he formed were basically tailor-made to make the Alliance hate him, and after a major attack on the Alliance by Forsaken forces, he diplomatically responded by saying that no one should be mean to Sylvanas; she had a hard day. He then gave his job to Garrosh Hellscream, a man barely qualified to order appetizers for three people at Applebee’s, and acted totally surprised when Garrosh decided that he was just going to go to war instead of wringing his hands and waffling about whether or not he liked the Alliance.
Subsequently, he’s managed to accomplish nothing of use beyond being used as a laser focusing beam for the Aspects and then giving you your Enhancement weapon while heading off to “think about things” (read: get wasted and sit around). The only reason he gets remembered as a good leader is because he gave the job to someone far, far worse.
2. Alphinaud Leveilleur (Final Fantasy XIV)
When I was in high school, there was a girl I was really into who was completely certain that she was so smart, talented, and unique. Years later, I would look back and realize that she really wasn’t; she was just convinced of that because she told herself how great she was all the time. Alphinaud is that girl, except instead of just leading to some weirdness in social studies class, he formed an entire paramilitary organization that wound up turning on him and nearly killing all of his friends.
Now, yes, it’s pretty cool that he spent the whole next expansion dealing with the fact that he sucks at leading anyone, so it worked out in the end. But damn, Alphinaud, you didn’t just lead poorly; you led so badly that the group you led tried to kill everyone.
3. Chancellor J’mpok (Star Trek Online)
“No one deceives the Klingons!” cries Chancellor J’mpok. “You say that we’re being infiltrated by the Undine? How can we identify these imposters?”
“Just listen to me,” replied P’lant in a voice that in no way resembled his normal tone, tenting his fingers and occasionally letting out a high-pitched laugh. “I’m super trustworthy and also totally bipedal.”
“Sounds good,” replied J’mpok, nodding. “Let’s take a ‘shoot first, ask questions never’ approach with our former allies and not tell them why we’re doing that. Now, I’m late for a meeting with House Treachery and all of their mysterious allies in cloaks who I’m sure are entirely above board.”
4. Darth Malgus (Star Wars: The Old Republic)
Malgus was hyped up as a big character, but he really doesn’t do much over the course of Star Wars: The Old Republic‘s storyline. In fact, he really just has two big moments: sending out Sith operatives to defeat necessary forces, including would-be secessionist forces from the Empire, and trying to secede from the Empire himself.
So yeah, a golden retriever with severe head trauma could see how that story ends.
5. Prince Rurik (Guild Wars)
The allegedly charismatic prince of Ascalon, Rurik is a fine warrior who is willing to lead a military force into certain death for terrible reasons and then get really mad that his own lack of forward thinking might have doomed people. His primary goal is to lead his people to safety, and he sort of succeeds, in the sense that the fraction of the refugees he took away from Ascalon in a fit of pique will probably be totally safe if they weren’t caught in one of the several wars he started along the way.
Luckily, you later get to sword him right in the face, so it’s all good.
6. The Center (City of Heroes)
Hey, not all of the incompetent leaders are in charge of players. Take The Center, for example, who took over the Fifth Column and transformed it into The Council, then proceeded to do absolutely jack squat with that sudden influx of power. He had no motives or goals, and it feels as if his takeover was less a matter of cold political manipulation and more of the Column letting him take power because his mom called and told everyone to let him be the boss so he wouldn’t feel bad.
I really hate The Council.
7. Trahearne (Guild Wars 2)
Trahearne is another one of those characters who everyone hates, but much of that had little to do with him being a leader. Once he finally did get to be a leader, though, he promptly failed at leadership so hard that future generations of Tyrians will refer to this scale of failure as “pulling a Trahearne.” He succeeded in aiding an Elder Dragon and killing a lot of innocent people and accomplishing nothing else.
When your tenure as leader would be significantly improved by telling everyone under your command to not do anything at all, you are bad at your job.
8. President Karst (Final Fantasy XI)
Let’s face it, Final Fantasy XI has pretty sad leaders for its three nations: bickering elf princes, a man who really looks as if he ought to be selling me propane (and propane accessories), and a whiny toddler in a tree. The fact that Karst is the worst of the bunch comes down chiefly to his complete inability to manage his people or the simmering racial tensions running through Bastok, relying entirely upon his daughter and random Galka to sort out the mess that he helped create.
Also, just look at that moustache. No man with a moustache like that could or should be trusted. Seriously, that thing is what would happen if Tom Selleck’s upper lip mated with Salvador Dali’s mouth and they had a bushy baby.
9. Malfurion Stormrage (WoW)
Yeah, we’re going back to WoW, because Malfurion Stormrage (aka “The Stormrage Brother What Who’s Slightly Less Awful Than The Other One”) is perhaps the only leader on this list who managed to nearly doom the entire world with a nap. His actual leadership consists chiefly of sleeping or leaving to deal with whatever project he thinks of next, and through all of his various amblings he never accomplishes much more than making a slightly different mess than the one we started with. And then we have Val’sharah, wherein Malfurion is literally to blame for every terrible consequence in that zone.
Despite all of this, he’s still probably a better choice for Warchief than Garrosh Hellscream. Not that it matters much any more.
10. Lord British (Ultima Online)
Someone wasn’t enough of a leader to properly set the “invulnerability” flag on during a launch event, apparently.