Welcome along to Guild Chat, my column in which I join forces with commenters to help a reader in need with a guild-related concern. This edition’s submission is all about deciding to meet up with your guildmates in real life: Reader Xenos is great online friends with many of his guildmates and is considering either inviting them over to visit him or travelling out to see them. In Xenos’ case this would require international travel, Before he makes the leap, however, he is looking for our advice on whether real-world meetups are a good idea and how to approach it safely. Keep reading for my thoughts on organising guild meets and Xenos’ full submission, then don’t forget to add your thoughts in the comments.
“I’ve been gaming with the same bunch of people for a long while now and we get along super well. I have the entire summer off classes and plan to travel anyways so was wondering if I should suggest a guild meet or ask my best friends in the guild if I can come visit them. I haven’t brought it up yet so I don’t know if they’d like to meet and I also worry about how safe it is and seeming weird or suspicious by asking. Any advice?”
Taking friendships offline is scary but exciting
This is an excellent topic, Xenos, so thanks for sharing! The friendships we forge online can grow every bit as strong as those we create in person, so I totally see why you might want to meet some of those people you’ve connected with if you have a chance to do so and don’t think your guildmates would find it weird or silly at all. I had a Swedish guild member who used a summer off to go interrailing across Europe, and he stayed with Brendan Drain and me when he visited Northern Ireland as part of his tour and we showed him around while feeding him lots of unhealthy Irish food. That was a wonderfully positive experience that will always stay with us, but we never did manage to hold a large guild meet due to the awkward spread of our members and the costs associated with gathering us all up. Several members of the Massively OP crew would have similar positive meet stories to tell, and I’m a massive believer in the benefits of strong online friendships in a more and more isolated world.
Having said that, you are absolutely justified in being a little worried about conducting any guild meets that are organised as safely as you can: Not only can people pretend to be anyone they like on the internet, but you also have the much more mundane risks of people clashing in person despite gelling online and any issues or drama that occurs at the meet spilling into the online space and ruining the harmony that made you all want to meet up in the first place. There are most definitely clever approaches that can be taken when meeting up with online friends that can make the whole encounter run much more smoothly while safeguarding all parties, so I’m really pleased that you’re approaching the matter with thought and sensitivity before you begin organising anything.
Your first time meeting someone (or a bunch of people in the case of large guild meets) is bound to be a nerve-racking experience for even the boldest extroverts among us, but much of the pressure can be alleviated by choosing the correct location for your meeting. Even if the plan is for a guildmate to stay at your house or for a group of you to stay together somewhere, I recommend making the initial meeting earlier in the day somewhere public and neutral. This will allow all parties to relax and talk in person before feeling stuck or obligated to see out the plans: It is far easier to have the strength of will to leave a public space if a meeting goes wrong than to get up and walk out of a hotel you’re all staying in or someone’s home, after all.
If you are ever playing the role of host (I know in your post you want to do the travelling, but it could work out easier the other way depending on your location), this has the added benefit of shielding your specific address from those online friends until you’ve actually met in person and can trust that they are who they say they are. Give a district, estate name, or similar for where you live and meet at the park around the corner for a nice walk or a coffee shop in town to grab cake before you head on home. This feels natural: If you were meeting up with a local friend, you’d probably visit a café or do some activity together before hanging out, so it fits in well with a day’s plans without insulting your guildmates by airing your reservations aloud.
The first point I’m going to make might sound odd for such a jovial occasion, but I’d most definitely make the first encounter with our online friends a sober one. Unless you all do drunk raids together or something, chances are that at least some of your members won’t be big drinkers and some will perhaps not drink at all. Depending on where you meet, some members who are usually over the legal drinking age for their home country might be underage at the meet location too. There’s nothing more obnoxious than being the sober person in a sea of drunk people, which doesn’t help first meetings go to plan, and alcohol can make any minor offences or disputes seem bigger than they are. I have to admit to breaking this rule when my Swedish friend came to stay with us: Our first stop was a wonderful old bar in Belfast, but we went for the authentic Irish atmosphere and live music rather than for pints upon pints of the black stuff.
Know your audience when you’re planning your activities: Try to cover all bases and consider religion, disabilities, food intolerances, allergies, and general personalities. There’s no point in organising a meet in a location that is inaccessible to some members, makes any of the attending parties uncomfortable, or serves food that will bring about unwanted side effects. It will take more initial legwork to consider all of these factors when organising your outings, but ultimately it will allow your on-the-day focus to remain with the people you’re there to meet with instead of on complaints handling and problem shooting. Don’t forget to also consider the ages of those who you’re set to meet: I highly recommend keeping meets to adult guild members only unless teen members have adult family members who also game with them so as to avoid creating any safeguarding issues.
Online friendships are becoming increasingly important to people and international travel is becoming more and more affordable, so I think meeting those online friends is a fantastic use of some natural downtime in your schedule. Provided that you consider the safety and comfort of all of those who are involved, there is no reason for those online friendships to not translate into the real world space, so I do hope you go ahead with your plans. Let me know how it goes and send pictures of your antics if you do!
Have you ever attended a guild meet, and if so did it have any impact on the guild afterwards? What are your top tips for taking online friendships offline? Share your thoughts with Xenos in the comments.
Many thanks for the submission, Xenos! If you have a guild issue you’d like to see featured in Guild Chat, do let me know for consideration.