Friday, 17 July 2015

How would you do as a guild master?

Welcome to my first twin piece: a collaboration of Gamers Decrypted and Ravalation. I've been talking to Noctua of Gamers Decrypted on Skype quite a lot lately, enthusiastically discussing blogging ideas. As a 'solo' blogger, it's been a wonderful experience to have someone to talk to with the same blogging interests! One of the topics we found ourselves lost in is that of guild leadership: a social role that people take upon themselves in a virtual environment. Why do people in an online game want to commit to sorting out the social affairs of others, forging and keeping together a group of people they have never met in the offline world?

In contrast to Noctua, I don't have any personal experience leading a guild. In fact, I am sure I'd make a horrible guild master myself! Therefore, I need to find the answers to my questions in more competent people... and I've found quite a few! I'm keeping you in suspense for now, but I have found you amazing guild leaders willing to show us around behind the scenes.

Leadership in changing times

One thing that I'll be looking at is the relationship between guild leadership and game content. MMORGs are subject to constant change. How does this influence the leadership a guild needs? Gamers Decrypted showcases an example of this in today's mirror twin piece, investigating the social implications of the removal of 8vs8 ranked PvP in SWTOR. We don't want to restrict ourselves to historical changes, though: I feel this is highly relevant today as we look at recent developments in SWTOR's PvE. The announcement that no new PvE raids will be released with the Knights of the Fallen Empire expansion in October is one of the things I talked to guild masters about in detail. Without spoiling too much, I can say it is certainly on their minds.

The guild master as superhero (aka why you don't want me as GM)

No, this is not a story of me trying to lead a guild into an abyss (sorry to disappoint). Rather, this is an exercise of thought: why do I dread the thought of leading a guild? What qualities am I missing that I apparently should have?

First off: raid leading. While I do know how all the encounters go by now and I know what all the roles do (having played them all), I don't have the tactical and creative insight to improvise strategies at the spot, reacting to strengths and weaknesses in the group, as a good raid leader has. I know, I have ended up raid leading at times in the absence of our usual raid leaders in LOTRO and I always felt very insecure and awful during. I was so glad when it was over and we were still alive! Well, sorta...

Edit: I don't mean with this that guild masters also need to be raid leaders (I should've worded it better; sorry for the confusion). What I do mean is that I lack the natural leadership skills that good GMs have.

Then I'm also not good at voice communication. While I feel alright writing in English on this blog, I'm clumsy at explaining complicated gameplay on voice chat. My extreme Dutch accent doesn't help either. While some people may find this hard to believe, I can be shy in large groups and function best in small ones, or alone.

When playing games, I always want everyone to be happy and be friends with each other. Yes, I'm that naive! Reality, of course, is different. Conflict between people happens and it makes me feel miserable, sometimes having direct impact on my real life. Dealing with that for fun? No thanks.

Video games are not my life (gasp). I'm doing a demanding research master while struggling with my health. Next to that I try to find some fun in life by dancing, making music, blogging and... oh yeah, playing games. I simply can't imagine myself managing a group of people on top of that.

This is where I'll be when a new guild master is being sought. Don't tell anyone!

Looking back at my self assessment, I can name at least five qualities a perfect guild leader would have, although doubtlessly there are many more:
- Knowledge of relevant gameplay
- Good communication with other players
- Good in groups
- Ability to solve conflict
- Having time and willingness to dedicate oneself to the guild

So what do our superheroes, the guild masters themselves, think about this? Naturally I've asked them. You'll find out next week, starting Monday! If you haven't done so yet, take a sneak preview by checking out Noctua's mirror piece: an interview with the guild master of PvP guild Reality Check (The Red Eclipse).

One more thing: for this series we're interviewing SWTOR guilds, but of course the topic of guild leadership is much larger than just SWTOR alone. Therefore, I'd love to hear from your experiences leading guilds in other games as well.

How would you do as a guild leader? Would you happily step up if needed or would you run off and hide behind a rock?

This is the first in a series of twin posts on guild leadership by Ravalation and Gamers Decrypted, looking at PvE leadership and PvP leadership respectively. We dive deeper into the world of guild masters next week, so stay tuned!


  1. Despite what my ego wants to say I had some very brief and some rather mediocre attempts at guild leading. It was so bad that I've sworn to never try being a guild leader again. And most of the reasons are similar to yours (shy in large groups, wanting everyone to be friends with each other, feeling terrible and not knowing how to deal with it when that doesn't happen) plus a few of my own issues.

    I'd also add to your list of qualities of a good leader:

    - Be inclusive. I suppose this is what you meant by a good in groups but in case it is not, here is what I mean. Make sure none of your guild members are feeling excluded. Even if it might be just their perception of it it can still cause horrible damage to your guild image and unnecessary drama. One of the guilds I was in Everquest 2 several of my friends decided to quit it because they felt the leadership fell into click, only partying and raiding with their best buddies and giving some vague promises to including my friends who were interested into it at some point in the future. I particularly didn't feel that but they certainly did. I eventually left too but it was more due to a personal crisis with roleplaying (it was a roleplaying guild) and needing some time alone to figure it out.

    Now, if you excuse me, I think there is a rock over there that needs some investigation... Yes, some serious investigation, not hiding. Oh, look! A three-headed monkey behind you! *runs and hides behind the nearest tall rock*

  2. I'm not a guild leader but am currently an officer in a medium-sized guild. It's a lot like being an officer in a club, just without face-to-face communication. I think that constant, good communication is probably the most important, followed by excellent mediation skills. Knowing whether to let members sort it out on their own and when to step in is huge. And finally, being able to delegate is really important.

  3. I'm not a guild leader.

    In fact, I'm not really in any guilds these days. (The old WoW Alliance guild notwithstanding.)

    The reasons for that are many, but I've seen enough guild drama and implosions for me to not really want to join a guild any time soon. Well, that and that I don't raid; I don't have the time and I'm old enough to recognize that my physical skills are no longer what they once were.*

    If I were in a guild, my lack of raid dedication would likely doom me to being an ineffectual Guild Master. Which isn't a bad thing, really; I know I've got micromanager tendencies, and I fight a constant battle over resisting those impulses at work. So why invite this into my "relaxation time"?

    But I can admire the people who are able to put in the dedication to raiding and/or Guild Mastering. It's not an easy thing to do, this herding of MMO cats, but some people are able to handle it with aplomb.

    *Okay, who am I kidding? They were never as good as I thought they were, but I'm old enough to admit it. Finally.

  4. I was a guild leader once. My first action was to announce the impending closure of the guild and open up the guild bank for everyone to plunder. A week later I kicked everyone out and kept the guild name alive on a bank alt. >_>

    This was just me pulling the trigger on a slowly dying guild anyway, but it's the most power I've had and wanted. Dealing with people begging you not to shut it down was heartbreaking.

    I'm more of a "power behind the throne" kind of person. :)

  5. I would imagine not all guilds are the same in terms of what it takes to be a leader. I tend to join smallish guilds that are more casual, high in friendliness and maturity, and low on drama and obligations. So perhaps it's less stressful leading those kinds of guilds.

    I wouldn't want to do it myself though because I'm far too casual for it too suit me.

    Btw does a guild leader need to be a raid leader as well? I can imagine that often happens, but it seems like they could be different people in theory at least.

    1. "Btw does a guild leader need to be a raid leader as well? I can imagine that often happens, but it seems like they could be different people in theory at least."

      That was exactly my line of thought when reading this posting. In the best guilds i ever was, the guildleader was not the leader in the field. (One of them was in Warhammer Online, so it was not Raidleader but Warbandleader, so i keep it more general. )

      The tactical leader has to have an overview on the situation and decide what to do. Idealy he also has some understanding of the abilities of the people he has at hand. The guildleader is more of an administrator and often also a mediator. He often is needed when there's disagreements between people, especially if people feel handled badly in action. If the one who they feel badly handled by at the same time is the guildleader, fixing things is much harder than it it's a third person. This all only counts for very success driven guilds. I personally by now prefer more social guilds, things are being run a bit more casual. This doesn't mean there won't be scheduled raids, but there won't be the "has to be done, today, have to be server first, has to be done in less than 60 minutes else we waste time, blah blah" pressure. Without the pressure, it's much easier to include all members into a guilds activities and social conflicts run rather low. In that kind of guilds, the only real responsibility a guild master has after a while is to be the "good father" to be around regularily and make sure that some new people are recruited as you always have some loss in the run of time. (There always will be new games which cost you one or another member. )

      Mostly with new players then the guild master then has to keep an eye open, to see how they behave and if there'll be problems arising. This also is the kind of guild where new players, if they turn out to be troublemakers, need to be kicked quickly. A new member is not worth risking disgruntlement of old members here, no matter how "leet" he might be. (This is the hardest part, when you have to pull through a kick. )

    2. I love all the input and ideas about guild leading being posted here! I feel a bit conflicted about answering in the comments, because a lot of points are being answered in the GM interviews that I've done (that are not published yet on the blog). So maybe I'll write a conclusionary post after the interviews are posted and quote from these comments in it instead (otherwise I'll be doing things double). Keep tuned!

  6. "Therefore, I'd love to hear from your experiences leading guilds in other games as well."

    That's...kind of a broad question (sort of, technically it wasn't a question I suppose), were you wondering about anything specific? I lead a Mythic guild (hardest difficulty in WoW raiding) which I founded to only raid two nights a week (most guilds raid 3-4+ nights a week) for reference.

    1. I was thinking of the things I was mentioning in this post, but I do have a lot of specific questions as well, namely those I asked the interviewed guild leaders. The more info the merrier, so if you'd like to share your experiences, I'd love that! I could send them to you if you'd like?

  7. Ok, caught up with this post. One of the things I find very respectable is you take stock of what you can and cannot do when considering being a guild leader. I've run guilds before and it is very very difficult. One thing I would point out though is not caring about your dutch accent. Why? One of my favorite raid leaders when I was doing AoC was Portuguese. He had a very strong accent, but it was easy to work through because he never ever got flustered/frustrated during some extremely demanding raids. AoC was known for being very very difficult for even experienced MMO games. But he always had an awesome attitude towards his teams even if they were not guildees. My point is never exclude yourself just because of perceived language barriers. It's all in the attitude. I carried his attitude while leading my own raids of patience and understanding and always had a good time with my raiders. On the other hand, real life is a hindrance if one plans to be a serious guild leader. I had to step out of leading because of real life obligations and that's an honest assessment. To this day because my RL is demanding I no longer lead guilds. Nothing wrong with that. Anyways, excellent insight!

    1. Thanks for your kind words and insights. I think I'm doing better nowadays; at least, I'm pretty chatty on voice chat when I'm raiding with the people of both my Imperial and Republic raid team, who I've gotten to know over time. Of course I still mess up starting a sentence in English and then not knowing how to end it because I'm missing a word! But that's alright, since they know me, Conrad will help me out, etc. I used to be a lot more shy (and I do hate hearing myself speak because of the Dutch accent, sorry, nothing I can do about that!); it's literally taken years to get over that, but now my guildies are probably thinking "when will she shut up?"

      Also, thanks for sharing your own experiences leading a guild. I had no idea you had done that, and it's pretty cool to find out about!

  8. It's interesting that you attribute raid leading as a role that a guild master should have. In my own experience (having led many guilds), keeping it separate helps to keep a guild more active, and prevent burn out and drama from many angles. In WildStar, it's like a burden is lifted not having to raid lead, and having an officer dedicated just to it with me as someone who helps settle the disputes (rare though they be).

    I also feel the same way and want everyone to be friends. And I also deal with it poorly IRL if something *does* happen. But honestly? So long as you're cultivating an environment that you yourself would enjoy and find like-minded people, a lot of that takes care of itself--and people actually talk out their issues with each other. When they don't, well, they may leave, but then, they weren't really the right fit to begin with when that happens.

    I have much more to say, but I think this has spurned a blog post topic, and instead will write more and link back to you in my blog. ^_^

    1. That is actually not what I meant, but I can see how it came off as that, as it was the first thing I mentioned in my 'self assessment'. I'll elucidate it in the post. From what you wrote it seems you're leading a guild yourself, in Wildstar I presume? I'm looking forward to reading your thoughts on this!

      Feel free to paste a link to your post here - unfortunately Blogspot seems unable to automatically add links to referring posts ("pingback").


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