This is going to be a tricky week for me, since my girlfriend reads this column. Like most subjects, I'm not claiming to have all the answers about this, but in this case I'm really clueless sometimes. I'm wondering how other guild leaders and officers out there handle it.
So this week, I'm the one providing the question!
How do you deal with having a significant other in the guild -- especially when he or she isn't an officer?
It wouldn't be much of a column without more explanation, so I'll share my experience, and you guys can tell me how badly I'm screwing it up.
The first time I showed my girlfriend Sarah (name changed to protect the innocent) this crazy online game that was sucking away my time, she wasn't very impressed. I think I was about level 30 at the time. I showed her my hunter, walked around Thunder Bluff to see the pretty graphics (which weren't bad back in 2004), and then killed a few kodos to demonstrate how combat worked. I even did a few /flirt's and /silly's to show off the game's personality. She had never played anything like this before. Even so, I thought maybe, if I showed Warcraft to her, she might become intrigued and want to try it out.
She was terribly, terribly bored. I logged off, my hopes dashed.
Months passed, and Sarah started to realize that the game was more than just a waste of time for me. I had made a number of good friends online and took increasing pride in the success of my guild. About a year later, on a lazy Saturday afternoon, I suggested she give it another try. My plan was different this time. I asked her to sit down in front of the computer and make her own character. She made an Undead warlock and giggled at how you could design them without a mouth. I walked her through the first few quests and how combat worked, but I never took control of her character away, live or die. I showed her how to /dance and how to talk to one of our friends who was online at the time. After a few levels she got her imp, whose antics made her smile. Pretty soon she was completing quests on her own. An hour went by, then two hours, and then we realized she was going to be late for work. Sarah was officially addicted.
I bought her the game and a better video card. For those of you whose significant others also play, you know how great it is when you finally get them on board. No longer do you have to keep your game character and your real life entirely separate, like Batman and Bruce Wayne. I rolled a warrior alt so I could level up with her, and we quested and ran dungeons to 60, facing our enemies side by side. Warcraft leaked into our lives. We talked talent points over candlelit dinners. We traveled to guild parties in other states. We were having a blast. For me, it was like a dream come true. For the most part, it still is!
But there were also some difficult moments, and these moments still happen from time to time. What do you do when you're questing with your girlfriend, but your guild needs you for a raid you weren't planning on attending? I'm sure most WoW couples encounter these situations, but it's somewhat worse when you're an officer. For me, at first, the question was easy to answer: As GL, I took the attitude that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. I would go to the raid. But Sarah would get upset, and I couldn't understand why. In my mind, she was being selfish by expecting me to play my alt with her when all those people were counting on me to make the raid happen.
It took me a few arguments to realize it, but I was being selfish too. I didn't want to say no to the raid because I couldn't bear to let my guild down. I had every right to refuse them, but I felt obligated as GL to drop everything for my guildmates whenever they needed me. I wanted to protect my reputation as a team player, and I didn't think people would understand my reasons for saying no. Still, Sarah needed me too, and she valued our time together online. She hated to see me gallavanting off to do content she couldn't yet participate in. To her it felt like we were out on a date, but then a friend called me and I ditched her.
We still have this problem, but we're managing it better these days. I've learned that it helps greatly when I tell her up front what my plan is for the night. Sometimes I'll tell her, "Tonight, we'll do whatever you want to do." And I'll stick to that, regardless of what happens. But sometimes I'll say, "Well, I'd like to quest with you tonight, but they might need me for Gruul." Or, "Sorry, I've got to go to Zul'Aman." This communication has averted most of the conflict. It helps that she can come to some of the raids, too. But we still get into it now and again when I'm doing my own thing too much.
The other main issue is of course the special treatment she may or may not get, being the girlfriend of the GL. Her main character is getting geared up, but she's not the best warlock we have, and she's OK with that. She does her best to improve and doesn't expect preferential decisions in her favor when it comes to getting into raids or getting loot. I mostly try to stay impartial, but sometimes I do request her for a Kara run or remind people on their alts that they can't roll against her main character. When I do that, I feel funny about it. But then I remind myself that I've done similar things for other people in the past who were having a hard time getting into runs or in danger of getting screwed out of loot they deserved. Would I have done it in each case if the person wasn't my girlfriend? Well, that's difficult to answer. I don't really know.
Things would be simpler if Sarah were an officer. She would face some of the same pressures and expectations that I face. Why isn't she? She's certainly been in the guild long enough. She doesn't have the same grasp of game mechanics that my other officers do, but she'd be great at the people-management aspects. She's also the most organized person I know, so she'd be outstanding at scheduling stuff or running the bank. But she's never expressed an interest in becoming an officer, and her play time does tend to fluctuate quite a bit from week to week. Some weeks she's on almost every day. During others she barely logs in. It's not an ideal situation for a leadership role.
So we're in the same place we were two years ago when she started playing. We've learned a lot about each other's habits and expectations since then, but we still butt heads from time to time. I'm really curious what others have done in my situation. How do you balance your time together and your obligations to the guild? How do you avoid giving him or her special treatment? What other problems have you run into? Thanks in advance!
Send Scott your guild-related questions, conundrums, ideas, and suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may find your question the subject of next week's Officers' Quarters!