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Behind the Curtain: Guilds and conflict resolution

Craig Withers

Obviously, lots of players takes guild recruitment seriously, as they should. But how seriously do we take guild drama?

Assuming it's not directly affecting us, most of us love guild drama and revel in other players' dysfunction. I haven't checked the numbers – I'm too lazy – but it really wouldn't surprise me if Guildwatch was one of the more popular columns over on WoW Insider. I know it's one of my favourites.

I like to think that I'm a fairly decent bloke – I try not to laugh at other people's misfortunes, and I don't like to rub a person's nose in their own failings, but God help me, I can't get enough of Guildwatch.

How far would you go to forestall the breakup of your guild? At the end of the day, if your guild leader decides to hit the big /gdisband button, it's not like you can physically stop them, short of some questionable activities you'd find difficult explaining to the police.

So, how do you prevent the break up of a guild? Do you even try? Do players spend as much time fighting to keep their guild together as they do trying to put it together in the first place? How many of us practices conflict resolution within our guilds?

A lot of guild drama gets blown out of proportion and tends to fizzle away to nothing once people take a breath and get over their first reactions. That's not always the case though and some drama actually has some weight behind it. Drama that is justified won't fizzle out, can't be ignored until it goes away, and has a tendency to just keep growing.

For example, a player finding out that his/her partner is cheating on them with an officer in the guild isn't likely to directly affect much of the rest of the guild. Finding out that said partner was getting loot from that officer instead of more deserving players is a different kettle of fish. An officer or guild leader who's occasionally short with people is one thing; targeting someone specific for bullying is something else entirely. A guild where only some people feel like raiding is cool, one where non-raiders are treated like second-class citizens less so.

My question is not so much about how to go about dealing with drama or avoiding it. Avoiding it isn't always possible, sadly – there's always going to be people who do thrive on drama, who search it out and actively precipitate it. Dealing with drama is much the same as dealing with any other kind of interpersonal problem – there are few hard and fast rules to it. Some problems can be dealt with out in the open, others are better kept behind closed doors.

I've yet to quit a guild for drama reasons, even though I've seen my fair share. I've seen a guild where the leadership was shared by a couple nearly fall apart when they broke up acrimoniously; I've seen another go though four separate leaders in the space of a year as it underwent the painful transition from a laid-back casual guild to one of the premier raiding guilds on the server. I left the last guild, as I said, not because of drama, but simply because the climate didn't suit me.

I'm getting a little off-topic though. I said my point was about how hard we fight to keep our guilds together. How hard people fight, if they do fight at all is going to be hard to predict – different types of people react differently to the same situations, and few of us react exactly the way we think we will. Maybe your gamer type will help you predict that, maybe not.

A quick Google search for things like 'MMO conflict resolution' and 'guild drama solutions' didn't really turn up anything appropriate. What they do turn up is plenty of examples of guild drama exploding in people's faces, but that's only to be expected.

The sad truth here is that not everyone will be in your guild for the same reason that you are. Most people will be, regardless of that reason being loot and PvE progression, socializing, RPing or PvPing, but there's always going to be a few who buck the trend. These are the players who will either up and leave at the first sign of trouble, or decide that the first bit of drama is their cue to stage a coup and/or walkout. Watch them carefully – if they're the former, they'll have a tendency to try and re-apply a couple of months later if you and the rest of your guild manage to work things out. If they're the latter, they may do the same, except this time there's a chance they'll bring a few faces back with them. It'll be up to you to decide if you let them back in or not.

What about the rest of us though? Those of us who enjoy, care about and even (whisper) love our guilds? Going back to an earlier point, it's hard to predict how you'll react in a given situation. Suggesting that we should all just sit back and take an unbiased view of the situation and react accordingly is easier said than done.

Have you found yourself caught up in drama that threatened the continued existence of your guild? How did you and your guildies react? How much of a fight did you put up, or did you think it best to leave and start over? Hit the comments below to share your stories with us, and brighten up our weekend.

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