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The Guild Counsel: Surviving the summer doldrums

Karen Bryan

Memorial Day weekend has come and gone, and as we all know, it marks the unofficial start of summer. That means lots of grilling, extra sunblock, school vacation... and the summertime blues in our favorite MMOs.

Summer is always a difficult time for MMOs, and for guilds in particular. Expansions tend to arrive in the fall and winter, meaning that content begins to grow stale by summer. Members aren't on as often; instead, they are busy with children out of school, summer trips, and shockingly, a desire to soak up some sun and nice weather. For a guild leader, this is one of the most difficult times of the year, and many guilds fail to make it through the summer. But there are some ways to get through the doldrums, and the experience can even be a great opportunity to strengthen your guild in the long run. Read on for some helpful summertime tips in this week's Guild Counsel!

Recruit carefully

The reality of the summer slowdown is that you will still have members logging in, and they're going to want to accomplish something in game. The problem is that it can feel like a revolving door, with your main tank returning from vacation just as your best healer is about to begin his. You'll have some pieces of the puzzle, but you'll be banging your head over that gap in the big picture. One option is to recruit in order to fill in needed spots on the raid.

Known and unknown

But before you do that, step back and take stock of what you will have for the summer. Members tend to not announce when they're going to be offline for an extended period of time, partially because it just doesn't cross their minds and partially because they might feel like it's frowned upon. I try to encourage the opposite -- whether they'll be gone a few days or a few weeks, I encourage members to tell me ahead of time whenever they know they won't be on. Sure, it might mean that we'll have to cancel a raid here and there, but the upside is that I can give everyone advanced notice and I can rearrange the schedule to take advantage of nights when I know I will have enough folks on to do something. It takes a little extra time, but if I can piece together a workable schedule for the summer with the roster that I have, it's better for the guild and much less work than going through the process of recruiting replacements.

Form an alliance

If you just need a short-term bandaid to get you through the summer, consider reaching out to a friendly guild and setting up an alliance. Recruiting a huge wave of members might help get you back on track with guild progression, but you'll be behind the eight ball in the fall when people return from their summer activities. Chances are there's at least one other compatible guild in the same boat as you are, and joining forces for a month or two can help you both get through the doldrums.

Do some housework

You might not have enough members to do a large guild activity like raiding, but there are always smaller goals that you can work on. Ask members to go through their quest journals and coordinate some nights for members to knock out those old quests that were too hard to do solo. Or do a little gear check and see about setting up some farm nights to fill in gaps. It might seem small, but it is progress, and members will appreciate the fact that you're able to get things done as a guild even if it's not a full-scale raid. In addition, those small quick-strikes are great bonding opportunities for the guild and will keep the group going strong as you get back on track in the fall.

Encourage offline endeavors

The longer your guild is around, the closer the ties among the members. Eventually you reach a point at which what your guildmates do offline is just as newsworthy as what they do in-game. As a guild leader, allow opportunities for members to share their summer stories -- planned trips, activities with the kids, and "the one that got away." You don't want an atmosphere in which people feel they have to keep things secret or risk losing their spot on the raid or the roster.

Do a guild vacation

This can be both in game and offline. If your guild is hitting a wall with progression, consider going on a mini-vacation in another game on off-nights. Instead of logging to a ghost town on a weekday off-night, pick another game and bring the guild over for a once-a-week MMO vacation. It's a nice chance to freshen things up in the short term -- members who are used to the routine of raiding might enjoy a night of armored battles in World of Tanks or high-seas hijinks in Pirates of the Burning Sea.

Meanwhile, consider doing a guild vacation offline as well. There are many game conventions over the summer, so you could take the opportunity to arrange a guild meet-and-greet at one that's convenient for people. Or you could go the more informal route and set something up just for your guild. When members have a chance to meet each other face to face, it strengthens those connections within the guild, and it's a very memorable experience.

Change things up

If all else fails, shake things up a bit. Perhaps you're about to raid and you know you're short-handed -- instead of plodding along with the raid, announce to the guild that you (or another member in the guild) have been kidnapped, and it's up to the guild to find out where you are and perform a rescue operation. Or set up a guild scavenger hunt for prizes. There are many player-run events that you can do, and sometimes a little breather from the routine is a good thing for the guild.

The big takeaway is that summer will be slow, but if you and your guild acknowledge that fact, it's easier for everyone to look past the potential frustrations and focus instead on finding alternative ways to enjoy the game. If you can survive summer, your guild will emerge stronger in the long run -- just make sure to stock up on sunscreen!

Do you have a guild problem that you just can't seem to resolve? Have a guild issue that you'd like to discuss? Every week, Karen Bryan takes on reader questions about guild management right here in The Guild Counsel column. She'll offer advice, give practical tips, and even provide a shoulder to lean on for those who are taking up the challenging task of running a guild.

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