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The Guild Counsel: Odds and Ends

Karen Bryan

With summer approaching, school coming to an end, and summer travel right around the corner, I find that this is a good time of year to step back, take stock, and reflect on things. It's easy as a guild leader to put the blinders on and get on the treadmill of day-to-day management. But it's worth pausing every now and then to consider the bigger picture.

In this week's Guild Counsel, we'll do just that. Read on for a few thoughts on some of the odds and ends of guild management.

Why lead?

For some reason, I've come across this question quite a bit lately. For me, there are several reasons I've enjoyed leading guilds, and none of them has to do with loot. When you have your eye on a certain piece of loot only to see it replaced later on by something else, loot begins to lose its importance. And that's even more evident as you move from one game to a new one, and basically start over with gear.

Leading a guild always appealed to me because it was like coaching and teaching, only more challenging. I was taking the most diverse group of people, players who would never in a million years associate with each other outside of the game, and figuring out ways for them to work together. When our guildmates have met in the past, we always marvel about how different we all are and how well we get along, but that wasn't always the case when I began leading. Those differences tended to rear their nasty heads from time to time, and it was a struggle to keep everyone on the same page. Of course, that task was made even more difficult because not only could we not see each other face to face, but we couldn't even hear each other speak.

The other appeal for me is the challenge of the content. I'm eager to tackle a raid boss not because of what he drops, but because it's a puzzle to solve. And there are a lot of pieces in that puzzle. Not only do you need to know the basics of the fight, but you need to know your members, their strengths and weaknesses, and how best to fit your members into the battle. A few years ago when our guild took on Druushk in EverQuest II, part of the fight required four people to monitor clickable obelisks in each corner of the room. Failure to click the obelisks led to an unavoidable raid wipe. On the surface, it seemed like such a simple job, but we were struggling with it. One time, someone got feared into the lava and missed his click. Another time, someone ate too much AoE damage and died, which meant another missed click. In the end, I realized that I needed to put some of our better-geared, higher-DPS members on obelisk duty in order for us to win. And I can hear the cries right now: "Why sacrifice your best players on such a simple job?" But in reality, that job was more important than DPSing Druushk. Sure, the fight took a minute or two longer perhaps, but that extra DPS isn't going to do us any good if the obelisks don't get clicked. After the adjustments, we won the fight, and I'd gladly take that over more frustrating wipes and the finger-pointing that tends to come from it.

What are the benefits of leading, or being part of, a guild?

Guilds are just like sports teams, and one great thing about both is the bonding. Every guild has its own inside jokes, battle cries, nicknames, and funny moments. At last year's Fan Faire, I decided to create our very own guild flag, inspired by the in-game rally banners of EverQuest II. I adorned it with every silly joke and memory I could think of, and everyone got a laugh when I set up my Tinker Toy flag pole and raised our flag on the table in the banquet hall. For us, it was more than just a way for members to find our location and meet up. And after a while, you have a collected pool of memories that you share. I'm still amazed that I can send a tell to a guildmate whom I've played games with now for over a decade and be able to say, "Remember that time when... ."

There is a sense of accomplishment that comes from being part of a guild, just as there is with being part of a team. But to me, what's really special has been the opportunity to meet people whom I would never have gotten to know if it weren't for the game. It's like having pen-pals, only better.

Will it ever be accepted?

I've touched on this before, and I don't think there's an easy answer to this question. All of the great things that come from being part of a guild are indeed valid. The bonds, the teamwork, the skill of working together on difficult challenges -- all of those are real and legitimate. But there's something about the fact that it's not face-to-face that makes it different, and I think that's a big part of why it's still not quite considered a socially acceptable activity. I think we're headed toward much more mainstream acceptance of it, though, and a large part of that is because MMOs are bringing social networks into the fold. Blizzard tried that in the last year and quickly reversed course due to all the backlash. But Trion's doing it with RIFT Connect, SOE has begun to link Facebook games and in-game rewards, and Blizzard is rumored to be trying to integrate Facebook again with Titan. I think as we see the two continue to blend together, we'll see MMOs, and guilds themselves, become a more accepted part of our out-of-game lives.

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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