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The Guild Counsel: I'm just a number

Karen Bryan

Sometimes it seems that numbers dominate MMOs. We play in worlds that are filled with stat-based items, resists, crits, parses, rankings, heck, even little tech issues like framerate and latency often come into play. After a while, you start to wonder if you've somehow turned into Cypher from the Matrix, able to see things in the steady stream of green numbers. But the most worrisome of all the numbers comes up when members of your guild feel like one. There are several ways that this issue can manifest itself, and it always leads to people feeling alienated and frustrated, and at its worst, it can lead to a complete breakdown of a guild.

In this week's Guild Counsel, let's crank up the Bob Seger, look at some of the ways that members end up feeling like just a number, and focus on how to avoid it.

New guy, meet the crickets

Any time a new member is invited to a guild, it always takes a while before that person feels like she's really part of the team. It's a process, and it involves the new member getting a feel for the guild's culture as well as the guild choosing to accept that person. There's no way to speed that up, and it's impossible to know how long it will take. I remember one member named Kracen who was almost immediately accepted. He was very low-key and didn't make waves, which usually leads to a longer process of getting noticed, but members got such a kick out of his name and his cheerful attitude that by the end of his first raid with us, everyone had adopted "Release the Kracen!" as a rallying cry.

You can't force that; it's something that happens naturally. But as a guild leader, you can speed it up by encouraging a polite and welcoming atmosphere in guild chat. It doesn't take much effort to say a quick hello or goodnight when someone logs on and off, but it can really help make new members feel like part of the guild more quickly.

A team, B team

This is particularly tricky when playing a game with large and small raid content because you need to field different sized forces. Leaders have the unenviable task of deciding whether to break up their large force into one strong team and one weaker team or balance out the two at the risk that neither will progress. On top of that, certain members tend to work better together and might not be thrilled if they always get split up.

There's no right answer, and a guild leader needs to know her guild and its members well enough to make that call. But personally, I always tried hard to keep the two teams balanced, within reason. It was much more important to me that we didn't have an A and a B team because I didn't want half of my raid force feeling demoralized. More important, I always believed that everyone who is deserving enough to get tagged as part of RnH deserves to feel like an equal in guild chat and in our guild goals.

The loudest gets all the attention

This is one of the biggest traps that guild leaders can fall into. We've discussed this before, but it bears repeating that those who cry the loudest aren't always the most deserving of guild assistance. In fact, the ones who most deserve help are usually the ones who are the most quiet. We had a handful of members in RnH who never asked for anything, never complained, and always came along to lend assistance to others. Those are the first ones I look for when I'm online and eager to help someone get something done. This little tactic goes such a long way toward developing a good guild atmosphere because everyone feels like he counts in the guild (as he should!)

Free Realms
I'm just a number, parsewise

Again, we've talked about this one before too, but it is part of why members feel like just a number. I believe in parses as a tool for developing raid tactics, but I've downplayed individual parse numbers, to the point that I sometimes took a little heat for it. My philosophy was that raids almost always wipe because of lack of execution, not a lack of DPS (unless the script is a DPS check, but that's another rant). We can blow up the parse, but if 12 people stand right in the dragon's face as he belches out a big fireball, it doesn't matter what our DPS is -- we're all dead. But even more importantly, if there's someone in the guild who is low-key, reliable, helpful to others, and generally a pleasant person overall but a bit below average on the parse, I'm much happier with that than with someone who is great numbers-wise but a major pain in the arse. I'd rather play with people who make the game enjoyable than with people who take away from enjoyment or worse disrupt the atmosphere of the guild for others.

Recruit wisely

When you talk to guild leaders who have been around for the long term, one big reason for their longevity is that they've built up such a tight atmosphere for their members, and they build their guild around good people who are respectful of each other and work as a team rather than being a loosely assembled collection of individuals. When people join, no matter how casual or hardcore their playstyles, they feel like they're part of a family. If you can build an atmosphere where people feel welcome, you've gone a long way toward building a successful guild because members will follow your lead, and before you know it, everyone's looking out for each other. In short, your ability to recruit wisely and choose members who fit with your guild is a key part of ensuring that everyone under your umbrella feels like part of the team. Often, a bad match leads to disillusionment, and that tends to result in someone feeling like just a number. Don't invite someone into the guild unless you're sure he'll fit your vision and fill a need.

Overall, one of the biggest reasons that people sour on guilds is that they feel like they're on par with cattle, being herded from one guild activity to another, with no real feeling of being part of the team. If you've experienced that, take heart, because chances are, they won't even last more than a year, if that. Although there are lots of guilds who do approach things that way, there are plenty that don't. With a little legwork, you can find guild leaders who go the extra step and make you feel welcome.

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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