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The Guild Counsel: The merit in MMOs and the greatness in guilds

Karen Bryan

Last week, I got a bit grouchy as I looked at bad gamers, and I want to rebound from that this week. Bad gamers are like a paper cut: tiny and microscopic, yet surprisingly annoying. But when you step back and look at gaming overall, there's still plenty to marvel at. MMOs still offer a lot of freedom, which means freedom to be a griefer but also freedom to make connections with others and even learn a little about yourself along the way. I love when a group or raid is really clicking because players begin to relax, personalities emerge, and the results are some memorable moments and strong friendships.

Maybe it's a desire to bounce back from last week's rant, or maybe it's the double rainbow I saw yesterday, but in this week's Guild Counsel, it's time to revisit what makes MMOs and guilds so great.

It's both a Wild West and a blank slate

While it's true that players can be pretty nudgy in game, virtual worlds are surprisingly free of the usual hot-button issues that end up boxing us into categories. When we log in, we're free from politics, religion, and all sorts of sticky social issues. Players can't be immediately identified by things like race or gender because we're all playing Elves or Cyborgs. Heck, there are kids out there running guilds of adult gamers and doing a great job of it. The blank slate of virtual worlds allows for some interesting role reversals, and it forces people to judge others based on ability and skill rather than skin color, age, or gender.

It's OK to be wrong

You have no idea how difficult it was to type that. Seriously, though, I've learned from my guild experience that I can trust my judgment but also correct it when needed and not feel as if I'm weak or that I've lost my leadership mojo. In fact, when I relaxed and did address decisions that weren't working, it actually helped strengthen the trust that was in the guild. Players felt that I was making decisions based on the best interests of the guild rather than out of perceived bias, and not only did that mean less drama, but it had the ripple effect of getting everyone to think with a team mindset.

The Guild Counsel  The merit in MMOs, and the greatness in guilds
There are some pretty cool people out there gaming

Over the years, I've really enjoyed making connections with guildmates, and while there are some bad gamers (ahem!), there are many more whom I really have enjoyed getting to know and playing alongside. They aren't famous, or rich, or judges on American Idol (who are the judges now, anyway?). Instead, they're people whom you'd want to sit with around the dinner table for great food and even better conversation (and I've been fortunate enough to do that on more than one occasion). What's even more amazing is that player gatherings usually bring people together who normally would never associate with one another but who have a strong connection through their appreciation of gaming. Heck, that even carries over beyond the realm of game words to sites like this, with a community that also has been built over a shared passion for MMOs. Here at Massively, we're like a guild, minus the raid wipes!

Fame isn't all that

When I first started leading a guild, I had high aspirations, even though I constantly drove home the motto that real life always came first. In the back of my head, though, I wanted our guild to get on the EverQuest planes calendar, the dragon rotation, and the Kunark boss list, and we would have gotten away with it had it not been for the misguided efforts of one particularly evil Necromancer during a Trak raid. Just a few seconds of really bad judgment from a member gone rogue meant the end of our progress as a guild.

Over time, it became less about getting our name out there and more about focusing on those who were tagged in the guild. We still made progress, but we did it with less drama, and hopefully, stronger ties to one another. Many players crave fame, whether by completing content first, topping the leaderboards, or even being a known name on game forums, but they end up constructing personae that sometimes seem forced and off-putting. I respect and appreciate the number-one guy on the PK leaderboard, but I prefer to group with players who are a little more ordinary.

Appreciation isn't necessarily overt

As much as I'd hoped for the standing ovation and bouquet of roses after a successful raid, I learned pretty quickly that it just wasn't going to happen. But that's understandable in an MMO because after anything big, we all have a tendency to view it through our own lens, meaning that our own actions were the reason it was a success (I mean, did you see those cures?!). It's only in the most dire of circumstances and the most desperate of moments that people step forward to show they appreciate what you do as a guild leader, and when it happens, it's humbling to say the least.

Overall, what makes MMOs and guilds so great is also what makes them so challenging. In a single-player game, you won't have someone suddenly show up in your cutscene to spam you with annoying messages or shoot flaming arrows at you. But single-player games also can feel empty and lonely at times, and that's because they're missing that human element. That's why we celebrate announcements like Wizardry Online or the Elder Scrolls Online -- because it's exciting to see loved titles redone in a multiplayer environment. It might mean accepting the fact that MMOs will always be a lot like the Sour Patch candies, but in the end, I still think it's worth it.

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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