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The Guild Counsel: Help, other games are stealing my members!

Karen Bryan

I have to start off this week's column with a hearty show of sympathy for current guild leaders because in some ways, it's much harder to manage a guild now than it was a decade ago when MMOs were just in their infancy. When I first created a guild in EverQuest with a friend, we had the luxury of knowing that "our way or the highway" really did apply. If you got booted or chose to leave, your choice was to join another guild (which was pretty hard to do if you were a problem because word got around) or basically hang up your MMO hat for good. Now, there are more MMOs to choose from than ever before, and with the flurry of game launches over the past year, it's sometimes hard to manage the ebb and flow of guild members on the roster.

Guild departures are a fairly common problem, but what if the reason for the departure isn't a "grass is greener" guild but a "grass is greener" game? In this week's Guild Counsel, we'll look at what to consider when treating the issue.

Don't hate the gamer (and if you hate the game, don't linger too long)

When someone leaves for another game, it's hard not to resent that player because it feels as if you lost out to another game. The unfortunate part is that there has to be a choice between guild friendships and game variety in the first place. It's particularly hard when someone's been a member of the guild for a long time and has had a large role in the success of the team. But I think it's important to avoid feeling betrayed because that often leads to drama, bad feelings, and things said that are quickly regretted.

It's best to try to handle departures on good terms because even if the person is trying out another game, there's still a friendship there that goes well beyond the game itself. Plus, the grass might not be greener after all, and you could very well see that member ask to return eventually.

Consider the Johnny Appleseed effect (move from guild to gaming community)

I think console game communities have a leg up on MMO gamers because players there generally aren't married to one single game for years and years, so communities form around a love of gaming rather than a love of one single game. I think guilds will eventually need to adopt a broader view in the long run, and in fact there are a growing number of guilds that have done just that. Instead of fracturing into isolated pockets, these guilds retooled their websites and created an umbrella that accepted each guild. As these guilds recruited and built up a community, the guild community grew stronger as a whole. Basically, the guild name becomes the equivalent of a "verify" on Twitter: You trust the guild management in one game, so you can feel confident that if you move to another game, you'll enjoy the guild management there as well. Granted, it doesn't always work out that way because each leader has different ways of handling the details, but if the overall standards are the same across all MMOs, there's enough of a common link to ensure a successful long-term presence.

The Guild Counsel  Help!  Other Games are Stealing my Members!
The prodigal son may be better than the unknown quantity

When you've lost someone to another game, the first thing you'll probably do is try to recruit to fill that spot. But what do you do if the player decides he didn't like the other game and wants to come home? On the one hand, he's set the precedent that he's willing to leave the guild for the Next Great MMO, so you probably won't rely on him too much. Then again, you know his strengths and weaknesses, and if he had been a longtime member, he must have been a positive influence on the guild. You don't know the mass of potential candidates out there, and while you could recruit someone who's a stellar guildmate (and more loyal), it might take a long time before you find the perfect member.

This is more of an issue with progression-minded guilds because flighty members are a real hindrance to the guild's chance of reaching goals. For them, there might be more hesitation to accept a prodigal son than a more casual guild that doesn't have to keep a tight roster for raiding and grouping. While there's no right answer, it's always good to weigh the options based on each individual situation (and to that end, avoid drafting up concrete rules that will come back to haunt you later)!

When to drop an MIA

Lastly, there may be some members who have clearly moved on to other games but might not have given you the heads up. While there's no fixed rule on when to remove them from the roster, I try to be consistent in giving leeway but not letting names linger on the roster for too long. I always feel that if the roster stretches for miles with offline names that haven't logged in for ages, it has an effect on the atmosphere of the guild and even subtly sends the message that members aren't that active or loyal. I usually clean out the roster once a month, and unless I know there's someone with extenuating circumstances that's kept them offline, I remove members who have clearly moved on. On that note, if you're someone who doesn't plan to play a certain game or stick with the guild, say something to the leader! It makes his or her life easier in the long run when managing the roster and deciding on recruitment.

Right now, gamers have it great because there's so much to choose from, and much of it is free-to-play. But the flip side is that it can make guild management a headache -- just when you think you've built up a terrific team, people can scatter to the wind with the next big MMO launch. The best approach is to expect attrition and even plan for it when you know a new game is coming out. In the meantime, don't be too surprised to see some of those familiar faces knocking on the door later on, and don't forget that the ties between guildmates extend beyond the games that we play.

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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