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The Guild Counsel: Finding common ground in guild management

Karen Bryan

Trying to describe a guild is like trying to describe a chimera. Sure, a chimera is an animal, but it's got the heads of a goat and lion and a snake for a tail. Add in the ability to breathe fire, and you have the ultimate mish-mosh of fauna. Guilds are no different. On the surface, all guilds are a network of players, but there are as many different sizes and types of guilds as you can imagine.

Given that fact, I sometimes feel it's an impossible task to write a column about guilds and have it resonate with everyone. And last week, Massively reader Justin brought up that very subject. Is there common ground when it comes to lessons of guild management?

Last week, after a discussion of three player types that guild leaders should watch out for, reader Justin replied with the following comment:

Does anyone else think that a lot of the Guild Counsel articles only apply well to raid-centered, themepark games? I don't mean any disrespect; I like a lot of what the GC says and agree with 90% of it. But a lot of it is only framed in the raid/park game mentality.

For this article as an example, and EVE as game: The Hopper isn't a Hopper -- he's an awoxer. Right there, all the rest of the advice and commentary is inapplicable. Even if s/he isn't an awoxer, that's how s/he will be perceived. Debbie Downer sounds like someone who discourages complacency or celebrates success without paying attention to the next red corp willing to take your success right back from you. Necessary component, not annoyance who needs to be managed. The Activist? Probably started his own corp.
One size fits all?

First off, you're right that the Guild Counsel doesn't always match up completely with every MMO out there. One of the things that always nags me is that I know each week that there are too many different types of MMOs, and it's nearly impossible to put together advice that will apply 100% to each of them. Within each game, there is a wide spectrum of guild types as well. Even the word "guild" doesn't apply to every game because there are clans, corps, teams, leagues, fleets, etc. In fact, I try to add a footnote every so often that when I use the term guild, it is used as a catch-all for any multiplayer network in an MMO.

Furthermore, while I have played PvP-centric games and even roleplayed my Ranger when I first began playing MMOs, there are others on the Massively staff who are better able to write more specialized guides for these styles of gameplay. Brendan Drain explores the EVE community in great detail each week and has written an extensive series of articles giving in-depth advice to managing an EVE corporation and some important lessons learned along the way. Similarly, Eliot Lefebvre, our resident roleplaying columnist, gives much more specialized advice in the finer points of roleplaying guilds in his Storyboard column. And each of our game-centric columns has touched on its respective community from time to time. So while the Guild Counsel might not match up with every guild in every game all the time, we do have many writers and resources that offer more specialized advice.

Regarding the player types as they relate to EVE, I don't exactly see them the same way. While the Hopper and an Awoxer might both be opportunists, I find that in many cases, the Hopper isn't even aware that his desire to ladder-climb might hurt the guilds he's joined, while the Awoxer is aware of his harmful action to a corporation but does it anyway. Similarly, there's a difference between a stark realist (who is actually invaluable when it comes to helping smooth out the peaks and valleys of guild progress) and a Debbie Downer, who loses all perspective in her attempt to be ever the pessimist. And an Activist probably won't start his own corporation because then he'll be stuck protesting against himself, and that's no fun. The main goal of last week's column was to point out that even the extreme player types don't necessarily deserve the auto-boot and can be good members; they just need to be watched a bit more carefully in order to avoid drama. (Unless drama is an accepted part of your guild's atmosphere, but that's a topic for another column!)


Having said that, I do believe that there are many commonalities in leadership that translate well to any game, regardless of whether it's centered on PvE, PvP, or RP, and those are just a few of the many playstyles featured in guilds. These commonalities are the same qualities that almost always carry over to leadership roles outside of gaming. All leaders benefit from having a clear vision of their guild's identity. Every guild does better when it has challenging yet attainable short- and long-term goals with a clearly defined path to reach them. And when running an event, whether it's a raid, a player-run celebration, or an impending invasion, activities go much more smoothly with pre-planning, preparation, clear communication, and a focus on a good pace. These are just a few qualities of leadership that are helpful in practically any guild setting, and that's what I try to examine each week in the Guild Counsel.

The Guild Counsel Finding common ground in guild management
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When I began running a guild over a decade ago, there weren't any resources available on guild management. And when advice did begin to trickle in, it was usually based on the teachings of Machiavelli, Sun Tzu, or Patton. I "grew up" on that type of management style, and I've come to believe that much of it needs to be rethought when it comes to running a guild. And that's really my goal with The Guild Counsel: I think there are certain areas of guild management that are followed more out of habit and aren't necessarily the best ways to run things given the current state of MMOs and the evolution of guilds. But even if guild leaders read a column, examine how it applies to their own guilds, and reach the conclusion that their approach works better, I'm still happy because those guild leaders are better able to defend their policies when someone does question it. The Guild Counsel might not be a perfect match for every game and playstyle, but hopefully it at least brings up issues and topics that leaders and members might not always consider and are worth looking at more closely as it relates to their respective guilds.

Thanks to Justin for the feedback!

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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