The Guild Counsel: There are no bad players, only bad guild matches

If you had to pinpoint the source of what causes most guild drama, it almost always comes down to the guild's screening process. We've certainly looked at recruiting before and how important it is to create a system that effectively matches up your guild with like-minded players, but all too often, when there is a problem with a new member, the frustration boils over and the finger pointing begins.

Is it the player's fault for being a bad seed, or the guild's fault for poor management and vision? Guild leaders and players often hold long-standing resentment, and you can see it in the comments section here at Massively as well, but it's time for a change. In this week's Guild Counsel, we'll look at why even the "worst" player has a good guild match out there and why popular thinking needs to change when it comes to judging who is "bad" and who is "good."

One size doesn't fit all

Often, when a guild member or leader vents frustration on a player deemed "bad," it's usually a case of one playstyle clashing with another. A leader of a casual guild ends up resenting an "elitist" member, while a more hardcore guild leader is pulling his hair out with members whom they see as dead weight. What it really boils down to is a difference in vision, and that has to be separated from feelings of blame or resentment. Each guild has its own philosophy and playstyle, and while there's a huge variety of types of guilds, they're all valid within the game

Anything goes, as long as it's legal

The only limitations on a player or a guild's behavior in-game is what the game's rules dictate. And among MMOs, there's a variety of rulesets that shape the game environment. I've experienced other guilds that earned a reputation because they didn't always play nice. But while they weren't necessarily about warm hugs and kumbaya, they did play by the rules, although most of the time their virtual toes were right up to the line. Many guilds complained about them, but those who joined did so because that's how they found fun in the game. If others disapprove, they should blame the studio who made the rules rather than the "bad" guild. Yes, anarchy is a valid playstyle, as long as it doesn't cross the boundaries of the game's rules.

Your guild vision is that much more important

When I say that everything revolves around your guild vision, I mean it! And "guild vision" doesn't have to be the same thing for everyone. I see guild advice columns say that your guild should have certain rules, but again, there are guilds out there that have succeeded for years, and their rules are exactly opposite of what is "suggested." When a guild leader complains about someone in his guild being a jerk, what exactly is the jerky behavior? That "jerk" might not be acting the way you'd like your guild members to behave, but chances are, there's a guild out there somewhere that would have no problem with it. That's why it's so important to have a clear grasp of what your guild identity should be, and that identity should cover everything from playtimes to skill expectations to more intangible areas like tone of guild chat or even the amount of chatter in general. The better you can clearly describe your guild, the better you will be at making sure you invite only those who subscribe to your vision.

Separate the player from the person

I think this is the hardest one of all. When I go to conventions, there are people there who play characters I hate to cross paths with in game. But when I meet them, they are completely opposite of their in-game personae. They're no longer the loud-mouthed, aggressive players who constantly outgun me. Instead, they're warm, mild-mannered, and usually a lot of fun to hang around with. Once the convention is over, they go back to being the players who vex me to no end, but for a brief window of time, I get to see who they really are in person.

What's interesting in particular is that among the more "hardcore" players, the ones who tend to make fun of roleplaying, they are actually some of the biggest roleplayers around. If you are different in-game than you are in real life, you are roleplaying, and some of the toughest, most outspoken, hardcore players in games are being the complete opposite of who they really are once they log off. MMOs give us a chance to dabble with identities, and you don't need to scribe an elaborate character background or speak with a contrived accent to be a roleplayer. In the meantime, guilds need to take that into consideration when judging someone who isn't fitting in well with the guild. Guild leaders who can remove the emotional aspect will do a better job of parting ways with a badly matched guildmate and hopefully avoid much of the drama that tends to go along with it.

It's hard to get along with everyone in a game and in a guild. Sometimes, differences in playstyle create the tension. Other times, it can be something as simple as someone chatting too much or logging off without saying goodnight that can lead to drama in a guild. Everyone's different, and in many cases, gamers aren't behaving the same way they would in the real world. Guild leaders who do a good job of screening potential members can avoid many of the culture clashes that result from bad matchups. Meanwhile, players should do their homework when seeking a guild, to make sure it will be a good fit for them. And if both sides can separate out the emotion and judgment when it's not a good fit, we'll see a lot less drama and a lot more fun in our MMOs.

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.