Dr. Phil and the Guild

First, let me preface this by saying that I think Dr. Phil is an idiot, and when it comes to matters of guild leadership, so am I. I have no experience running a guild, but I’ve been a member of a few across different games. My guild experience has run the gamut; from one’s I’ve hated being a part of, to one’s I’ve loved, and a few smack-dab right in the middle. Throughout that time, I’ve developed my own opinions as to what makes a successful guild. I have a very concrete idea as to how I would create and run my own guild, should I ever choose to do so. That said, I found myself unintentionally trying to offer insight to my friend, who also happens to be the officer of a guild.

It started innocently enough. From the very little that I understood, his guild had some sort of rivalry with another on the server. Rivalry, may be too strong a word, but it’s all I’ve got at the moment. Regardless, while conversing with my email buddies one slow work day, I asked him what his guilds beef was towards this other guild. His reply was that <Rival Guild> does anything to stay at number one, whereas <Friend’s Guild> is a fun guild that doesn’t get bent out of shape about anything. <Rival Guild> steals people from his guild that they gear up, and his guild is frustrated.

I paid a visit to the public website for my friend’s guild. In the “About” section, I see a mission statement that emphasizes their casual nature. Their current aims are to progress through the Burning Crusade raid content, and they are made up of a mix of players, levels, and play styles. Finally, they welcome any who fit in and harbour no ill-will to those who choose to part ways.

I then checked out <Rival Guild>’s website. It’s obvious that they’re all about end-game raiding, currently focusing on finishing off Black Temple. I couldn’t see any mission statements, but they have clearly defined loot distribution rules. It was fairly clear to me that clearing the end-game and getting loot are their primary goals.

This is where I kicked into Dr. Phil mode. What would cause someone to leave <Friend’s Guild> in favour of <Rival Guild>? At first glance it’s pretty obvious. <Friend’s Guild>, at present, doesn’t offer the opportunity to venture into the end-game instances, and in turn, get the uber phat lootz. For someone who’s only interest in the game is seeing that content, and obtaining those shiny rewards, the guild-hop is inevitable. You usually won’t be accepted into a hardcore raiding guild until you’ve got a certain standard of gear. That means getting geared up elsewhere, which is usually a more casual guild.

I’m sure it’s frustrating for a casual guild to progress with a certain player only to have them jump ship as soon as they’ve got better gear, but at the same time, I wondered what <Friend’s Guild> wasn’t doing to prevent this. Why were there no other apparent incentives for players to stay? If the guild leadership was getting frustrated with newly geared characters leaving their ranks, then they’ve gone against their mission statement that claims they feel no ill-will to those who choose to part ways. More importantly, what are they doing to prevent it from happening to begin with? What, besides loot, does a casual guild like <Friend’s Guild> have to offer a loot fiend?

I suggested to my friend that without further incentives to stay, they’ll need to screen out those loot fiends from their ranks to begin with, using more stringent recruiting. It’s my belief that any potential new recruit should be asked what they want out of the guild. If their answer is “awesome loot!” then perhaps they wouldn’t be a great fit for the guild. I asked my friend what process applicants to his guild went through. I also asked what he and the other officers discussed when considering a new applicant. I wondered if they looked at their gear first and said, “he’s got great gear, let’s bring him aboard!”. If they saw a lesser geared applicant would they say, “crap gear, we don’t need him”? I suggested that if the guild based their decisions strictly on gear, than they were doing essentially the same thing as the guild-hopping loot fiends, just in reverse. Alternatively, if they were looking to add to their tight-knit family, did they judge recruits on their character (out-of-game)? Do they have a trial period to ensure they get along with the rest of the guild?

My friend informed me that the guild leadership does look at an applicants gear, but it’s mainly to assess how likely they are to obtain a raid slot, or whether they’ll need to attend one of the “many guild Karazhan runs that are created almost nightly”. I have no issue with that, and in fact find it encouraging that they try to accommodate lesser geared characters. What I have a problem with was my friends response that they “invite everyone that applies”.

Quite frankly, if you invite everyone that applies, you’re asking for trouble, regardless of how casual you claim your guild to be. There has to be some sort of screening process, otherwise, you’ll find it very difficult to avoid the loot fiends. A guild with no screening process makes it very easy for someone to just pop in, grab some gear, and take off. There’s no emotional investment in the guild for such a person. They didn’t need to put any effort into getting accepted. There were no incentives to develop personal relationships with the other guild members.

I then asked what any of the officers would say if a potential recruit asked them what would keep him from wanting to leave the guild. My friend posted the question to his guilds officer forum to illicit responses from the rest of the leadership. It didn’t take long for me to further see why certain people wouldn’t feel any sense of attachment to the guild.

“I wouldn’t have an answer”.

This is a problem. What I was hoping to establish with my question was a sense of family; what kind of personal relationships did the guild members have with each other? If I was applying to your guild and received that answer to my question, then you’ve just told me that your guild offers me nothing but a guild tag floating above my head, whether that’s true or not. You need to have an answer to that question. Tell me about how much fun I’m going to have with the other members. Tell me the sense of accomplishment I’ll feel when we all work together to down the boss that’s been spanking your butts the past few attempts. Tell me that once I get to know everybody and see just how great they all are, I’ll feel like I’ve come home every time I log in. Just, tell me something!

“Being in a guild like ours means you are in a tightly knit group of people. It takes time to break into the inner core, but once you’re in, you’re in”.

Am I the only who sees a problem in that response? If I join your guild will I be a part of a tightly knit group of people, or will I have to wait to break into the tightly knit group? Will I be an outsider from the get-go, knocking on the door of the tightly knit group? Or, will I be in one tight knit group, just waiting to get into the tighter knit group? Here’s a novel concept for you: your guild as a whole should be the tight knit group. End of story. The response above tells me that you’ve got a tiered guild. Telling me you’ve got an “inner core” smells an awful lot to me like you’ve got a clique going on. Cliques are very bad for guilds. I fully understand that certain players may naturally gravitate towards others and socialize together. Some will be more active than others in the guild and form tighter bonds with each other. What the response above tells me though, is that new recruits are considered to be a lower class of citizen.

In my mind, the inner core is the guild itself. The application process should serve as the “breaking into” phase. Once an applicant is accepted into the guild they should be considered equal to all other guild members. This would send the message that you are a single entity. You work together, you fail together, and you succeed together. Without a strong sense of camaraderie your guild is nothing more than a big, static, pick-up group. This may not be the case, but it appears to be the message you’re sending out.

My best guild experience was with a small guild in EverQuest II called the Azure Order. One of their rules upon joining was that I had to share with the rest of the guild my real name. There was no choice; if you wanted to be part of their guild, they needed your name. I think that small, simple stipulation did more to foster loyalty to the guild than anything. It removed much of the anonymity and helped foster genuine friendships with others. Furthermore, the guild was small because it was selective as to who it brought in. They sought like-minded people. In the end, we were left with a group of people that had common interests, a shared sense of humour, and a real, genuinely tight knit group.

We didn’t get the greatest loot, we didn’t down all the huge bosses. We just had fun. That’s what the guild offered, and in return, they had my loyalty.

So here’s my final advice to <Friend’s Guild>. Learn to live with the guild-hoppers and be genuinely happy for them when they find other opportunities and leave. Or, initiate some change from within. Clarify your guild mission statement and make it absolutely clear what you offer your members. If you’re going to advertise a tight knit group, can you back it up? If I picked at random any of the character names from your guild roster, would you be able to tell me what class they are? Regardless of level? Would any of the officers be able to look through the guild roster and know who each and every member is, or would there be names there that you’ve never seen before? Do all of your tight knit group of players play together, or just the level 70s? Do you offer words of encouragement, and help, to the lower level players struggling to reach the level cap?

Answer honestly.

5 Replies to “Dr. Phil and the Guild”

  1. From my guild experiences in WoW, this is mainly true for any guild that wants to raid. If it’s a hardcore raiding guild, or a casual raiding guild, there are always cliques. The funny thing though, is that if you mentioned the name of any of the raiders in my hardcore guild, I could name their class. Though that may just be because I was guild leader for a long time.

    I bet that if weeded out the people that are in it just for the loot, then there wouldn’t be enough people to raid and the guild would eventually disband. I’ve seen it happen plenty of times. I’m guessing it might have a lot to do with the age level of the majority of players in World of Warcraft.

  2. Actually, I think I should clarify our relations with and why there is some animosity there. It’s not that we have folks going to that guild — when you’re casual and slow in progression, some folks are going to make the choice to look elsewhere to achieve their goals. What has frustrated me in the past about was them approaching our members — ones who had not even expressed interest in that guild, and tried to tempt them over. It’s less of an issue of two different guild styles as it is frustration with that guild’s management and behavior. 🙂

    I believe in what is written on our page — we don’t bear ill will to those who move on to other pursuits. In fact, that’s why we often have people returning to us, or people who mention frequently that they miss our guild.

    I also modified my “I wouldn’t have an answer” with a long answer. Years out of school = dulled writing skills! After getting through my muddy answer, I guess what I was trying to get across was that anyone who is looking for a casual atmosphere is going to stay, and we hope recruits to our guild are looking for that. Those that aren’t find that out quickly and move on. We remain on good terms with many — most! — of our past members who remain on the server, and even those that don’t continue to check in with us to see how we’re doing. People do have a sense of attachment to us 🙂 One ex-member with alts still in the guild said the other night: “God, I miss you guys. It’s all asses and elbows in .” Things like that warm my soul in a mean and petty way.

    I also think that cliques are inevitable. Cliques begin to worry me when they stop dealing with other cliques — which is to say, I don’t care if people spend a decent chunk of their time playing with those they are closest to in guild. It bothers me if they refuse to allow anyone else to spend time with them, and refuse to take part in anything that doesn’t include others in their clique. Thus far, I haven’t seen this happening, so I’m not hugely concerned. When I specifically mentioned an inner circle, I wasn’t so much talking about some exclusive in-guild clique as I was talking about the large ranks of welcoming, friendly and talkative inguild folks. All that it takes for admission to that rank is the effort of talking to people.

    However, I’ve been a member of the guild since I was a wee one, level 46. I’ve certainly got a blind spot that is probably miles wide.

  3. @Emer: An underlying theme to my post was how a guild can create and foster loyalty from its members. Typically, a casual guild won’t be able to offer rewards of loot over a hardcore raiding guild; that’s a given. So when this other guild comes sniffing around your members, what’s keeping your members from leaving? Are they saying to themselves, “you know what, I don’t feel any attachment to this guild, I may as well go get some loot”, or are they saying, “no thanks, I like where I am”?

    I have no idea as to how many people have left your guild, but of the ones that have, do you think they were all just after loot, or do you think some of them just didn’t have any attachments to your guild?

    Ideally, a guild that advertises itself as “close knit” has established some sort of relationship with all of its members, to the point where the officers maybe don’t care that this other guild comes sniffing around because you know that your members are having too good a time to leave.

    I’m not saying that members are never going to leave, that would be next to impossible. However, in the absence of “uber fat lootz!”, is your guild doing all it can do to build relationships with its members?

    Cliques. My use of the word clique implies a level of negativity, especially when they exist within a guild. I applied a negative use of the term based solely on the reply I read, stating that “it takes time to break into the inner core”. Your comment further states, “all that it takes for admission to that rank is the effort of talking to people”, which is fair enough. It’s definitely a two-way street, but I hope that it’s not left entirely up to the new member to approach “the core”.

    Consider what it’s like starting a new job. You’re the new person in the office and don’t know anyone. Lunch time comes around and you don’t really feel like eating alone. Would you prefer having to approach a group of your co-workers who have obviously eaten lunch together for quite some time and ask if you could hang out with them, or would it be easier if that group of people approached you and asked if you wanted to join them? Sure, there are many sociable people who have no problem approaching others, but there are also many in the opposite camp who can be intimidated by such situations. When I’m at work I’ve always made a point of approaching new staff and inviting them on breaks, lunch, etc. Several have approached me afterward to let me know how much they appreciated it.

    Again, it’s a two way street, but I’d argue it’s easier for the officers to approach those individuals outside of the core, rather than the reverse.

    I’ll still maintain my argument that cliques are not healthy for a guild that advertises itself as “close knit”. I hate quoting dictionary definitions because it’s an incredibly lame way to build an argument, but I’m pretty lame myself, so, a quick search tells me that a clique is “a narrow exclusive circle or group of persons”. The key words being narrow, and exclusive.

    Imagine for a minute that your guild is a football team. Inevitably, there will be certain individuals within that team that have tighter bonds. The offensive line for instance, all have the common goal of protecting the quarterback and opening holes for the runners. The “men in the trenches” share a tight bond with each other because they need to act as a single unit if they’re to be successful. They’re just one small part though. They still need to work closely with the quarterback to know what play is going to be called. They need to work closely with the running backs to know how to open the proper holes. If they were so exclusive as to shut out the quarter back, the running backs, or the coaches, then the team as a whole would never succeed.

    So it’s all fine and well if there are segments of your guild that are drawn closer to each other for whatever reasons, but the trouble comes when they’re exclusive of the rest of the guild.

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