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?