Burnout, Part III: Guild Drama

A while back, I took a look at a friend’s guild and offered some opinions regarding certain issues they were having.  I wrote from the perspective of an outsider, but at the time of writing, I had actually been a member of that guild for a couple of months.  The opinions I expressed in my article came from first-hand experience; the clique within the guild was painfully obvious to me.  Now, I was not really an active member of the guild; at the time I was one of a few non-level capped members, and I was content just to do my own thing.  My opinions were still quite valid however, because I was seeing a lot of the problems first-hand.

What the guild officers thought was a close-knit group, I considered to be an exclusive clique.  There was a specific subset of members that did things together all the time, with minimal interaction with the rest of the guild.  There was a discussion about my post in our guild forums, and all of those who were quick to defend the guild’s close-knit nature were in fact, members of that clique; mainly the officers and the primary raiders.  There were a few members who replied saying that they could see what I was saying, but they were more or less dismissed outright.  To be honest, I felt bad talking about some of the negative aspects of the guild because my friend was an officer and I know he took some of the criticism personally.  Unfortunately, he couldn’t see the issues that I was addressing because, as an officer, he was a member of the guild’s inner circle.

If there was one main point I tried to make in my original article, it was that if the guild was truly close-knit, and truly a “family”, then member loyalty would be increased to the point where membership turnover wouldn’t be so frequent.  One of the main problems I saw with the guild was an apparent lack of recruitment restrictions; from what I could tell, almost anyone could join.  Sure enough, the guild grew to be quite large.  It’s quite difficult maintaining a family atmosphere when that family grows exponentially.  It got to the point where I’d be constantly running across fellow guild members who I had never seen, nor heard of before.

So where is the guild today?  Just last week a fairly large chunk of the members, mostly those from the “inner circle”, quit to form their own guild.  I attribute this split to burnout, in the sense that most of those people had raced their way to level 80 and soon grew frustrated at the “lack of progress” of the guild when they had to wait for everyone else to catch up.  This same scenario happened to the guild I was in back in my EverQuest II days, which I outlined in a previous post.   It drives me nuts to think that some of these people steamrolled their way to level 80 and then had the audacity to complain that the rest of the guild was too slow.  I suppose it would be too much to ask of them to actually work with the guild and help others level as well.  Once those core members were 80, a key majority of them stuck together, running instances over and over with each other in search of gear, rather than helping some of the other guild members run through the lower level dungeons.  For all intents and purposes, the guild ceased to exist.

The guild still has many good members left and will likely be just fine in the long run.  I just found it somewhat funny, that a lot of the very people who defended what a great “family” the guild was were the first to split when they saw greener pastures on the other side of the fence, leaving the rest of the guild behind.  Even my friend, who I talked about in my last post, eventually admitted to seeing that there was a clique in the guild which he hadn’t seen until he stepped down from his officer role.

For those not in the inner-circle, it wasn’t difficult to predict something like this would happen.  For some players, a close-knit family only works so long as the family doesn’t get in the way.  I can only hope that when those players are slipping into their latest piece of epic gear that they remember the family members they stepped on to get where they are.  Unfortunately, I really don’t think they’ll care enough to do so.

Burnout, Part II: Game/Life Blur

Back when I was in University, my diet consisted mainly of stir fries, perogies, and hot dogs. Sounds delightful, doesn’t it? I was a student on a budget with very limited culinary skills, so fine dining was out of the question. My sister came to visit me one day and drove me to the magical land of Costco where I stocked up on cheap groceries. One of the items I purchased was a case of Pillsbury Pizza Pops. This wasn’t the pack of four you’d normally get, no, this was a case containing 24 glorious pops of pizza-ey deliciousness.  It was such a good deal that I just couldn’t pass it up.

For the next week, I ate nothing but Pizza Pops. The first few days were great; I was in absolute dietary bliss. Over the following days, the deliciousness slowly began to fade.  Had I been rational, I would have recognized what was happening and left the Pizza Pops in the freezer to be enjoyed again at future meals.  Instead, I kept eating them.  By the time there were just a few Pizza Pops remaining in the case, it was safe to say that my enjoyment of the once-tasty treat had plummeted to levels lower than the depths of hell itself.

While choking down the next to last Pizza Pop, I bit down on something rubbery.  I spit the unknown rubbery object down onto my plate for closer inspection. There, staring back up at me was the nastiest piece of gristle meat I have ever seen to this day.  It was a grey, funky piece of something with little tiny tube-y veins protruding from it, and it was the wake-up call I needed.  Despite once loving them, to this day, some 12 or 13 years later, I have not eaten a Pizza Pop, nor do I want to. I had learned a valuable lesson.

Leading up to the release of Wrath of Lich King, my little circle of friends was discussing our plans for the expansion. To me, I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to blow through the content as quickly as possible just so they could sit at level 80 doing the same grinds they did when level 70 was the cap.  One friend countered that that’s where “all the good stuff is”, and said his enjoyment of the game increases at the level cap.  True to his word, he was level 80 within a week.

So how fun is life at level 80? A few days ago, roughly a month after the expansion’s release, he has cancelled his World of Warcraft account. When I asked him why, he replied:

I canceled my WoW account because my emotions were getting the best of me. I was getting worked up over little stupid things that shouldn’t matter. I wasn’t having fun when these kinds of things started happening and decided that I needed a break.

I can’t say for sure what happened, but I think I’ve got a fairly good idea, and it wasn’t a surprise to me that he stopped enjoying the game.  What I saw was someone devoting the majority of his free time to WoW; getting home from work and playing until he went to bed, because he had to get to level 80 as quickly as possible.  When you log in because you feel you have to, rather than want to, then you’re no longer playing a game; you’re going to work.  When you log on as soon as you get home from your actual place of work and go until you head off to bed, well, that makes for a pretty long work day.  Consider also that once reaching level 80 he wasn’t done, his game was “just starting”. There was no break in between.

Now, take all of that, and throw in a guild officer role on top of it. I know first hand that my friend was not an officer in title only, he took the role very seriously.  He was constantly helping out the guild, both in game, through its website, and probably through other channels of which I’m unaware. While he was a tremendous asset to the guild, it meant that there probably wasn’t much room at all for his own personal enjoyment of the game.  There were issues starting to crop up in the guild which I’ll explore in my next post which drove my friend over the edge; the events which served as his grey, nasty piece of gristle meat.

Fortunately, my friend knew when to say enough was enough and step back from the game. It’s unfortunate that it got to the point it did however.  Too many people seem to forget that these games are supposed to be a break from the stresses of your day.  If they’re the cause of your stress, then you’re burned out, and need to step away. Put down that Pizza Pop, and save it for another day.

Burnout, Part I: Finding Your Fun

What is it About Level 73?

My two main characters in EverQuest II had reached level 73 before I completely burned out on the game and cancelled my subscription.  Even before the release of the latest expansion at the time, Rise of Kunark, my interest in the game was waning, but the expansion rejuvenated my gaming spirits somewhat and I jumped right in.  Unfortunately, I found every single quest I did in RoK to be a terribly boring grind, and soon after I was forcing myself to play even though I didn’t want to.  I tried switching mains from my Berserker to my Mystic to see if that would be the breath of fresh air I needed.  Instead, it just meant I was doing the same boring quests all over again, just with a different character.  The grind didn’t magically disappear, and the writing was on the wall.  My senses finally kicked in and told me it was stupid to continue playing if I wasn’t having fun so, after three and a half years, I quit the game.

I’m now almost through level 73 in World of Warcraft, and that same feeling that hit me in EQII is slowly beginning to creep in to WoW.  Unlike EQII however, my waning interest is not caused by the game itself; I’m still enjoying my experience in WoW.  The difference this time is that I’m finding fun elsewhere.

At present, there are two games that I’m enjoying more than WoW: Left 4 Dead, and Gears of War, with a strong emphasis on Left 4 Dead.  It’s been very refreshing taking little breaks from the MMO mindset, and where in the past I may have forced myself to keep going (“I’ve got to get to level 80!!!”), I’m now too appreciative of my small amount of free time to spend it doing something I’m not enjoying.  It all comes down to balancing priorities.  You’d think that it’d be a fairly obvious concept, but it’s all too easy to get too wrapped up in these alternate lives.  I still think I’m a ways away from quitting WoW, but my play time will be drastically reduced.  I suspect once I’m done with it though, I’ll be done with MMOs altogether for the foreseeable future.

As a casual player, it’s been interesting watching how things have transpired since the expansions release, and it’s amazing to see just how many people continue to play the game even though they’re not having fun.  In my next post, I’ll take a closer look at some of the burnout that I’ve witnessed first hand, but until then, go out and have some fun, wherever it is you find it.