As some of you might be sick of hearing about (when I’m sad, I make my friends’ shoulders wet), over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been (unhealthly) preoccupied by tensions between me and my guild. Well, actually, my guild is probably blissfully unaware of such tensions. Either that or it’s ignoring them in hopes that they’ll go away.
So in reality, we could say that I’ve been preoccupied with tensions between me and my perception of my guild.
Which triggered a reflection on how us players view our relationships with our guilds. Some of us take our guilds for what they are: social/hobby clubs, comparable to a garage hockey team or bird watching club. To others, guilds are just a means to achieving in game goals of collecting nice gear and seeing content. At the other end of the spectrum, some (and I tend to fall into this trap a lot) compare their guildies to family, and sometimes even to romantic partners.
Let’s take a look at some of these perceptions of relationships between players and their guilds.
1- The Random People Who Do Stuff
Not everyone bonds with the people they play with. Not everyone wants to bond with the people they play with. And that’s totally fine- as long as you’re upfront about your goals, pull your own weight and don’t step on others to get what you want, there’s no obligation to be more socially involved than necessary.
2- The Social/Sports Club
As intense as some of us players can get about the people we play with, this is what guilds really are: a group of people who share a common hobby. It’s also the key to guild shopping: finding other players who share the same approach and goals about the game.
Even roles within a guild are comparable to real life clubs. Guild officers are like the guy (or girl for the politically correct) on the amateur sports team who sets up the competitions, the guy (or girl) in the running club who orders the t-shirts and so on.
3- The Academy
I’ve never seen guilds described as a school, but the thought occurred to me as I was talking to a friend from my old casual guild who wanted to play at a higher level. “OMG!” I exclamed, “You and I, we graduated! We’re casual guild alumnae!”
I guess this way of seeing guilds only applies to us learning junkies who get our kicks from slowly perfecting our play. After all, it’s totally cool to be content playing the game to relax or hang out with buddies. But I felt that “graduating” from a casual guild felt more positive than the more common perception of “breaking up” with a previous guild.
Using “guild as a school” also keeps me focused during more stressful times with my own guild. When you’re spending several hours a week with these people (and in the video game world, “these people” often have varying levels of social skills), rough patches are inevitable. But when frustration builds, the realization that I still have a lot to learn about my class and about my gameplay from my guild reminds me that I’m still in the right place.
4- The Workplace
I see this one a lot. Guilds get compared to businesses and work environments all the time. After all, you sort of have levels of hierarchy (amusingly, my GM loves to be called “boss”…which of course is the exact reason I NEVER call him that), you have objectives, you have a group culture and so on.
Obviously, a group of humans is a group of humans is a group of humans. Organization (workplace) psychology applies to guilds the way it applies to social clubs because it’s all about making individuals better at achieving the group’s goals.
But businesses and guilds have their differences. In one, you’re dealing with employee’s money, careers and lives. In the other, you’re dealing with people’s spare time. As anyone who’s ever had to deal with a young guild officer who’s never had a job before knows, the required management standards aren’t really the same.
5- The Family
“My guild is like my family.” There’s another one that comes up a lot. Like any group of friends that you get along well with and that you spend a lot of time around, strong bonds can form. Before you know it, you’re sending each other Christmas cards, going to each other’s weddings and dialling each other’s number whenever something big happens.
This kind of relationship with one’s guild can be great and it can be devastating. Many of us have long term friends we’ve met playing MMOs and many of us have been lucky enough to receive support from friends we’ve met online during tougher times. Some of us don’t have good relationships with our real families and have found some sort of replacement in the people we play with.
The danger in this is that relationships online often seem more intimate than they really are. They develop quickly, they’re easy to be dishonest in (the naivety of people online never ceases to amaze me) and they make it easier to hide from problems with real life families. And while you’re hiding, problems grow.
6- The Romantic Partner
Those who don’t play MMOs and who’ve never been involved in online communities probably think this is the weirdest perception ever. Yet, I’ve seen and heard a lot of gamers compare gquiting to breaking up with someone. And that was exactly the feeling I had when I left my old guild: the alternating feelings of relief and regret, of freedom and loneliness. I’ve also seen someone compare talking about an old guild to talking about exes: you can do it a little if flatters the new guild/significant other, but never if it flatters the old guild/significant other.
I do often use romantic relationships as metaphors a lot when talking about my guild. Mainly because it makes for great dirty jokes… But I am someone who gets really attached and who doesn’t like to move on. The dangers of this? Having trouble knowing when I’ve overstayed my welcome, having too high expectations and being overly affected by arguments or incidents.
Conclusion: Looking at things from a step back
Lately I’ve had this feeling of exhaustion whenever I log into the game and I’ve had my internet time cut down quite a bit due to busy busy real life. So I’m limiting my playtime. My character is geared enough that I don’t really need to play much outside of raids. Since I was frustrated by inefficient communication within guild, I cut down on my socializing on Mumble. I focused more on my gameplay, on analyzing fight damage patterns and on raid parses. Basically, I reminded myself of the “academy” or player personal progress take of a guild relationship.
And it feels good. My expectations dropped: after all, since I’m at roughly the same level of skill as the rest of my guild, the only person I’m depended on to reach my player improvement goals is myself. The stress has been a lot less and I’ve been able to channel more energy on Blog Azeroth. Which I hope I can keep up because Blog Azeroth is like my family. Err… Um… Yeah… Never mind….