A Guild Shared: How to Collectivise in World of Warcraft

A mass of World of Warcraft players.

This is a blog post brought to you by a project organized by Sheep the Diamond on collectivism in MMORPGs. If you’d like to read his thoughts on the idea, as well as a cursory overview on collectivism itself, check it out here. Other Collectivism project post on WoW is from Troll Shaman, “And Why Should I Care What Happens to You?

I feel the eternal struggle in a harsh world such as ours is between protecting and furthering the interests of one’s own self and the potential interests of others. Right now, I don’t think we’re realistically at a place where we can achieve the ideal of collectivism overnight. However, I believe it is something we should strive towards in the coming years. But what if we could shrug off the pressures of a more rugged individualistic and capitalist society in a virtual world? Would that make collectivism possible? I believe it does. Enter my World of Warcraft guild.

Collectivism is any philosophic, political, religious, economic, or social outlook that emphasizes the interdependence of every human being. Collectivism is a basic cultural element that exists as the reverse of individualism in human nature[…]and stresses the priority of group goals over individual goals and the importance of cohesion within social groups (such as an “in-group”, in what specific context it is defined). Collectivists usually focus on communitysociety, or nation. It is used and has been used as an element in many different and diverse types of government and political, economic and educational philosophies throughout history including democracy, totalitarian nationalism, monarchy, socialism, and communism.

Wikipedia

A place like World of Warcraft makes enacting something like collectivism a lot easier since a lot of our concerns that we as people face in our lives evaporate – shelter, health, family, work. It is a lot easier to make money in World of Warcraft and share this wealth without the worry that someone might end up starving or hurt if we fail to use our resources correctly. At worst, we have to take another trip to the Auction House or repair our gear. It makes it easier to use our time and resources towards helping a group  and working collectively without risk to ourselves.

As Sheep pointed out, WoW is not geared towards group work as much anymore, if it ever was at all. A lot of player achievement can be attained through personal goals and thinking of oneself only; the bastion of group resources has been and will always be a guild. Ever since Blizzard introduced guild perks and rep, this has become much, much more apparent as well. Many of the structures that the game has introduced to make guilds important emphasizes collective thought. However, much like my feelings on hate language and respectful guild culture, I believe that collectivising your guild (and my guild) takes some work. Often the most ideal “conditions” for sharing and group culture is just that you find a guild that all really wants to help one another.

Enter my guild: we are a group of people that has, over time, slowly become more and more collectivist. Was this entirely planned? Probably not. The efforts of our mutual generosity and tight social structure has just born fruit. We have similar ideas on the values and identity of our group as well as the goals we wish to work towards. People’s projects can be organized and supported by any and all members of the guild without hierarchical stress (most of the time) and everyone’s contributions can be put towards the greater pool.

It is easier to talk about this stuff in abstract, but lets have some examples of what I really mean when I talk about contributions, resources and efforts.

The guild fishes out of blood pools in Borean Tundra.

What Blizzard Did:

  • Cash Flow: This perk alone fuels a collective pool of money by “force.” I could talk endlessly about this one mechanism and what it means towards group capital and guild power, but I’ll spare you guys for now. Allowing everyone in the guild to have their solo or group play give back to the guild is pretty essential. However, it is triggered automatically and isn’t subtracted from a person’s personal earnings, but generated over top of what they collect themselves, making this slightly more “fair.” However, the time and work put in to complete quests is still valuable.
  • Guild Challenges: Money earned from collective group play in PVP, raids and instances means more collective resources.
  • Guild XP is earned by all members of the guild. Higher level perks are achieved by the work done by all.
  • Guild recipes are earned by collective tradeskill use or achievement such as the Seafood Magnifique feast.
  • Guild rewards are earned the same way.
  • Mechanisms like Have Group, Will Travel (RIP) and Mass Resurrection allow any player within the guild to summon or revive a fallen comrade. Granted it doesn’t necessarily have to be a guild member, but it is definitely oriented towards group play.

What We Did:

  • People can put in and remove materials from the guild bank. We have tabs for crafting, gear/bags, consumables, reputation/holiday items, glyphs, and raiding materials. There is an officer’s tab that is locked, but every other tab can be added to or withdrawn from.
  • Any guild member can organize and create events on the guild calendar.
  • Guild money is put towards repair bills (150G daily cap), purchasing additional materials for things such as consumables and bags. We’ve also helped people pay for flying skills as well.
  • Rules are relatively fixed, but they are actively enforced by all members of the guild in terms of calling out and discussing problematic behaviour. The roots of things set down in our rules and modes of conduct are things that we as a group have agreed as being important to us.
  • No set method of contribution: everyone is allowed to do what they do “best” and give towards the guild in that way. Some people are really into fishing, so they are happy to fish up stuff for feasts. Some members are avid gatherers. Some are good at finding best pieces of gear for transmog outfits and share knowledge. Others share knowledge of raid strategies. Some are good at leading people in group dungeons. Everyone has something unique and purposeful to contribute so we don’t limit what people can and cannot do for the group.
  • Excess guild bank materials are auctioned off and put back into the guild funds.

All of these examples are just to illustrate what is at work here. The real driving force behind most of this, especially within our guild is putting the group ahead of the individual. However, everyone is unique.  No one has to be interested in the same things in WoW, or have a specific task they need to do. They are allowed to create goals and everyone pitches in to help as they see fit according to their time, desire and energy. Our guild activities seek to benefit people:  raids to get people gear, group content for pretty vanity items and mounts, and events to cheer people up.

Horizontal vs. Vertical Collectivism

While most of our guild functions collectively along the horizontal (the group decides how to organize collectively), the structures put in place by Blizzard with regards to the guild does lend itself to some level of vertical collectivism (hierarchies determining collective efforts). We do have a guild leader (myself) as well as a couple of officers. We serve the guild but also do things like lead the guild and enforce the rules above and beyond the group’s ability to self-police. One of our officers is the raid leader and she takes everyone’s wishes into account with regards for raid composition, scheduled days for raiding and the like. Hierarchy within a mostly horizontal collectivist group is unavoidable in a game that forces it by nature. However, we do try to steer clear of deciding everything for the group rather than letting everyone have a share in what is done about the guild.

Everyone Can Do This

Group action and recognizing interdependence on each other within the gaming world is a really important thing to me as I’ve found out. And it is something I believe anyone can do, even when it looks like our Azeroth is founded on the principles of but a few self-interested individuals. Banding together with a group of friends and making sure they are taken care of before myself has been a real eye-opener in terms of identity and group dynamics. You will not lose yourself if you active collectively; collectivism does not ask anything of the individual in terms of stripping away the things that make us unique. It only asks that we use the things we are good at to help each other out. Being taken care of becomes easier when everyone is looking out for everyone else and the dread and the fear that we are left behind if we do not fend for ourselves slips away. I know that WoW is merely a game but it can be a good place to learn and teach the ways of collectivism in an environment that is low on risk. I know that it has been comforting to me knowing that there is at least one place where I can help out and be helped in return. I have no problems spending my time doing things for others because it helps us all succeed. It makes me feel good at the end of the day, especially in the face of such bleak reality when it comes to stuff like this.

Don’t be afraid to collectivise your guild. Don’t be afraid to take care of the people within it. We all have something to do, something to give. If our guilds are important to us, then let’s give it our all to make them the best they can be.

A Home Away From Home Of My Own

Saci rides her felsteed across the moors of Gilneas

I think one of the driving forces behind my out-of-control alt “issue” (I can quit any time I want, okay?) is that I use alts as solutions to problems I have. (“Problems” is kind of a mis-label, I think of them more as “ideas.” However, it is still true.) If there’s something I am thinking of doing or working on, it usually comes down to “roll another alt.” Do I have an obsession with a race/class combo? Roll an alt. Did I forget how to play a spec on an 85? Roll an alt. This little habit of mine probably started around the time I wanted to do Insane; needing alts for very specific tasks like being a scribe or being able to pick lockboxes was pretty crucial. However, all of these things are intensely practical as far as playing World of Warcraft goes.

What if the need for a new alt (in the face of a looming expansion a month away, no less) is less of a  functional one and more personal?

It is no secret that I feel very strongly about my guild. It has become, over the course of this expansion, not just a resting place for me post-progression raiding but a safe haven for folk of all stripes. We have come very close together and we’re getting new people every day. I’m a proud guild leader who sees the number of people online every night going up. I have guildmates pulling me aside to tell me how for the first time they feel “accepted” and “comfortable.” This is really important to me. I like being at the helm. However, sometimes, even a guild leader wants to slip off and be a peon for a while. There’s more friends out there than just within the borders of my guild. Having a place I can jet off to during the day when barely anyone is on to fill up guild chat, or when I’m feeling stressed out is pretty important. Plus, it is a way to extend my time to others without them needing to join my guild. Because mine isn’t the only one that is valuable or important.

That being said, it’s been hard. I’ve rolled alts on other servers before but they’ve never really “stuck.” I even have level 85s in other places now but I don’t play them that often. It’s hard to tear myself away from my “kids” enough to enjoy myself somewhere else. There’s also the larger concern: will other guilds uphold the same values I do? I’ve spoken about this before, that the driving force behind my guild is to treat people with respect. This means in word and deed. Treat people for the equals they are. Do right by them. A lot of guilds don’t quite live up to this in my eyes, in either large or subtle ways. So how am I supposed to pal around and hang out in some other person’s house that doesn’t treat me the way I wish to be treated? It’s harder when you’re not the one running things to speak up, to effect change. It’s someone else’s living room, don’t shit on the rug.

It had been something that had been percolating away in the back of my brain for a while when I asked Snack from <Waypoint> if I could join his guild on an alt to “hang out and talk.” Him and I share a lot of similar interests and opinions on things and I consider him a mentor when it comes to running a guild. He’s been wildly supportive of my efforts to be a good GM so far and always lets me bend his ear with whatever concerns I have. You might say we’re friends. I also have quite a few Twitter buddies that hang out in Waypoint that I enjoy being around, so it naturally seemed like a good place to stick yet another alt. I’d have my little place to noodle around when my own guild was dead or when I felt like getting away. I definitely was not expecting to find a guild that reminded me so much of my own, so full of warmth and laughter and respect.

I wasn’t also not expecting to roll a warlock.

Let me tell you, it feels like I’m in some sort of bizarre universe skin. I’m tall and gorgeous and I love spending money on outfits and and and and…

I’m a warlock.

Let those words sink in for a minute. I have a level 75 warlock but she’s never really been mine. She’s been rerolled 3 times and is a glorified scribe machine. This time around? I’m only 48 and I’ve sunk money into beautiful transmog outfits, made mage jokes and thrown myself off high places to resurrect myself from a soul stone. In short, I’m actually enjoying myself. The irony of this is that the class is going to change wildly in a few short weeks, but I don’t care. I’m around a fairly expansive “coven” of warlocks in Waypoint and feel pretty good about myself. Sure, most of this involves picking on Cynwise mercilessly when he’s playing his mage, but I ain’t complaining. It is fun learning another caster and despite the intrinsic loathing I feel for being all “YAY GREEN FIRE,” warlocks are actually quite cool.

The point of all this is that sometimes change can be good, even if just to inject a slightly different perspective of fun to the fun you were already having.

It’s so unbelievable to me to not only find another guild that could be a “sister” to the guild I belong to in both personality and spirit, but that I’m getting to know the warlock class intimately and not feeling bored. Stuff like this is not only valuable in and of itself but it makes me value what I have on my home server so much more. I feel like this is merely a new extension of myself in which to express not only my story vampires but my personality to a whole other group of people I care about. And it is really easy to care about people in Waypoint much like Northrend Commonwealth. They are a laid-back but friendly group of players that like to make terrible puns, have fun while raiding and while maybe slightly less enthusiastic about poop or radical feminism, they share the same core of love and respect I’m used to. I like staying up late sometimes and hashing out more serious feelings about leadership, celebrity or pride with some of my Waypoint friends (like Dee, Zable or Lizzy), or pootling around in the afternoon with Catulla and talking about lady business. All of these things adds to the already pleasurable social experience I have with my guild. I want to say things like RealID and Twitter made this happen but the undercurrent of that is that social media has to be populated with people you want to socialize with in order to be productive. So finding more of my “own kind” to talk to, raid with and generally explore Azeroth with has opened my eyes to the real possibilities.

My only concern (if you could even call it that) is that people might read this and feel that I’m handing out an advertisement for particular people or guilds. I’m not pulling back the curtain, so to speak, to shine a spotlight on Waypoint in particular. I think that while the folk in-guild are wonderful and amazing people, I think the real “magic” of this experience comes from this intrinsic and valuable idea that guilds, and by that point, social interactions in this game, should function based on treating people right. I’ve always believed this and this is why when I find another guild that believes in it as strongly as I do, it feels like “coming home again.” There’s no formula or steps you can follow to really replicate caring, concern and valuing people inside your guild other than believing it and acting on it. If you do this, the people that value this as well will find you. I know this is definitely how I found Waypoint as a space to stick a vacation alt.

All in all, there is yet another place that I feel comfortable being myself in (even if that “self” is a warlock right now) and that is a good feeling indeed.

 

 

Exhaustion

A bleak, red landscape in Blasted Lands with weeping burnt people.

No, I’m not talking about the debuff.

One of those things they never mention in the “How to Be a Good Guild Master” handbook is what to do when you suddenly find yourself all out of fucks to give. You don’t have to have a particularly problematic, conflict-intense guild to have this happen. Sometimes, some days, you  just can’t care. It doesn’t make you a bad person, it doesn’t make you callous or horrible. It is something that happens to all of us, especially those of us guild leaders who lead with our sense of compassion and empathy.

Last Saturday, I was in a foul black mood. This kind of mood comes on really swiftly with me and it makes dealing with people really hard. I cannot tell if this is a function of some of the mental health problems I have or if it is something other people experience. It blankets how I feel about everyone and kinda sucks out all the concern and caring I have for them. Everyone is stupid, annoying and a pain to deal with. Everything is a hassle and a chore. No one is as smart or capable as me, and so I have to babysit/herd cats through anything. Above all, I just don’t have an ounce of empathy. Unfortunately this kind of cloud settled on me on the same night that we do one of our weekly guild events. A night that is supposed to be dedicated to fun and getting people neat mounts and vanity items is not a good night to be a grim, hateful person. However, unlike when we raid, I am the person who organizes this stuff and keeps the momentum going, so I had to be there. Because of this, I spent most of the night being stonily silent on Mumble unless I absolutely had to talk and I wasn’t my usual jokey, bubbly self. I often felt my directions bordering on being barked and the frustration I felt with even routine, normal questions or mistakes (on retro raid content no less!) was way off the charts. If this had been even 3 months ago, I don’t think I would have said anything to my officer squad, who were all present that night. But I took the advice I so often ignored in the past and told my officers as a heads up that I was a in terrible, awful mood. Suddenly the pressure of being an ugly monster was somewhat lessened. My officers urged me that I could leave if I wanted to, but I stuck to my guns. I’m glad that I did, regardless, as we saw one of our members get the second glaive from Illidan for her set and we got the guild achievement “The Ultimate Collection.” I had to be there, right?

Wrong.

I brought it up with my therapist several days later and he mentioned something called “compassion fatigue” as a possible source for my suddenly on-coming mood. “Compassion fatigue” is something that people who are exposed to trauma often feel, such as victims or caregivers. It increases the persons stress, cynicism and shortens their ability to feel concern towards others over time. While I don’t feel that neither my personal experiences with trauma or something like guild leading is quite on the same level as what my therapist was talking about, it definitely got the wheels turning for two reasons.

Firstly, I think that it is entirely believable that guild leading can max out your ability to care about others. On top of all the other relationships and responsibilities we might have in our lives (partners, spouses, and children are a big one), leading a guild with your whole heart can tax an already dwindling supply of caring for others. There are just some days when the problems of people in World of Warcraft might cease to be as important as other stuff going on and you feel like you have “no fucks to give” essentially. It can make you feel empty or even downright mean. This is not an ideal state of mind for leading anything, much less a guild. Having a group of officers or maybe even just one other person take the reins for a little while, whether for a couple of hours, or a couple days, can be good for not lashing out at people or to refill your compassion for others. Let your officers know how you feel and what is going on so no panic ensues. Delegation is something I think a lot of new guild leaders like myself forget about because we expect ourselves to run and do everything. There’s very little in-game that can’t be done by someone else at least once. Give yourself a time out and recharge the ol’ batteries.

Secondly, it’s a little scary to be in a position of power but feel out of control of your own feelings. I’ve had way less problems with this since some of the breakthroughs I’ve made lately with therapy, but it’s pretty apparent to me that I will sometimes slip into moods without any provocation whatsoever. It’s hard, as someone who’s struggled with mental illness all her adult life, to accept that you can be a good person and a decent guild leader when you feel so broken. Part of being the leader I think everyone deserves is convincing myself of the fact that I’m not subhuman or un-repairable. It is hard sometimes, what with the stories I’ve from neurotypical people talking rudely about guild leaders that suffer from bipolar disorder or schizophrenia and “going off the rails.” A lot of times these GMs in question have been women, I’ve noticed. I know there’s quite a lot of words I could squeeze in here about perceptions of people with mental illness and gender but I’ll save them for another time. The fact of the matter is that guild leading is a stressful, tiresome job even in the best guild (which my guild is, naturally) for even the best person, much less someone who feels deeply and sometimes in a volatile fashion. Having a mental illness or mental health problems doesn’t make me or anyone else unfit for a leadership role, provided that you communicate.

These are things that happen to everyone, I think, and I have to keep reminding myself that it doesn’t make me less of a person, or less of a leader. It makes me human. When your way of approaching the world is through how you feel and how you care about others, you’ll get tired. It is an exhaustion that comes regardless. The point of this is just accepting that this might happen and act accordingly.

Uneasy Lies The Head that Wears the Crown

It’s really easy to let my blog lapse sometimes but then other people’s words prick me.

Lodur’s assessment that hate language is a weed that needs to be uprooted wherever it grows started my thoughts on the track of how I try to shape the gaming environment around me, but it was Snack’s fairly moving, personal account of growing as a healer and a GM that possessed me with the motivation to get up and write today.

It is no secret that I am the guild master of my guild. I’ve mentioned it before but I don’t think I’ve ever outlined precisely how or why I came into this job. It is a recent occurrence, all things considered, in the long storied history of our little guild. We’ve been around since December 2004, which is ancient in terms of guilds. We’ve been through every expansion, had several membership shifts and have gotten in and out of a lot of reputation scrapes relatively unscathed. We went from being a well-known roleplay guild on our server to part of a well-known raid team to a social guild that only old server-mates remember.

The one constant throughout most of this was my boyfriend, the former GM. For most of my memory of World or Warcraft, he was always the person running the show (along with our-then-main-tank, Edagh). There had been one or two GMs prior to him but they only lasted a short while before moving and Alex (that’s his name) had arguably been the longest-running and most beloved out of anyone. Our guild has always prided itself on being a fairly loose dictatorship, with not much need for officer-ing. Even most of the formal positions were voted in for the sake of roleplay, they were never strictly necessary. Having a guild master was a  function forced by game mechanics but only meaningful in terms of having someone to look up to on the very rare occasions. Our guild was founded on fairly fun, sensible policies like “Don’t be a dick” and “Please be over 18+ years old” and “Have someone within the guild invite you” that everyone took pretty seriously. There’s only a handful of incidents (and by handful I mean 3-4) that I can ever remember someone getting booted out of the guild. I have a very warped view of what it means to have guild drama, for that reason. Our guild has always been pretty stable on the surface, and I owed a large part of that to how Alex ran things. He’s just one of those guys you can’t help but like and want to not tick off. But underpinning that was a sense of wanting to do right by everyone in the guild, regardless of who actually was in it.

So it is in that vein that I was promoted up to an officer position fairly early on in my WoW career. It was for my outspoken nature when it came to representing the “under-60″ crowd. I felt that many people in the guild who weren’t at max level were being silenced to some degree, so it was my spunk even as a pathetic level 40 that earned me a spot that I’ve held since late last year. I took the whole notion of being representative really seriously, being passionate for this group of people playing a video game. I got into raiding and graduated up to being not only a guild officer but an officer in the guild collective we were a part of. I liked being a “people person” and helped recruit for the raid as well. I was a morale booster and definitely someone who drummed up participation by knowing everyone on the server. The only real wrench in the works was that when Cataclysm started looming on the horizon and Blizzard basically forced our collective’s hand. The raid team decided they want to be a guild and proceeded to suck most, if not all of the officerships out of the four constituent guilds to form the officer crew for the raid guild. By that point, most of the officers for my guild had quit WoW or gone casual, so all that was left representing our guild on the raid team was the GM and myself. And we were not leaving our guild – we had seen what it was doing to the other guilds in terms of cohesion and membership. Alex was pretty firmly in the idea of “the captain goes down with the ship” and considering that a large majority of our guild was a social community and not related to our raid team, we stayed. It almost cost both of us our raid spots, truth be told, but in the end, we pushed to stay on even as officers. It caused a lot of underlying tension as we were part of a raid team that had benefits we couldn’t immediately access or use, that we were seen as being fairly traitorous to the cause, but I digress. It wasn’t until the raid officer squad was pared down to people who could access the guild’s officer chat that I felt the sting of abandonment. I was basically asked to step out of a position of several years just because I couldn’t see green chat. But I dealt with it. My guild was always going to be more important to me than the raid and I think everyone knew that.

Shortly after, Alex quit raiding to work full-time and play other games. I felt kinda alone but kept on with the raid team and as his involvement with WoW scaled back, I found myself running the guild more day-to-day, in whatever capacity was actually needed. Our guild never NEEDED a ton of babying, just the occasional guild invite for alts, managing the guild bank and handling crises. I always told myself that our GM would be back, I was just keeping the seat warm.

As Cataclysm wore on, it was pretty clear that my boyfriend wasn’t really coming back to WoW in any capacity for a while. There was a joke between myself and one of my friends that once Blizzard implemented the protocol for the “chain of succession” mechanic, that I’d take over the guild. We counted down the 30 days since Alex last logged on and on the fateful day, I kicked the guild master title to myself with very little fanfare. It was a foregone conclusion at that point and I had already done the job in all ways but having the name/power. I thought, “Well now I have the tools, I’ll keep on what I’m doing and the guild will be here intact until the real GM gets back.”

It’s a funny business, this whole “realness” thing. I had always, always looked up to our GM while he was here so I couldn’t even imagine anyone BUT him doing the job. Here I was though, the captain of a ship and I was steering it into uncharted territory with the promise that the actual captain would be back at the helm any day now. That is no way to sail and that is no way to run a guild. I needed to be not only the GM that the guild wanted, but the GM that the guild deserved. I needed to start doing things my own way and not the way that I thought Alex would want things. It was a bit of a weird internal conflict and definitely a hard one to think about especially considering that he is someone I live with and care about. But it had to be done. Deep in my heart though, I knew that I had been doing it without explicitly saying so for a while. There had been a lull in membership just due to our casual “know someone else in the guild” chain of dynamics, and it had started to perk up once I had started inviting more lady friends of mine from various places. It was a seed that had been planted deep inside my head somewhere along the line and I was finally acknowledging it growing back there. Questions still troubled me, however: what did I want that flower to be? What had I hoped would blossom? How would I leave my mark? What was really important to me and how could I transfer that to the guild?

The joke going around had been that we were becoming a space for “wayward women” and pulling people out of abusive guild or social situations. It wasn’t untrue though. One of the first waves of people to come into the fold were a small group of women whom I consider my closest friends. We all had banded together snarking a particularly rambunctious Livejournal community and they started trickling over once some of their guilds turned out to be not what they wanted socially or had to quit raiding, etc. But it started becoming a reality once more and more people started turning up. We’d mention off-hand how we were lady-friendly and suddenly someone would want to roll an alt. Then they’d transfer over. Then they’d transfer all their alts over, their SO or best friend would come with them. If Blizzard had some sort of referral plan for transfers, race/faction changes, I would be a very rich person right now. We had a magnetism for a certain crowd of dispossessed, affable outcasts. It was easy to see why – we were laid-back and didn’t tolerate a lot of nasty business that other guilds seemed to traffic in.

That was when I discovered where my true guild heart lay. It was in making sure people felt safe and happy in the guild. This coupled with my growing passion for feminist theory and social justice issues meant that we were not going to allow disrespectful/hate language or shitty jokes. The guild never had much stock in them to begin with but given that we were starting to become up to our ears in women, queer individuals and the like, I wanted to make it abundantly clear to everyone that this wasn’t going to be tolerated. No slurs, no sexist language, no rape jokes. Lodur’s post makes a lot of sense to me because if you want to grow a garden (to extend my plant metaphor), you have to weed out problems that strangle the growth. I believe with all my heart that -ist language across the board disallows people being able to be who they really are. Our guild is founded on respect and you cannot respect someone if you use language that puts them as a lesser being, an othered group. We’ve had some personal sloughing and education on what these concepts are (as far you as you can in guild chat) but overall, it’s been pretty stable and easily implemented. I didn’t want to tout this guild as a place where you could be comfortable and have abusive language sneaking in the cracks. The more nebulous and harder parts of “safe and happy” were where I feel I’m still failing, but doing better with. “Safe and happy” means a lot of different things to everyone, whether it is certain activities being done (like PVP, raiding, roleplay) or more abstract concepts like “open communication” or “emotional stability.” I’m still working on that – getting everyone to open and push for more transparency in our social interactions given that most of us are pretty socially awkward. It’s been going well but we still have our knots to undo.

The other big change I wanted to see other than a more socially aware personality was our own identity back. We had soldiered on so long as part of a now-defunct guild collective. With my final resignation from the raid team, as well as its eventual collapse, I felt we needed to stand out and have our own space with our own ideas and rules. We had come first, we were the ones still standing. With some help from Vitaemachina (for our own Mumble server) and my guildmate Bee (who donated webspace and set up our message board), we finally felt like a separate, real guild with our own little home and place to socialize. I also pulled up some of our veteran members into higher ranks and elected a couple more officers to handle invites when I wasn’t on as well as disputes. My sincere apprehension towards raiding seriously as well as some of our guild’s relative inexperience with raiding meant that I didn’t have the time or energy to attempt organizing raiding but LFR eventually kicked those gates back open and now we have a very successful (if late-blooming) 10man team run by our officers (with me giving some raiding tips here and there). We just downed Heroic Morchok the other night and I couldn’t be prouder. We also run Firelands so one of our mages, Probata, can get her dragon staff (so I’m not the only dragon in the guild). Guild members as well as myself have kept a nice Saturday night Fun Run tradition, got another priest a Vala’nyr and plenty of wicked cool raid drop mounts for people. (No phoenix yet though.) I’ve AHed enough crap out of our guild bank and gotten enough kickback from guild perks to help our second rogue purchase the first part of the dagger legendaries and we’re working with Bee to get her the first set. All in all, I feel we’ve grown bigger and better together, not just because I was at the top of the guild list.

Snack’s post really highlighted a lot of intense emotions for me, though. It doesn’t hurt that he’s had to hold my hand through some of the dark nights when I felt like I couldn’t be a guildmaster to my guild. The hardest part of power, if you are not the corruptible type, is worrying about if you’re abusing it. Worried if you’re doing the right thing. While I’ve not lost a lot of sleep over it (though I can sympathize with that sentiment in my heart), there’s been moments when I’ve been a shitty GM and have wanted to barf because of it. I’ve fucked up deciding who got a retro legendary, I’ve mishandled internal conflicts within the guild, I’ve slipped up in being impartial. In short, I’ve made a lot of mistakes. I know that I’ve tried my best to be who the guild wants me to be, but I still sometimes slip into this mode of thinking that I wasn’t cut out for this. Leadership isn’t just doing the right thing but also being the right person. How could someone like me be a GM? I’m notoriously anxious, secretive and emotional. I’ve kept myself and my business closed off even from my officers and closest friends for well over 3 years now and it’s caused some friction. The hardest part is forgiving myself for all of these things. Being so close socially means that it’s hard to remove yourself emotionally when you do something stupid. It becomes less like mitigating a bad business decision and more like a personal failing. There’s not a day that goes by though that I don’t think about my guild and smile proudly to myself. I’ve been in the same guild for my entire career and this is why: it has accomplished something that I feel so many other guilds do not do, which is be a place for people to do what they want, be themselves, and feel cared about even while playing a video game. I couldn’t imagine gaming life without these goofy folk in my life, much less in Warcraft.

So this is not only a treatise to all of you other scared, new GMs out there. It is not just a mantra to myself to give myself more space to learn and grow as a leader. It is a love letter to my guild for not only teaching me how to be a better person, but letting me become on. It is for all the nights you guys put up with me accidentally removing myself from a raid, dodging shitty disagreements, forgetting to change the guild notes or being moody without saying why. It is my adoration for you that spurred me on to make the guild a place where you guys could be happy and I try my hardest to do that for you every day. You make me laugh, smile and even cry sometimes and I’m not too distant to admit that. Gaming is something that people always shit on because the people on the other sides of the screen aren’t “real” but you guys really are. I’ve lived with some of you, met some of you at Blizzcon, are going to meet in the future, or may never meet. But whether it’s hearing your laughter on Mumble, or seeing Pom’s dog pictures on Twitter, hearing Cass make really off-colour jokes, Lept’s eternal sighing over gear that won’t drop, or Met and Odacaer’s adorable puns to eachother, I enjoy it all and I’m glad I have them with me whenever I log on.

I might not play WoW forever, but I will enjoy it until that day comes, whether I’m guild leader or not.