Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Guy Who Wanted to Become One in the Crowd

We got a spontaneous application to the guild from someone who had found his way to us through The Pink Pigtail Inn. It was nicely written, he was dedicated, experienced, well geared and full of knowledge about his class and the game in general.

There was just one minor problem. Or I should rather say: major problem to be honest: he hadn’t read my blog closely enough to realize that we’re a EU guild on a EU server. And even though you can change most things with your characters in the game as long as you’re willing to pay for it – server, hair colour, race and even faction – you still can’t cross the Atlantic barrier. I don’t know if you’ll ever be able to. So I’m afraid he’s not likely to join us anytime soon.

The pillar who wanted to leave
However, my reason for bringing up this application in a blog post isn’t to once again complain about the ocean barriers (which I deeply hate, since it effectively keeps me from ever being able to come over and say “hi” to Gnomeaggedon). No, I’m writing about it because I couldn’t help being somehow touched by his story.

Apparently he was one of those pillars that you’ll find in every fairly successful raiding guild, one of those who keep the place going, one of those who other players put their trust into. It was just that he was sick and tired of this role and he needed to find a way out of it.

Here are a couple of quotes:

“The more I think about it the more I realize I don't wanna be a Class Leader anymore (nor Officer, nor Loot master, nor part of the loot council, nor Backup raid leader, none of it, nor even a 10-man raid leader for that matter), I just wanna be there Blasting the boss and being happy with it.”

“I'm tired of being the guy that explains the fights on vent and tell people how to survive this or that, I'm tired of being the one people come to ask where to put a talent point, what gear to get or how to enchant/gem it, I'm tired of being the one that organizes the non-official raids and that replaces the RL if he can't make it for some reason, I'm tired of being asked "[name], who do you think should get that item"... Dunno if I'm being clear enough but, for a change, I just wanna be the guy with a light blue name plate that throws colored shining things at the boss.”
Possible to step down?
I think many players who ever have been in a leading role in a guild can recognize the sentiments, even though it’s something you really can’t share with anyone except for possibly fellow officers. It comes with the job, and that’s why it’s advisable to think twice before accepting such a position.

However your feelings toward a job can change over time. People get burned out and should be able to step down, letting someone else have a go at trying their leadership skills. The question is: is it even possible to do it? Can you leave your duties and remain in the guild in a new position in the background?

In theory and the best of worlds, the answer is “yes” of course, but in practice I think it’s quite hard. Being a true leader isn’t just a technical thing where you set a certain rank in the guild management settings. It goes far beyond that, and if you’ve once been chosen for a certain role in a group - not by being appointed, but by gaining their trust - it’s if not impossible, at least very hard to change it. It takes a huge effort from everyone involved and a lot of communications if you want to step down to become one of the foot soldiers hiding in the shadows.

A clean cut, a new start in a fresh guild is probably the easiest way to go if you really want to succeed in your mission to gain a lower rank.

Enjoying the crowd position
I don’t know what will happen to this applicant. He seemed a little bit unsure himself, not 100 percent certain that he really wanted to leave his guild. And isn’t that typical by the way? He’s feeling responsible to the very end, even though it apparently had turned the game into something more stressful than his ordinary job.

I can only wish him good luck and hope that he’ll eventually be able to play again from a perspective that he enjoys fully.

And to all the rest of you, who like me are just ordinary raiders without any special rank, I’ve got a message: Even if you’re not aware of it, I bet many of the officers wouldn’t mind changing with you. You see: the truth is that officers aren’t just people with high status. Most of all they’re servants. We in the faceless crowd are actually the privileged ones, we who don’t have to worry about anything else but nuking the boss and watching the pretty yellow numbers on the screen. Enjoy what you have!


Kayllnn said...

I completely understand where he is coming from. Organizing, leading, and keeping people happy is a lot of work. I love organizing raids, and I love helping out my guildies. But I spoke with my guild and fellow officers, and they reluctantly, thought it was okay that I joined another guild on one of my 80s. I have one toon in another guild, and I raid with them, as a regular old player, weekly. It is soo much fun to be a part of the raid and not worry about replacing people and explaining fights, etc. I can't imagine what it takes to be an officer in a larger guild where the raiding is much more serious. Maybe it is easier because of more delegation, but it is nice to have some separation of it all. If feeling overwhelmed as an officer group, may want to bring someone up to help out. As our guild grows I have had to expand our officers as well.

Josh said...

Larisa, it is possible to cross the Atlantic, you just can't take your character with you. Tinkering with the game files allows you to connect to the EU instead of US servers (and vice versa), but you can't migrate your character from the EU to the US database (or vice versa). If you want more details, I can dig them up somewhere on Maintankadin - user Worldie does it frequently to play on US servers from Italy.

As far as taking a step back, I did that. I was a raider, then a class leader, then an officer, then a guild & raid leader, then I burnt out. After a month off, I server transferred and joined another guild as a consistent raider and a rank-and-file member. I am very satisfied with my decision, and I believe my current guild is too :)

I whole-heartedly agree with your last paragraph. In a well-run guild, the rank-and-file are the privileged. Guild leadership is a lot of work with very little extra benefit, and at times sucks some of the fun out of an MMO.

Svenn said...

"You see: the truth is that officers aren’t just people with high status. Most of all they’re servants." - Well said.

There is a reason why in the Army, once your time in command is up you are moved to another Duty Station. In most cases giving up command is hard and, even if it is voluntary, those still in the unit (guild)remember your previous status and with the comfortability bred by familiarity will often still turn to you for answers- undermining the new Commander's authority. On the other side of the coin, the temptation to interfere in your unit's affairs is hard to resist, even though it is no longer your place to do so.

I too think the best thing to do would be to make a clean break. If you want to stay in the guild as one of the crowd, maybe a /gquit, name change, and reapplication would provide sufficient anonymity to let you blend into the crowd. Not sure how you would fool anyone on vent though, or if living a double life wouldn't just be more stressful than the situation you just left:(

Ophelie said...

In my old guild, two guildies stepped down from officer rank once. It worked for them. One of them even remained healing lead, he just didn't participate in officer discussions anymore.

In that same guild, I also stepped down from my officer role, but I couldn't handle it. I couldn't stand the way things were run so I moved on to another guild, one where the leadership seemed solid and where I wouldn't feel the need to criticize and take over everything.

That said, I find leadership, in WoW as much as in real life, is more of a personality trait than anything else. It's unavoidable. Official rank or not, the type who craves a job well done, is organized and takes initiatives, will end up with responsibilities, even if they don't want them.

Tessy said...

Being one in the crowd is the best there is!

While officering can be fun too, but it tends to take over and I find myself spending too much time on organising, administrating, dorting things out and the game ceases to be relaxing and becomes a chore instead.

I've managed to step down and stay in the guild, but I think this is mainly because I don't raid with my old guild anymore, I'm just a "picking flowers and chatting"-char there now :-)

Okrane S. said...

You're starting to understand why a boss (or someone in a leadership position) has such a big pay attached to it. Its a stressful position and if the rewards arent motivating nothing will cut it.

You have to ask yourself, what is that guy getting for leading the raid?

Priority on loot? I doubt it. I doubt it would mean anything.

Recognition and the respect of others? Doesn't compete with personal health and well-being.

Let's face it. Raid leaders are severely under payed. If it only takes volunteering to do it, dont be surprised that at one point he will want to step down.

Ulv said...

I've gone, over the last 5 years from plain old guild member, through the raiding to officer and eventually ended up as GM of our guild.

There have been times that I've considered stepping down, leaving the guild, going back to being a bench-filler.

The frustrations and annoyances in being part of running a medium-sized guild are legion and the rewards are sometimes hard to see.

However, I know myself. I'm not one of life's follwers. I like and expect to be involved in decisions. I'm good at it.

I'd encourage and Officers or GMs of guilds to find some way of playing the game away from the hustle of the guild when you feel the frustrations build up.

Vorne said...

I think you nailed it in this post :)
Been there done that, i found i had to leave the guild to escape and then my current guild made me an officer as well .....
But only a low level officer and i have made it known i have no interest in advancement.
To dam stressful and i play for fun .

Larísa said...

@Kayllnn: provided that you have the time to put in, it sounds like a good idea to have a side project, raiding without any officer stress and duties. Though I suspect that many players just don’t have that time, since their main char requires quite a bit of a time investment to begin with.

@Josh: well, I know there are some players who for some reason cross the ocean, playing on the US servers. Maybe because it’s out of habit – they started in the first beta… However it doesn’t only mean that you’re likely to get a very bad connection and quite impossible raid schedules due to time differences. It also means that you’ll have to ditch your character. And to be realistic – even if it’s easier and quicker than it used to be to level and gear up a char for endgame raiding, it still isn’t done overnight. So the barrier is still huge.

@Svenn: Wow, that was a creative solution, secretly joining on a different name… However I don’t think people would be that easily fooled to be honest.

@Ophelie: yeah, I agree. There’s definitely more into who’s leading a guild than just the formal officer ranks.

@Tessy: picking flowers… sounds like a good activity for retirement!

@Okrane S: hm.. I wonder if we’ll ever see a guild where the officers start to actually want get payed for the job they do, taxing their members for the service they provide? I don’t think it’s likely to happen due to traditions and expectations. But still somehow it would make sense.

@Ulv: I actually think many already do. There’s an army of secret alts out there where the officers can get an outlet for their frustrations and a place where they can just relax.

@Vorne: Haha… you can’t escape it, can you? I think that a certain kind of personalities are more likely to end up in leading positions. But as long as you’re clear over what you really want in the game, you should be able to stay out of too much of responsibility.

Gevlon said...

Strange, no one asks me to tell him how to spec, how to gear, how to play, despite I lead a guild. And they still KNOW their job, so they are not just silenced and remained stupid.

Maybe it's the key is the anti-social attitude. Those who need help, don't even come here. The problem with helping is that it never ends. You have to help him again and again and again. Solution: never do it!

Dwism said...

I honestly do not think that he would ever be able to... well stfu and just raid.
People who have taken a responsibility ever, in wow, cannot seem to just let go.

This is meant as a positive thing, not a critique.
If you have once taken responsibility in a teamsport like WoW PvE, it is something you will have a hard time letting go off. Sure you could use some off nights where you can "blast at the bosses and just relax" but it will not hold your interest for long. Raiders who post stuff like that - to me- are either going to quit the game very soon, or attempt at some point to lead/help lead/offer suggestions or try and stage a coup. All of these can be both a good thing or a bad thing. The fact that the guy himself is not able to see this, speaks volumes to me.

Then again, he might be a very special person who can just let go, even if the RL decides strats that he disagrees with.

Bigfncow said...

I'm not sure if he'll ever be able to truly step away from all of those responsibilities.

"Being a true leader isn’t just a technical thing where you set a certain rank in the guild management settings... but by gaining their trust - it’s if not impossible, at least very hard to change it."

I would argue that it is impossible to change that second, unofficial leadership because it comes from within. To change that, the applicant would have to change himself - and for the worse, I would think.

He can start fresh, but folks will gravitate towards him because he is trustworthy, he does give sound advice and he is the guy who will step up and be master loot if it means the difference between a raid going or being cancelled.

Eventually, his new guild will recognize him for all these great traits and make him an officer again. Just as cream rises to the top, leaders will eventually lead.

Dan said...

"Recognition and the respect of others? Doesn't compete with personal health and well-being."

First of all I'm really glad some people out there are grateful and understand all the work officers put in behind the scenes to make a guild run well! But I disagree with the above quote. I did the whole raid leader/loot management/mediator/advice-giver/what-do-you-mean-you're-not-omniscient thing and it was a lot. You are always in the public eye of the guild. If something goes wrong, or if someone has a question, they go straight to you. If I wasn't doing homework for class or raiding, I was managing our numbers and people, planning the next step. And it was stressful. But I didn't mind, I felt I was returning the favor to a guild that gave me so much, bringing me into their family and teaching me how to be a raider. As long as people were thankful for what I did, I was happy to contribute my time and give them the experience I was able to enjoy. Maybe I'm just easy, but a simple thank-you would really just refill my energy tank and keep me going. I was also a popular tank for people to grab for dungeons and what-not but most people were really understanding if I just logged on one night and said "No, thanks. I just need some me-time tonight."

And I tend to agree with the sentiment that its a personality trait. I often times find myself making suggestions or giving advice when I'm in new groups, not out of place ( I hope) but just out of habit when it seems like we need a slight redirection. Its hard to put that mentality down, but at the same time it really irks me when people constantly interject and try to steal the show from whoever is actually talking.

Anonymous said...

haha @ Gevlon's post. He does have a point, although, I believe his guild is the exception rather than the rule. And, by that, I mean that his guild is populated by those that do for themselves rather than being populated with those that ask for help.

I think, though, the majority of guilds are populated with folks that have an inherited need for confirmation in their decision making processes and find interaction with others provides such confirmation. Hence, the questions posed to the GM, officers, class leaders about how to spend their talent points and the like.

Bristal said...

Whenever I feel critical about my casual guild: not even having enough to field a 10-man on our one night, wondering why my DPS is so much better than most others, etc, I think about what you just wrote.

I do just what that guy wants to do. I show up and pew-pew. I don't want to tell people what to do. I don't want to spend 2 hour studying tactics for all classes or look at someone's FAIL spec.

I'm still amazed (and pleased) that people are willing to do it.

Bristal said...

and BTW, THANK YOU to all who do it.

Ratshag said...

Gevlon created a guild to do a very specific type of raidings, he invited folks what wanted fer ta do only that kind of raiding, he got a very specific and unchanging raid time and he got a big turnout. In spites of all that, he's done hadda abandon his plans fer 25s and even finding 10 peeps is apparently a challenge. His hands-off no stress style don't seem fer ta works too good.

tufva said...

I decided recently to step down as GM do be "only" an officer and it has done wonders for my enjoyment of the game.

I was lucky in that my husband has been in effect co-GM for as long as I've been GM and he was happy to step in and take the reins - so there wasn't any awkwardness about handing over power.

I am one of those people that always end up as officer/leader/committee member - cause I like being involved and helping things move forward. But for me being the one at the very top ground me down to dust.

When I see something that could be done in a more organised or efficient way I want to fix it - and it will bug me immensely until it is sorted if I feel it is my responsibility to deal with it. The unfortunate thing about being GM is that to me, it felt that everything was my responsibility, so I just burnt out. My husband is much better at acknowledging that something may need doing, but if it remains undone for a few days it won't drive him batty.

Anonymous said...

At this moment I really, REALLY have no idea what to Say Larissa, when i saw the Post title it rang some kind of bell, until I finished the first paragraph and realized you were talking about me ^^.
I Can't say how disapointed I was when i got Dizzy's mail pointing out that US -> EU Transfers were not possible T_T.

Guess people are right when they say that the leadership trait comes from the person behind the char I now realize that when i first started raiding in BC I was officer in my guild (and was one of the 2 that remained officers after we merged with a larger guild). How did I get back into the crow by the time? I quit wow for 6 months (didn't even had the intention of comming back).
At this point i really don't wanna quit, that's why i've been looking for a new home...

@Gevlon: I can't, sorry man but I don't know how to be anti-social.

@Okrane: You made me laugh there... You really Did...

@Larissa: Nice easter egg hinting my guild's name near the end of your post, was subtle but I noticed at the first look.

Well, I guess what I can say is thanks a lot. I mean it, seriously, you guys just gave me a bunch of ideas (no, i'm not gonna try the whole gquit and re-apply under a different name thing). I Guess i'll talk to My GM again and ask for something like a 2 weeks vacation or so, if it doesn't help, oh wel...

Great Hug