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It’s Lonely at the Top

July 12, 2010 4 comments

For most players, a guild is a way of life. The purpose of a guild can be as varied as the desires of the players. For some, the sole focus is beating PvE content at it’s highest level and competing with players around the globe for the world first kills of newly released encounters. Others may focus on pre-made PvP content and utilise a guild environment to facilitate this goal. Some players just want to experience the social aspect of having other people to chat to while they wile away their time in game. Naturally, for every category that we can place a guild and it’s goals into, there are shades of grey. A PvE guild can be more hardcore or more relaxed. Some social guild’s vet their members carefully, catering to a specific age group or mindset while others invite anyone and everyone creating an eclectic mix of people.

Browsing the official “looking for guild” forums will demonstrate the vast variety and types of guild out there. All of which have their own personal goals and aims.

This article is focussing primarily on one specific type of guild; the PvE raiding guild. Furthermore it’s written from my personal experiences of being an officer over a number of years.

Hierarchy and Structure

A guild is, essentially, a community. The fact this community resides in an online environment does not detract from it’s description. As with most communities, they have their own structure.

At the pinnacle of this structure is the leadership. This usually consists of either a guild leader and his or her officer team or a “council” of officers that elect to make decisions together in the most democratic way possible. Each type has it’s advantages and disadvantages and I think the argument for which is better is quite futile as the people involved are far more important than the structure itself.

Many players will crave for an officer position until they have actually experienced it for themselves. They are seduced by the idea of “power”, control, or by the dream of creating and leading a world class guild. Many fail to realise the work load that goes hand in hand with the commitment to these roles, but furthermore they fail to realise the conflict of interest that can arise.

The majority of officers will rise to their position from the membership. They were, at some point, a core member of the guild abiding by the decisions made by their seniors. At times, they probably disagreed with these decisions and questioned the thought process or motives of those seniors. All to often an atmosphere of “them versus us” arises between the members (which can ultimately be described as the backbone of the guild) and their leadership. One disadvantage of officership so frequently over looked is suggested by the title of this article; how terribly lonely it can be.

For an officer or leader, the guild’s best interests must always be paramount. Obviously, these interest vary from guild to guild based upon the purpose or collective desire of the member base. Frequently, the best interests of the whole are very different to those of an individual. If you have been a long standing member of a guild, you undoubtedly formed friendships and bonds among your peers. What happens when those friendships are tested because you ultimately have a job to perform?

This question is one that has always plagued me. Regardless of how close you personally feel to a member, you have to judge them objectively and act accordingly if their performance or behaviour becomes questionable (and thus against the interests of the collective.) It’s very difficult for us to not feel personally offended when another person delivers the news that we messed up. On some occasions, this can feel like more of a betrayal of trust when it’s from those closest to us.

An officer not only watches a guild evolve but they watch their members evolve also. They’re often the first point of contact for a nervous recruit entering into a strange new social environment. Similarities here can be drawn from starting a new job. There is the burning desire to prove yourself as an asset to the collective and to be regarded as exceptionally skilled in the ability to fulfil a role. Concurrently is the hope that you are accepted socially, that you will find new friendships amongst your peers and that you will, quite simply, be liked. After all, the latter is a fundamental concern for most people. An officer will be watching these first few tentative steps, hoping to encourage this new player to integrate into the guild.

After a trial period, an officer will have either seen this player succeed with this integration and become both accepted, liked and depended upon or will be required to deliver the bad news that it’s time for individual and guild to part ways. From there, we’ll undoubtedly see these players go through good times and bad both in game and out of game and we’ll try to offer support during either.

Ultimately, occasions arise where either we are on the receiving end of their dissatisfaction with our own role, decision making abilities or leadership capabilities or they are on the receiving end of ours. It’s at this point that a relationship that may have developed into a friendship is tested and stressed. By definition our friends should support us. However here rises that dreaded conflict of interest whereby we all still have a role to fulfil, regardless of friendships or personal feelings. Furthermore, we all have to answer to someone when we fail in that role through their eyes.

I’ve never quite mastered the art of this balance. Instead, I generally keep an emotional distance from most of the people I share a guild with. I find it difficult to be both their friend and an officer simply because if it comes to the crunch, I will always favour the interests of the whole over the interests of the individual. Never wanting to suggest otherwise to people, I prefer to establish a boundary from the outset.

Perhaps it is possible to maintain both these distinctive relationships; to be both friend and superior. (Please understand here, my use of the word superior is to make a distinction in the ranks of a guild hierarchy. It may sound like a power trip but it isn’t. I would much prefer a guild to run itself and for members to not require any interference or “leading” but ultimately, someone does need to be able to make decisions when they are called for.) I for one have never managed it and I feel that I always end up disappointing someone when a decision I make may not be to their personal liking or preference.

Either way, it sure can be lonely at the top.

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Categories: Guild Management