Raid Leader, Guild Leader, Here are your Towels, Prepare to throw….

5 Aug

** A quick note…Don’t read this.  I mean – it’s okay and all – but for you TL:DR folks let me sum it up.  “Guild Leadership is Hard”.  Now – that said.  Head over to Righteous Orbs and read Tam’s article about guilds and guild pain.  He’s way better at massive blocks of text than I am and he’ll make you laugh at the same time.  Really – Go now – It’s Over HERE.

Leading can suck.  The responsibility, the headaches, the hard, hard work.

Raid leading and guild leading are no exception.  Sure – World of Warcraft is a game and it seems that no game should inspire the fits of agony that players and player leaders experience from time to time – but it does.  There are some among us that might say “raiding is srs bzness” and mean it – and take offense if you take that fact lightly.  There are others that could care less if they wipe 1 time or 100 times on the exact same content.  The rest of us fall somewhere in between one extreme or the other.

It’s these differences and the variety of personalities that make up folks that play WoW  that make leading in a virtual environment just as challenging and maddening as leading in real life.  I’m not talking about the bad wipes on new content or even the asshattery that loot drama can stir up.  No, for the most part, guild leading sucks because invariably, you tend to have two core problems.  From those two problems all angst and drama are fed.

First off – guilds rarely have enough people in order for everyone to raid.

Second – Honesty – people are rarely honest with themselves or each other in this game and it leads to some of the worst of the drama.

Now – in regards to guild size.  Either your guild is so small that you can never field a raid (not so much a problem these days) or it’s just large enough that you can field one raid team but not two.  Divisions are created – lines drawn with chalk and blood.  The end result is that some raid and some succeed while others flounder.

To be clear, the folks that flounder tend to not like it.

To help address this problem there have always been guild calendars.  In the old days they might have been written on paper and distributed through word of mouth ( at worst ) or posted on the guild website ( at best ).  These days Blizzard gives us an in game calendar and it does help.  Still though for the raid and guild leaders the management of that calendar is a pain in the ass job and it’s one that is generally thankless.

For the lucky, raids are usually posted at the beginning of the week.  Raiders that want to go – sign up.  Raid leaders ostensibly look at everyone that has signed up and determine the best mix of classes and roles to bring along.

Lets see….

We need two tanks.  Two good tanks.  People that are geared, that know the encounters and don’t keyboard turn.

Done.

We need two to three healers…probably three…the fires are so inviting to stand in after all.

Done.

Now – we need 5 dps.  Good dps, people that know how to dance, don’t stand in fires long, and can beat enrage timers.  Ohh…we need a good mix of ranged and melee too.  Don’t want to be too heavy in either direction.

**Some fairly ugly cutting is done here**

In the end, what the raid leader has just created is more than just 10 random players that agreed to show up at 7pm Saturday night.  More often than not, it’s a combination of 10 of the best players in the guild, the 10 most likely to succeed.

The problem of course aren’t the 10 that get to go – it’s the 5-9 that are forced to stay behind.  In most cases there are good reasons they’re not on the team.  Maybe the run just didn’t need another tank, maybe the run didn’t need another melee dps, maybe the player left behind can’t stop eating the pretty white and black glowing orbs in Twin Valks.  The reasons are as endless as the reactions of the disenfranchised are predictable:

This is bullshit!

Why do I never get to go?

Why do we raid on Saturdays?  I can’t make it on Saturdays!

This time isn’t good.

Why does so and so get to raid and I don’t?

Why don’t we do 25 man content so we can all go?

I do more damage/more Heals per Second/Die Less/Help the Guild More than THAT OTHER GUY – so why don’t I get to go?

Ask your raid leader and your guild leader they’ve heard it all before.

In fact, they’ve probably heard it *so much* – that they’re ready to rage quit the next time someone sends them a grumpy tell about it.

Different guilds handle this problem in different ways.  Conscientious ones make at least an attempt to mix in folks from outside the core raid team.  That way newer raiders are able to gear and experience fights they may have previously only seen in Tankspot videos.  But it’s not always possible and sometimes – when progression gains are slow to come – it’s not even a good idea.

Truly beneficent guilds will even try to work up two completely different raid teams and populate them with a combination of mains and alts out of the hopes that they’ll have two teams strong enough to clear all the content on the schedule.

For the individual raider – this can be a *fantastic* solution.  For leaders – it can be a nightmare.  Twice as many people to slot, twice as much potential drama to endure.  In many cases it also means the raid leader is doing double duty – dpsing one raid and tanking for another.  Not burning out becomes a challenge.

Or worse – competition between the two raid teams pops up and creates a new drama all of its own.

I’ve seen just about every permutation of this drama in every raid capable guild I’ve been a part of.  Everyone has so much time and so much energy to apply to the game.  It doesn’t always match up with everyone else’s.  Quite often there is nothing you can do to avoid it.  The natural byproduct of competitive, goal oriented people trying to make progress in (anything) is drama of one form or another.

Or angst.

Or both.

Perfect leadership assumes perfect followers and if there is one thing I know about people it is that none of us are perfect.  We all have egos – we all feel left out from time to time.  We all say and do and think things that are not worthy.

And we do it in this game a whole lot more than seems necessary or even right.

That people choose to continue to raid and continue to progress in the content is crucial to the survival of a “raid” guild.  It’s no more right or wrong than your kid getting cut from the little league team because he can’t field a fly ball or hit a base run.  Raiding is a team sport and the success or failure of a raid team weighs heavily on the shoulders of the raid leader.

Yet it also weighs on the guild leader.

Because a guild leader is worried about more than just content – they’re worried about the growth and viability of the entire guild.  Does the guild leader focus on the more successful core team at the expense of the new raiders?  Sometimes, when progression is critical you have to.  Yet doing this will invariably cause the guild to lose frustrated raiders who are intent to look for their shot elsewhere.  Losing even a couple of key people on the “b-team” suddenly makes it even harder for those left behind to raid.

Pressure mounts.  Tempers flare.  People say and do things that hurt others.

And yet.

It’s still a game.  No one dies in World of Warcraft.  No one achieves a six figure salary for being a good raider.  One day all of the e-fame you might have from being the best tank – highest dps – smartest healer will vanish along with the game itself leaving you with what?

The memory of your successes?

The self satisfied understanding that you did what you had to do in order for *you* to be successful?

A few good screenshots of your raid team standing over some random progression boss?

Friends?

This is where honesty comes in.  None of the above answers are the right one – only the one that is right for you.  So, maybe before you lash out at a raid leader for not picking you for the Core Team, or rage at the guild leader because raids are too late or too early for your personal schedule.  Take a step back and remember that you’re playing a game.

A game.

If raid schedules don’t mesh – but you love the people you play with – which is more important to you?

If you find your own fun being impacted by the fact you can’t raid – and it’s affecting your relationships with the people in your guild.  Move on.  Be adult about it.  Be polite about it.  It’s not your fault that you can’t raid as early or as often as the rest – it’s just reality.  A reasonable guild leader will understand this and help you transition out.

Are the people more important to you?  Then so be it.  Enjoy them.  But make sure you’re being honest with yourself.  The last thing your guild needs is for you to *say* you’re fine while you sit and stew in the background.

Be honest to yourself – be honest to the people you play with.

If you ever find that you can’t do either.

Uninstall the game and step away for a while.  You’ll be the better for it.

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2 Responses to “Raid Leader, Guild Leader, Here are your Towels, Prepare to throw….”

  1. valkyrierisen August 5, 2010 at 20:53 #

    Nicely done. I must say, my guild is mostly fantastic, but of our 3 ten man teams, 2 are made up of non-alts (mostly), and one has taken over the front page of the guild website with screenshots. 😦 They’ve gotten farther than our team. It makes me.. not pleased to visit the guild website. Does that make me a bad guildy? Too competitive? (I wouldn’t join their raid team for a guaranteed drake)

  2. Nora August 6, 2010 at 15:40 #

    I actually got a little misty-eyed reading, because….ok well because I’m a dork. >.> But aside from being a dork, there are so many nights I haven’t slept worrying about all these things. How to be a good manager. How to be a good leader. The terrible things that some have said on the way out the door when I botch my roll on one or the other. I carry it all with me, invisible scars that you just – toughen up and bear, in this endless task to keep on with the mission.

    I tried walking away from it once. Might have been happier in the long run if I had. 😉 It’s not like I missed WoW a lot during the time I’d left it, was busy with needlework and friends and other (probably more productive) uses of time. But the truth is – I still believe in the dream I have for a guild. It has a vision, a personality, a life of its own much bigger than any one person or problem. And I guess in the end, until that flame is utterly extinguished, I’ll always be here tending to it. Heaven knows I’ve made my mistakes and missteps in the last three years – things I should have done better, been more firm on, been more laid back about. But I try, and I believe, and well….I guess as long as I’m willing to try harder and learn from my mistakes, that’s the best I can do. 😉

    I think the best stated comment in your post – for me at least – was the part about honesty. “Second – Honesty – people are rarely honest with themselves or each other in this game and it leads to some of the worst of the drama.” I give so much to the game, and in the end this is all I ever ask of my members. In general, I think it’s a pretty small thing to ask, but it still saddens me how little folks uphold it in the end.

    I’m a grown up. In general, I like to think I’m a pretty understanding person. I’ve always understood that people have things they want out of the game that might vary from what I want, and that’s cool. If you’re burned out and don’t want to play? It doesn’t matter if you’re our main tank or someone who logs in once a month – go, take some time for yourself, relax. We’ll figure something out. My best friend (and our original third leader) has to quit in order to preserve her rl relationship. The only thing I ever said was – “Hey, I’ll miss you, and Godspeed.” (We’re still in touch via email, happily.) People not getting the game experience they want? They want 25s? Horde? More PvP? That’s ok! I understand! Just…..tell me. Say goodbye. Heck, even if people want to say “Eff you, you effing witch!” (which one did recently – even better, to my husband since he was on my ignore list, woot!) Well hey – you’re being honest I guess. 😉

    I think what’s hurt me more than anything else in the game is when people either lie to me about what’s *really* wrong, or just vanish entirely. The problem is – not only do I not get any sense of closure to know where I failed them (or even if I did) – I can’t *learn* from it. Every time someone leaves, I look at the situation to try and learn from it – was it something I did incorrectly, or just an environmental thing?

    Environment, I can’t – and don’t try – to control. But I make mistakes, and often I don’t see them unless someone points them out to me. If the real issue is “I’m being forced to do a role in a raid that I really don’t like” and the person tells me something wishy-washy like “Oh, I just want to play Horde” – well, *I* can’t learn from that to know where I screwed up so that I don’t do it to someone else down the road. It’s not an attempt to convince anyone to stay – more of, “I want to learn from my errors and do better for someone else later”. But – so many people, they just either hide, or lie about the real factors, that I never know. And if I don’t know, I can’t improve.

    So yes – honesty, very important. And if anyone has any genius ideas to how to get more of it from players other than saying over and over “I promise I won’t yell or try to talk you into staying” well….fill a clueless guild leader in, please!

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