The Nature of Guild Disagreements: David and Goliath Edition
I’ve seen them all. Well, not them all, of course, but certainly I’ve seen a broad variety of guild disagreements handled both well and poorly, enough that I feel that I’m somewhat of an expert on them. By expert, of course, I mean that I know next to nothing about it but want to write about it with some authority, so “expert” is my claim.
Now, dear reader, the honest, sad truth is that I’ve been witness to a lot of these, perhaps more than my fair share, and maybe that’s partly what’s led me to feel disconnected from my guilds, homeless, or like an observer in my guild so often. There have been so many, in fact, that I’m going to split this post into four parts, looking at one disagreement (thought there were far more) in each of my guilds separately. Each peek into my rocky past will contain a brief (by my standards) story, an analysis of the situation, and some takeaways that might be useful for guilds now. Should you agree (or, more likely, disagree) with one of my suggestions, I encourage you to let me know how it should have been handled, since hindsight, as we shall see, is not always 20/20.
We’ll start with my “favorite” and the most familiar tale. From my point of view, it was a story of David and Goliath. From Goliath’s point of view, I’m sure it’s a story of stability and a troublemaker. This was the worst of the squabbles i was personally involved with, and it was also the first. Perhaps I learned my lesson; I’d like to believe I did. Perhaps my unwillingness to compromise caused so much damage that I realized real world moral values shouldn’t be stupidly defended in a video game setting. I’d like to paint myself as a crusader of good, I know, but every time I revisit this story, I wonder how Goliath would tell it, and whether his version would be more truthful or accurate than mine.
You, though, dear reader, only have mine to go on. I’ve mentioned it before as one of my many acts of bully-busting. I still do this in 5 mans when someone is rudely abusing other players, but I know the effect there is diminished both in effectiveness, as I know the bully in question won’t change their ways, and consequence, because the worst that can happen is having to wait a short while in the replacement queue. In my guild, though, the consequences were fatal.
David and Goliath
Goliath was a founding member of the guild, and an officer. I was real life friends with several guildies, particularly the guild master (“my buddy” who I constantly refer to in my posts) and hadn’t been playing when the guild first formed. When I joined, it was made clear that “officer” was only a title of fashion; it didn’t mean anything. At that point, I couldn’t care less about rank as I was a fresh player, a fresh recruit, excited about raiding, and, of course there was no problem… yet.
Time passed. Small things happened. More RL friends of mine joined the guild (which only lead to more problems). I worked hard in Karazhan (at the time, it was the end-game raid) and earned the respect of my fellow guildies. As my play and peer status improved, so did my awareness of problems in the guild. There were officers, you see, who worked, who showed up to every raid, went in different specs as needed (this was before dual-spec), switched toons, explained bosses, kept people’s spirits up after wipes, and kept the raid moving. There were officers. I learned a lot of my raid-leading from these people, and they deserve a lot of credit for who I am now as a player.
Then again, there were also officers who did next to nothing for the guild. They argued in public forums with other guildies; they berated people about their play, they pointed fingers after wipes. They refused to come to raids when we only needed one more spot filled. They argued that raid times were too early, but would be on leveling alts when the raid started and still refuse to go. Goliath, obviously, was one of these.
From there, it only took a small fire to ignite a flame war. Goliath disagreed with a friend of mine, who I backed up, and Goliath didn’t appreciate it. My friend, being smarter than I am, just backed down (also this wasn’t his first spat with some of the bad “officers”), but I was so tired of this “officer” pushing people around that I didn’t. I asked him to justify his arguments and his tone and suggested (and this is where I first went wrong) that perhaps he should act more like an officer and less like a bully.
Things got worse. Statements were made along the lines of “I was raiding Kara when you were rolling your first toon,” which I laughed about because it was so reminiscent of “I was killing (insert war-based racial slur here) when you were just an itch in your daddy’s pants!” I laughed at him publicly for that, and others joined in, which only added fuel to the fire.
He threatened to kick me from the guild since I was being insubordinate to an officer, to which I pointed out that I might as well be an officer because I’d just be let back in by my friend, the GM. That, too, was a poor, poor argument on my part, because it implied a level of nepotism that… well, I was going to write it didn’t exist, but it definitely did. Everyone in the guild was friends with other people in the guild, so, no, it did exist. My point, though, was that everyone in the guild was there due to nepotism, so I was no exception.
As our battle raged on, more and more people got involved. Eventually, we were told to stop fighting in public by another one of the officers, and I did, but Goliath continued attacking me, so I once again called for his resignation. I was young and stupid, I suppose, but that doesn’t mean I was wrong, either.
The Guild Leader, my buddy, confided in me that he knew it wasn’t my fault, but he’s the kind of person who avoids confrontation at all costs, so when he should have stood up and laid down the law, he didn’t. To add insult to injury, Goliath’s wife constanly /whispered him in game to complain about the fact that I was still in the guild – every time he logged on. She made his WoW life a living hell, to the point where he told me he was genuinely not enjoying the game any more (that’s about when I /gquit, though that was not the primary reason for it).
You know how these things end. Factionalization, then breakup. For my part, I left the guild early to prevent any further factionalizing. I loved playing WoW, but it wasn’t worth losing RL friends for, and my buddies in the guild were so used to Goliath, so attuned to his behavior, that some of them blamed me fully for what happened, essentially for not treading lightly around the rabid dog. Goliath (and all his friends) left later, as there was so much bile left in the guild that he knew many people really disliked him and believed he shouldn’t be an officer. He left and joined another guild. A year or two later, he saw me on my toon and whispered me, saying he thought he knew me but couldn’t remember from where. I was hesitant to tell him, but my honesty won out. Besides, I figured that by now he was as over it as I was, so I told him.
He /spit on me and then put me on ignore. It was the perfect ending.
This problem is particularly tricky regarding how it should have been handled. If Goliath had just been kicked, a lot of people would have gone with him. Plus, he was a founding member of the guild. On the other hand, had I been kicked, a few players would have gone with me, mostly newer ones. I’m not sure irreparable damage would have been done, but it certainly would have empowered Goliath further to behave in any way he saw fit. Still, if they were so used to his behavior, perhaps that would have been the best solution.
A diplomatic approach was attempted but failed from the offset and was never tried a second time. I think, probably, that’s what was needed, more support from all the other officers behaving objectively and centrally to see the conflict finished instead of just taking sides. Having all the officers come together with Goliath and I making clear their expectations and the consequences, maybe the end could have been averted. The problem I see with this, though, is that there could be no real consequences to Goliath that would have kept him from leaving and taking others with him. Perhaps, though, less people would have been on his side if behavioral parameters had been set down and he’d again broken them. He may have left, but maybe the guild wouldn’t have been broken.
It’s hard, now to look back at all this and remember accurately exactly how things happened. What I do remember is many late nights, sitting at one of my buddies’ houses, discussing how the conflict should be resolved. In the end, though, nothing came of it except anger, resentment, and distrust. One of my RL friends said, eventually, that I “should be hit by a garbage truck,” and that’s the one that tried to stop the fight and had Goliath disobey him. Another took years to forgive me for what happened, though we saw each other almost every weekend and were fine as long as this topic didn’t get brought up. It’s hard for me to believe that they’d be so angry if I was in the right, but I also know that there’s no way in hell that Goliath was in the right.
So what can be taken from all this? I see several important lessons learned here for guilds.
One, the Guild Leader needs to be someone who’s willing to stand up and make decisions. I like my buddy a lot, but he was never the kind of person to have in a leadership role because he doesn’t want to have to make a unilateral, hard decision against someone.
Second, if you’re going to have ranks in the guild, they need to have meaning. You can’t have a select group of people who are just “better” than everyone else for no reason; it will, eventually, lead to problems.
Third, when guild disputes break out, they need to be handled quickly and quietly. The more public it is and the longer it’s allowed to rage on, the worse the problem is bound to become and the more people who will get dragged into it.
And, of course, there’s the personal lessons that can be taken away. I’m a lot more mellow now in my “old age,” but I still hate to see a bully. I mean, almost every fight I got in when I was in school was beating up (or being beaten up by, more likely) someone throwing rocks at my friends; how much can I be expected to change?
That said, I try to take a calmer approach to these things, but as you’ll see, the guild leadership is often far too slow to act for my tastes. That, though, is for tomorrow, dear reader, when we’ll continue with The Nature of Guild Disagreements: The Good, The Bad, and The Greedy.
Stubborn (though less so now)