Where She Sees Circles, I See Squares
I’ve found my name floating a bit recently, which has led to me a happy, ego-centric feeling inside. It’s nice to be read and linked, and I want to thank those who do it.
On the point, though, it seems my most recent post may have thrown a fellow blogger (is “fellow” appropriate for female bloggers?) into a bit of a spiral of self doubt. Issy at I can do alts, me (a name I very much want to heard said for intonation) wrote Tuesday about her feelings about game stress and its relation to guilds. I’ve written a series about this before (starting here), but I wanted to address some of the specific issues she brought up both to allay any guilt I feel (which I know she only meant in a friendly, teasing way) and perhaps provide a counter-metaphor to her circles.
I’m not going to quote her here, but I’ll sum up her point by saying that she sees guilds as a single unit, a circle, made up of one color (green, in this case). She views the players in her guild as guildies, and extends to them graces and friendship, even when she dislikes some of their behaviors. Her (I assume) boyfriend, Koch, sees his guildies as players, individuals who happen to be grouped but who can still be easily singled out for friendship, apathy, or dislike. Issy postulates that her feelings about guilds and their leadership lead to a lot of stress in her life, and after reading her really excellent post about bullying (which went up before I got into blogging, so thanks for linking it again), I can understand why.
I was bullied as a kid, and was never nearly as big or brave as Casey Heynes (who I applaud) to do anything about it. I was a fat kid (which is 50% still true) with few friends, a good brain, and a desire to be liked by adults. Any one of those things could have been bad, but all of them together were terrible.
I finally learned to deal with it in 10th grade, when after being tortured on a bus ride home, I had a teenage version of a nervous breakdown, though I’m using that term very loosely. I had been told I smelled and needed to wear deodorant (which I wore, for the record), and I went home and found a can of it and was about to put it on and, for lack of a better phrase, freaked out. I didn’t want to give in to the bullies, I didn’t want to give them what they wanted, but I just didn’t want to take their shit any more, either. To this day, I’m still very sensitive to how I smell, too; the bullying had a real lasting impact.
In 11th grade, I started making friends with the punks at my school, punks in a literal sense; green hair, mohawks, black baggy clothes with wallet chains. They never pressured me to be different or do anything I didn’t want to do. They were all very much potheads (and worse), but the only time they ever spoke to me about it was to warn me against it; I vividly remember two of them coming to my house one day after I’d asked if pot was addictive or not to vehemently warn me that it was, if not from a chemical standpoint, from a psychological one. I had been and was to remain straightedge, and they were going to see to it.
They were loyal friends. When they found out someone was bullying me, they saw to it, and the bullying eventually stopped. I never asked about it, but they never really spoke about it, either, and I don’t think they wanted to get into it as it would force a more emotional conversation about loyalty, friendship, and so forth, which are touchy subjects to all teenagers, especially boys.
I mention all this because it has very clearly formed my opinions about bullies. As a teacher in public schools, I was hell on wheels – usually very large, spiked wheels – when it came to bullying. When I saw it, I mercilessly addressed it to the point of having some parents call and complain that I was singling their kid out. I responded that he needed to be, since he thought it appropriate to corner smaller kids with his buddies in the hallway to intimidate them. Luckily, I had a supervisor who was right on board with me; a older Italian lady in her 60s who once threw a box of tissues at a kid who’d started crying after getting in trouble for throwing another kid’s keys up into a basketball net. “You cry now?!” she yelled. “Now? It’s too late, now!”
When I had a student at my school, a small, nerdy seventh grader, punch an 8th grader in the face in the lunchroom, I was the first on the scene to find out what happened. I knew, of course, that the kid was being bullied, and when that was verified by some neutral bystanders, I made sure that kid got nothing more than a slap on the wrist. I spoke privately to him later and said, “I’m not for violence. I think it should only be used as a last resort. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be used.” He smiled a half-smile and said nothing, and that was the end of it.
All of this is coming full-circle to my point. When I see a guild, I don’t see a circle, but I don’t see individuals, either. I see collectives, as I often do, on a graph. This graph has dedication on one axis and personality on the other.
One quarter, the best of the best, have great personalities and are completely dedicated to the guild. They handle things the right way almost all the time, listen, provide advice when asked, and are generally the good guys. This is the group you want all your officers to be in, but unfortunately that’s rarely the case.
Beside them are the dedicated players who have borderline personalities. They’re good people, but they have a hard time socializing; perhaps they’re shy, or don’t understand how to best help others and thus provide advice in grating ways, or just have filthy mouths that make others uncomfortable. This group are the raiders who are good players but have a tendency to criticize out of turn; their intentions are good, but we know where roads paved with them lead.
Beneath the first quadrant lies the feel-gooders. They’re nice people and easy to get along with, but due to lack of time or interest, just aren’t all that dedicated to the guild. They get a lot of hellos when they log on, they do a dungeon or two with a guild group, catching up along the way, and then they’re gone. Sometimes they stop playing, sometimes they move to another guild (they weren’t that dedicated anyway), and sometimes they just disappear; we’ve all lost nice guildies this way.
The final quadrant is the problem. They’re the undedicated jerks. They criticize, bully, and try to drive out. They want to run things in a totalitarian way as long as it’s their ideas being implemented. They don’t want to discuss boss strategies; they want you to do what you’re told, and they bail the first chance they get to move up the ranking ladder to a better guild. These fly-by-nighters can cause a lot of turmoil when they hang on, though, and the real problem is when they’ve got a friend or two in the guild in a “better” quadrant and thus, won’t leave.
I’m probably in the second quadrant. I really strive to be a better person, but my grating feeling about jerk behavior (see, it was relevant to the conversation after all!) means I sometimes have a short fuse about things. When I see a problem in the undercurrent, I sometimes drag it to the surface, which can make problems worse because it seems I’m escalating things. The fellow who gave me shit about lightwell for two nights is a prime example. He was keeping it light, if condescending, and I finally said, “Do you have some numbers to back up your opinion or are you just being a prick?” in raid chat. Things went the only way they could from there: downhill.
As for Issy, well I can’t possibly know where she fits, but I can certainly guess, and just from her circular metaphor, I’m guessing it’s the first quadrant leaning towards the second. That’s a great place to be because you don’t have to defend yourself as the good guy, like the second quadrant does (and I do). The problem with that is that when you’re good, it makes it easier to become a victim. You can’t be good and shoot first. You have to give people the benefit of the doubt, and you always want to defer to authority. It can leave you feeling exposed and powerless, which is a very scary place to be.
The redeeming factor is that you can always look back and see that you did the right thing. People in the second quadrant can’t. I’ll never know if me taking on Goliath – which led the death of a guild – was the right thing. If I’d swallowed my pride and closed my mouth a bit, maybe I wouldn’t be eternally guild hopping, looking for the right place. If I were a little more tolerant, maybe it’d be easier for me to find a home. That’s the self doubt I saw in Issy’s post, but it’s fruitless. She hasn’t done anything wrong.
In the end, we all define which quadrant were in. I could be a better person, and Issy could be tougher and harder around the edges. A little reflection, of course, doesn’t hurt at all, but it also has to come to an end before it becomes self doubt. It’s really true of all guild drama for players who are reflective and treat others like people, not NPCs. Just be honest and decide: do I want to risk looking like the bad guy to make sure this issue is dealt with, or do I want to know I’m doing the good thing but potentially leave myself powerless and exposed? It’s a tough question, to be sure, but it’s the lot of people who cast themselves as “good.”
Stubborn (and odor-free!)