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Rats or Geniuses

January 21, 2013

Dear Reader,

As a somewhat-follow up on Friday’s look at signals that a guild is failing, today I’d like to discuss when – if ever – is the appropriate time to bail from a burning guild.  This discussion has generated a lot of heat in my life both from my buddy, my wife, and some of my other friends, as they all have different thermometers measuring how hot the fire (which is generating the smoke) is.

My wife is a die-hard loyalist.  She’d go down with a ship, even if she was a passenger and not the captain.  My buddy begins bellyaching as soon as the smallest problem emerges, but often won’t leave until things are really bad – usually bad enough that it’s personally affecting his play (as in being blacklisted and not allowed to raid any more).  I’m far less loyal to digital volunteer teams, which is all a guild really is.  It’s made for some uncomfortable moments in our relationships.

My guiding principles boil down to three pithy clichés: “Don’t throw good money after bad,” “it’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness,” and “games should be fun.”  When my fun is being repeatedly threatened by human intervention, i.e. a bad officer, I’m ready to either fix the problem or go.  I’ll speak to whomever I need to communicate the problem, often the GM – unless, of course, the GM is the problem (as in my current guild) – and then if the problem isn’t addressed, I’ll leave.  My view of loyalty, the central value to this argument, is that it’s a two way street; it’s not just about me sucking it up forever and being loyal because the guild “allows” me to raid with them, the guild itself owes me loyalty as well to address issues that are pervasive and repeated.

My buddy, though, would rather stick it out.  His view of loyalty is much more a one-way street where you suck it up (and bitch endlessly) until you just can’t anymore.  He’s kept us in guilds FAR longer than I would have, which often makes the leaving an irreparable split that burns whatever bridges still existed.  I’ve only left one guild semi-amicably (since I found out later that I was viewed as a troublemaker).  This mindless loyalty has burned him out, though, to the point that he won’t play WoW anymore because all he sees is a wasteland of guild problems that are never resolved.  His loyalty has ruined the game for him.

My wife has even stronger feelings about her digital loyalty.  She’s never left a guild unless my buddy and I have left first.  She’s a lot more forgiving, though, and I think it’s partly because she’s played a lot less.  A lot less – like if you took her time played and multiplied it by 10, you might reach me, and my buddy – even though he hasn’t played in a year – is still ahead of me.  Perhaps things like WoW come with an invisible counter, where you just eventually reach a time when your interest expires, like how mice, humans (pre-advanced medicine) and elephants have on average the same number of heartbeats even though their lifespans are quite different.  Maybe WoW’s just got a certain number of heartbeats until it dies for each of us.

I asked my wife just now what would make her leave a guild of her own volition, and after much circumlocution (she is a political science professor, after all), we finally got down to “overt discomfort.”  She said it would take people being overtly mean to her (as in verbal abuse) or making her overtly uncomfortable with “immature talk.”

So while it’s clear which view of loyalty I subscribe to, I’m truly not sure that my way is the “right way,” hence the title.  I’m not sure if I’m being a wharf rat who runs from the first sign of his ship taking on water or if I’m being the genius who leaves the city for the wilderness before zombie outbreak occurs.

What do you think, dear reader?  When’s the right time to leave a failing guild?  What does loyalty mean?

What do we owe guilds, and what – if anything – do they owe us?


Stubborn (rat or genius?)


21 Comments leave one →
  1. January 21, 2013 11:36 am

    From long years of experience, the time to leave is when you find yourself arguing (or wanting to argue) with the officers all the time. At that point, it doesn’t matter whether you are right or wrong, it’s their guild and you’ll be happier if you find a different one.

    • January 22, 2013 2:02 pm

      I think that might be part of my problem. With my background in teaching, I feel like organizations (a classroom, for example) belong as much to the members as the “leader.” It’s a rather overly-democratic view for structures more hierarchal like guilds. I think I get in trouble, too, because I like to take the temperature, which often reveals a lot more secret dissent than people are willing to openly acknowledge, and knowing that “It’s not just me” but being unable to really provide evidence or name names (which I would never do to people who prefer anonymity) puts me in an uncomfortable spot. I guess I need to be a better member (as I’ve talked about before).

      Thanks for the comment!

    • January 23, 2013 5:54 am

      I’m sure you’re a great member, but it might mean you’ll do better in a guild which shares your values about it belonging to the members (I’ve been in guilds that were more like this and they’re great, but also tend to expect members to take more of a share in organising events).

      The times when I’ve really got into guild drama (not for years now, thankfully) were when I started to feel more entitled to steer the guild than the guild culture/ officers would allow. That way you just end up in conflicts a lot, AND the guild members get to a point where they’d prefer less conflict even if you’re right.

    • January 23, 2013 8:33 am

      Well, I appreciate your vote of confidence, but I think the rest of the jury’s still out on that one. What you said last, though, is precisely what I’ve ended up with in a few of my guilds. I have completely legitimate concerns (like being a raid leader and having a ton of sign ups that no show but no rule against doing that, so no way to reduce that behavior), but in the end the “go between” raid officer just got tired of hearing me talk about it, so he passed it up to the GL who couldn’t care less. No one wanted conflict, so it was be driven crazy by doing a ton of planning on raids that then had to be dumped at the last minute and completely re-planned or quit.

      We know the end to that story.

      Thanks for the comment!

  2. January 21, 2013 11:40 am

    It depends on the kind of guild, though I only have much loyalty experience in raiding guilds. So I’d say in that case, what I owe is what I promised. I will participate in raids and give my best to be the best contribution I can be. However, the guild does in a way owe me for being there. It’s a mutual relationship, really. I need them and they need me. If they suddenly stop fulfilling my desires and needs as a WoW player (however that might happen), then perhaps it’s time for me to stop fulfilling theirs as a dps/healer/tank and find a guild who is a better fit for me.

    Of course, that view is excluding any and all personal relationships formed during my time there. In my current guild, my priorities have shifted. I care more about raiding and having fun with the people I’ve come to view as friends than I do progression. In order to leave this guild, I would need to stop feeling a sense of belonging. I’d need to feel like I was no longer considered a friend. Then I would definitely leave, feeling hurt and angry.

    It’s a balance, really. Those are two extremes. I’d still have to raid in a different guild probably if my current raid group collapsed, despite how sad I would be to have to make new friends. Or I’d have to change my interests in WoW to challenge modes or pvp or something. I’d be faced with a choice that wouldn’t be quickly made.

    And as a disclaimer, this was quickly written and I’m probably not considering every angle XP

    • January 22, 2013 2:05 pm

      I think your quick response made a very good point about both the potential and trap-like qualities of a guild. I don’t make friends very easily, and it usually takes me time to open up to people in any social way, so joining a new guild means I’m raiding with new people but not really making friends just yet. Often, then, I’m only experiencing the first part of that equation – the two-way loyalty – and not the second. If I’m not feeling the reciprocal nature of the guild membership, I’ve not got much to stop me from leaving.

      However, when I end up guilded with RL friends, I feel stuck with them when the guild fails. It’s a trap with no bait, but only the guilt of leaving if I do.

      Thanks for the comment!

    • January 22, 2013 4:00 pm

      Thanks for the response =)

  3. Samus permalink
    January 21, 2013 3:07 pm

    I tend to agree with you. A guild saying they “allow” you to raid with them is no different than Blizzard saying they “allow” you to raid. That is a load of BS. You are their customer, in both cases. They need to attract people, whereas you can simply go to another guild or game.

    To me, the idea of “putting up with” a guild for loyalty sake is no different than putting up with a game you don’t like playing anymore out of some loyalty to the game.

    I am here to have the most fun, it is their job to “sell” themselves as the place to have the most fun.

    • January 22, 2013 2:06 pm

      Well, to be fair, that was my word choice more than anything that was explicitly said to me. It’s usually more about tone or attitude than actual text, but I still think that your point is perfectly valid.
      The sad thing is I’ve gone to other games repeatedly and keep coming back to WoW, like an abused dog returning to its master. I’m not sure if that’s about the overall quality of WoW or some personality defect (likely the latter), but it’s where I’ve been.

      Thanks for the comment!

  4. January 21, 2013 3:07 pm

    Has nothing to do with WOW, specifically, but my personal line is when the game 1) ceases to amuse me and 2) makes me upset in real time.

    When those two checks are hit, it’s time to switch to something different. The closest I’ve come to your specific points was probably in Neverwinter Nights, and it was less about the guild disbanding and more about me not agreeing with the direction it was leading. I said my piece a couple of times, then I disengaged from the guild. Of course, NWN plays perfectly well as single player, which helped.

    Answering your question in the abstract, however, leads me to state that it has to be a relationship of mutual benefit. It is, as you stated very well, a digital volunteer team. It’s not a mindless organism that exists solely to exists, but to fill a specific need. If your need is not being met, well, why are you there precisely? It’s one thing to have a rational disagreement with leadership about a non-essential part of your experience. For me, especially if I can understand the why’s behind what the decision was. Failing communication….abandon ship!

    • January 22, 2013 2:08 pm

      You being upset in real time is enough to make ANYONE want to quit a game! (;
      Seriously, though, I completely agree, especially with your word choice: amuse. It’s hard to nail down whether WoW is fun, but it’s much easier to say that I can be amused even when wiping in raids if we’re getting better and clearly have a shot to succeed. On the other hand, it’s most certainly not amusing when you’re just banging your head on a wall.

      Also: Mark and his wife are pregnant. Crazy stuff!

  5. January 21, 2013 9:14 pm

    I think I’m with your wife. 🙂 Then again, it’s worth noting that my main reason for being guilded has always simply been a desire for friendly company. Thus, as long as the company remains friendly, it would feel wrong to abandon them over “petty” organisational issues.

    • January 22, 2013 2:11 pm

      Well, she’s certainly the better half, so I can hardly blame you for siding with her (;
      Still, I’m curious about your phrasing; what, in your mind, separates “‘petty’ organizational issues” from serious issues that need to be dealt with? A raiding guild that doesn’t raid with a GM who’s moving her toons to another guild doesn’t feel very petty to me (well, maybe petty on her part, but not mine). Perhaps you were just making a point and not referencing my situation, but that’s why I’m asking! (;

      Thanks for the comment!

    • January 22, 2013 5:16 pm

      Haha no, I wasn’t referring to your situation, just thinking about my own experiences there. The details of when a guild does what don’t matter that much to me as long as I’m enjoying the company.

      In your place I would ask myself whether I’m still having fun… do you do things other than raid with the guild? Having a laugh with other members? If so, that could theoretically be worth staying for. If you don’t feel that kind of connection on the other hand and the guild’s not providing you with what you’re there for, then you might as well look elsewhere.

    • January 23, 2013 8:30 am

      That’s just it. Other than my two friends, the answer’s no. There was some movement on them leaving as well in the past, but since they moved temporarily to Germany, they’re not seeking other options at the moment. I keep telling them that I know people in a lot of really great-sounding European guilds, but they’ve got other concerns (understandably so). There’s no doubt in my mind that the guild’s not worth staying for, but no question that my two friends are.
      Ah well, it’s a small thing, really.

  6. Paul permalink
    January 22, 2013 9:26 am

    My experience has been that I’ve never felt like I left a guild too soon.

    • January 22, 2013 2:12 pm

      Very succinct, and I don’t really, either, though I did about my “best” guild until I found out that I was secretly disliked by the GM/RL.

      Thanks for the comment!

  7. January 23, 2013 10:04 am

    I’ve been the (figure) head of a guild since 1998… coming from other games. I say figure because we’re a collective. There are 15-18 core friends/members that make up the nucleus. As member come/go, the defining premise of their time with us is whether they believe in the ideals we’ve cultivated over more than a decade.

    We’re a mature group, but that doesn’t usurp the need for the game to be enticing and continually provide a conduit for our being entertained together. We are the Society of Sacrifices because we’re not very good and die a lot together. Character building.

    The problem with most guilds is raiding. If your main focus, as a guild or player, is to upgrade gear, you. will. fail. Sooner or later, it will catch up with you. That is a game defect… so much Everquest was ported to Warcraft that it can’t sustain. My server has seen some of the premiere guilds, re: Conquest (the original), disband… even though we’re an original release server, groups continually disband and repackage themselves as progress guilds and fail before they ever get started.

    Player expectations are out of line. Sorry to ramble.

    • January 23, 2013 10:12 am

      I agree, but the guilds I’ve been in’s focus has always been just to see content. Few of us were gear driven, and those that were often got left behind or left of their own volition because it wasn’t a central focus to what we were doing. Hell, I raided ICC for weeks and weeks without a single upgrade because I kept passing to players who needed it more since I’d been in pretty good gear stepping in. Still, many of those guilds failed (not the ICC one; that’s the one I left due to the treatment of my buddy).

      I sometimes feel that I just haven’t been lucky enough to really find the ideal spot for me, and I’ve done so much searching it’s begun to get a little soul-crushing when yet another guild doesn’t live up to its promises or just flat dies. I could just keep searching, of course, and so far that’s often what I’ve done, but eventually simply settling becomes so attractive that you end up in a place where you’re not really happy but not necessarily unhappy, either. Then the game burns out.

      What a depressing tirade! The good news is that on Friday I’ll reveal evidence of my severe brain damage – I’ve begun to level two more characters on a new server where a different friend of mine plays. So even if it seems dark and dreary, I do have hope!

  8. Hunaiam permalink
    January 23, 2013 11:34 am

    I’m not sure I understand. Whats keeping you from leaving this guild? Your friends? If you leave they will still be your friends. Twice I left guilds that were horrible, because of the leadership, leaving friends behind, and both times I ended up in a different guild with those same friends. Maybe all they need is for you to lead the way, find a better home, and they will join you there when they find out its a better place to be.

    • January 23, 2013 1:35 pm

      Personally, I agree, but in this case, since they’re in Germany (not their normal state of affairs), I don’t know that their time zone issues nor free time issues would support them guild transferring. It’s about the only way I keep in touch with them. Beyond that, I’ve done that several times before and have found that you end up acting as liason for all guild interactions between your friends and your guild, which stinks.
      So while I personally agree, I just don’t know if history or the current situation supports it. That said, check the blog Friday for my next move.

      Thanks for the comment!

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