Monday, 17 January 2011

Rex mortuus est, vivat rex

I logged onto my mage this morning, the one who's guilded (in a casual capacity) with my old raid guild to find this as the somewhat terse GMoTD: Pum (not her real character name) has quit WoW. She was finding being the GM was having far too much impact IRL. The Officer Corps will deal with any queries. I'd add like to add at this point, that from my point of view, you reap what you sow. I never had much time for the player in question - she played what could best be described as a political game in order to obtain the GM-ship of the guild. She came into the guild as a server transfer, as an indisputably capable tank, swiftly displaced the 'main' tank after a few raids as off-tank, for reasons which I couldn't fathom, despite being a Senior Officer during the process ("Pilf, you're a healer. Don't worry about the tank situation"), was promoted swiftly to the Officer Corps, along with her husband (oh yes, we had that dynamic to deal with as well) and then, just after I left the guild, organised a coup and displaced the GM. That was about, what, a year ago, I think.

Since then, from what I can gather, she's been effective at pushing the guild forward in terms of raiding. She's also female. Without raising gender politics (not the point of this post) she was battling with a very large guild - 500+ players now, who are predominantly male. When I raided I did so with one, maybe two other women (when you use vent you have nowhere to hide your gender...) Whether this is representative or not of the player base, that was, and is the gender imbalance within the guild. The Officer Corps were (me aside as the token girl IRL) entirely male. And they're forthright blokes, the Officer Corps, not backwards about saying that they think. But she seems to have managed well. The usual gender based slurs aside ("She can be really 'bitchy' in raids, she can get 'upset' when things don't go her way", I would suggest that with a male GM/Raid Leader that would be said as "He can get arsey in raids and is bloody minded about how he wants things done..." but it would be said with an element of admiration - see the difference?) she appears to have been reasonably well respected, if not hugely liked.

So what happened? And what happens now? Because if your GM suddenly quits - for whatever reason, someone has to step up and pick up the slack. Maybe if you're in a smaller guild it can be managed by a Council/Officer Corps, with 'GM' as a figurehead, if you like, but when a guild is used to being run with a strong figure holding the uppermost rank, it needs to be rex mortuus est, vivat rex or you're going to be in a world of pain shortly. The Officer Corps has been stable for some time, and rightly so. How many Officers does a guild need anyway? The various responsibilities; website admin, DKP admin, raid leading, class leadership, recruitment, mentoring etc etc are equitably distributed, it appears. All the Officers are adults with lives, jobs, families and responsibilities. No-one, it seems, is eager to pick up the vacant position (ok, it's not vacant, there's a placeholder character, an officer alt who's name is at the top of the Roster) so being a GM isn't actually all that sexy and desirable when it comes to it? It's something I never wanted, for certain, but I'm surprised that no-one is eager to pick up the mantle. When I was an Officer I spent my life being asked, by bright young things, how one 'became' an Officer, and I always used to say the same thing: "The Officers in the guild play despite being Officers, not because they're Officers.. Trust me, it's more fun when you can just play the game" and I always got a bemused response. But then, over time, as people were promoted, they'd come back and say, "Pilf, remember when I asked you about being an Officer... remember what you said? Well you were kinda right. When do I get to just play for me...?" and I used to chuckle (quietly, in a non-bitchy way, behind my monitor.)

It's similar to volunteering, being an Officer or a GM. I can now say this with the weight of (some) volunteering experience behind me - basically you're asking people to commit their time and energy to something that they don't actually have to do. Something that they won't get any 'material' thanks for. Something that they do because they want to give back a little, or something equally altruistic. So how much should you push people, when nothing is obliging them to undertake this role? IRL, volunteering wise, without going into finer detail, I spend a certain quantity of time per week on the phone, asking people if they can cover certain shifts. People who are usually giving up some of their 'free' time anyway. And boy, it's hard to do. I'm getting better (slowly) but it still makes me feel a bit guilty. Especially when they (for totally valid reasons) can't help, and apologise or justify this. Basically, they're a bunch of good committed people, and they do feel guilty when they can't help, and yes, they commit to a certain amount of time per week, but is still doesn't change the fact that they're doing this for no gain for themselves. Responsible roles within guilds are the same - most people want to play WoW, be a bit sociable, raid or whatever to gain shinies, level alts (ahem) and then log off and do something else (broad generalisation, I know, but I think a fair one.) They don't want to deal with the dross and drama every day. They don't want to log on and be hit by a wall of pink text flooding across their screen, from people who want answers NAO DAMMIT! Who would want that?

The upshot is, that one of my most favourite people in Azeroth (no, not Sylvanas) is going to take on GM-ship, and god love him, but it won't work (last time he stood it for 2 weeks before he couldn't handle it any longer). He's a wonderful guy, a fantastic raid leader, a committed Senior Officer and one of the founding guild members, but he's not GM material. I've talked about it with him in-game today, and tried to talk him out of it, and whilst he knows it's a sub-optimal outcome, he says that if he doesn't do it, the guild will either fall apart quietly or will crash and burn spectacularly and he doesn't want that to happen. And the sad thing is, he's probably right. The even sadder thing is that the guild has been running for about 4 years now and needs to fall apart so it can be rebuilt again. It's got such ingrained issues, that just aren't addressable in the current culture. If it went kaboom, it could rise, phoenix-like, from the ashes and start again. But it's like a divorce isn't it? How do you choose who gets what? How are the material and intangible things distributed? And with the guild levelling system and the perks the guild has, it's even more likely that Mom and Dad will stay together, miserable, so as not to disrupt the children's lives. It saddens me, when people feel they 'have' to do something that isn't right for them in their game time. It saddens me that people find the pressure of gaming so extreme that they quit. It saddens me further that so much guild culture seems to be based around an 'obligation' on the few to make life good for the 'masses' and that the few aren't clapped more for what they give. I'd like a guild culture where Officers and Raid Leaders (as well as the GM) can take a Leave of Absence from their responsibilities and just be allowed to play sometimes. But I know that within progression raid guilds, that's easier said than done.

And this post is too long....

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