Embracing Changing Rosters

This post has been hanging around in my draft posts list for a while, but two recent posts I saw made me think of it again.

Its a fact of every guild.  People come and go.  I doubt very much there are many guilds around who raid with the same roster they raided with in vanilla.  But even the closest 10 man guild made of real life friends is going to experience change over time as factors in no way related to the game have an impact.  WoW is on its fourth expansion and is over 6 years old.  Thats a long time for people to commit to a raiding team.  Its longer than some marriages!

Community burnout
Keeva at Tree Bark Jacket wrote a very good post about the difficulty in finding a group of people to raid with.   I think she fairly well sums up what a lot of people are saying about various aspects of the game right now.  Whats wrong when people are dissatisfied is very often not the game, its the people playing it.  When it comes to raiding, you need a group of people in order to succeed.  You can either pick those people at random each time, which often leads to problems because the attitudes and level of ability of those players will vary widely, or you can raid with a guild.

That guild, however, is not solving the problems for many people.  Keeva says:

I don’t think it’s much to ask really – to want to play with people who have the same goals and ideals. But it seems that finding a group is almost impossible, and you are forced to put up with stuff that irks you on a daily basis, because 25man raiders are so thin on the ground that you take what you can get. The solid player who is a jerk. The nice player who is a bit subpar. The hardcore progression player who is super keen but constantly moans. The person who wastes our time, but we can’t afford to lose his DPS. The guy who’s obsessed with loot and sulks if he doesn’t get what he wants. The one who has been around for ages and thinks he should get special treatment. I’m sure you’re all familiar with the raider grab-bag.

I’ve been in guilds where I’ve accepted raiding with people I don’t like just in order to raid.  I can think of people who fit into most of Keeva’s categories over the years.  In TBC in order to progress you needed 25 people to raid and you had to accept the people you didn’t like in order to raid.  In Wrath I went through something of a transition from a guild where that was the case, to a guild where we didn’t accept that.  Dreamstate was founded on the ideal of raiding being an enjoyable activity – and that meant being with people you liked.  Now I think we are a mixed bag of personalities and probably everyone doesn’t like everyone else, but we have more fun together than I’ve had in any guild since Kara times.

Accepting the inevitable
In tier 11 we lost three great raiders because they didn’t feel we were progressing fast enough.  Other people stopped raiding because of the need to do things in real life.  An Officer left because they felt people should be putting more effort into getting ready to raid.

Losing a big part of your roster will have an impact and the bigger it is, the worse that impact will be.  Three people out of ten was painful, but it could have been worse.  We were actually looking at a second group because we had so many raiders and replaced all three people very quickly.  Losing 14 raiders in a 25 man raiding guild (though I am assuming the roster was more than 25 people) like Matticus did recently.

If you are going to run a guild you have to accept that your roster will change and adapt to that.  You have to not take it personally.  You have to have strategies in place to move on.  No one thought our progress would stop because they left, though we knew it would slow down while new players learned the fights.  No one player is so important that the guild cannot survive without them.  If you can say this about your guild, your guild is robust and healthy.  There are key people in it who we would miss terribly.  But it doesn’t collapse just because someone stops raiding.

How not to look at changing rosters
There was a post by a blogger called Wugan that talked about applying Restricted Free Agency to raids.  Basically, WoW players would be ‘contracted’ into a raid team and could not join another team for a set time period unless their Raid Leader chose to let them leave.  Wugan accepts this would not force people to actually raid, or stop them changing to alts, but feels this would reduce the incidence of people leaving a guild for greener pastures.  It wouldn’t.  I don’t believe for one second this would make the life of Raid Leaders easier.  Think about why people leave a raiding team and how Restricted Free Agency would affect them:

Real life issues – RFA would have no effect because those issues are rarely a choice.  No reasonable person is going to keep raiding rather than go to work, or spend more time with their children.  Major personality clashes – say RFA meant people involved in such a clash did stay (and I find this questionable) – would you really want them to?  All this would do is put strain on your raiding team.  Lack of gear – in every case where someone has left a raid team because of this the raid team was better off without them.  Unless the loot policy was genuinely unfair in which case making them stay is the act of a completely selfish individual.  Either way, one party is definitely wrong and RFA would not be effective or fair.

And finally, lack of progress – this is the one that I think Wugan was talking about, however.  People leave because they think the grass will be greener elsewhere.  They think progress will be faster.  This is why Dreamstate lost three raiders and probably a part of why Conquest lost 14.  Note that Dreamstate has far slower progression than Conquest at this point in Firelands for all sorts of reasons.  So whatever your progress is, unless you’ve already downed Heroic Ragnaros someone is going to be unhappy with it.

So wouldn’t RFA be a good thing here? Would the player find they could get their progress in situ and have no need to look elsewhere? No.  No matter how much the guild progressed after that point, the individual’s would always have felt they could have progressed more elsewhere.  Instead of dealing with recruiting a new and enthusiastic player who wanted to raid, the Raid Leader would instead spend their time dealing the mass of bad feeling generated by being forced to stay which would gradually poison the entire team.

The individual leaving the guild would feel they are justified in leaving no matter what the reason.  The player leaving for greener pastures feels they deserve those pastures, likely because they are better than the other raiders in the team because they produce more dps or fill a valuable role like a healer.  Wugan the Raid Leader might disagree.  So might Akandra the Officer or Matticus the Guild Master.  But none of that impacts on the viewpoint of the individual.

This is why you should embrace changing rosters.  Because if a person feels so strongly that they don’t want to be in your guild that they are able to type /gquit you are always better off without them. 

I am not encouraging people to leave a guild.  Far from it.  If you are unhappy about an aspect of the guild try and talk to someone about it.  Talk to an Officer and listen to the alternative point of view.  I mean really listen.  People don’t make decisions for no reason.  If you can’t accept that the raid leadership will make decisions you disagree with, then you need to go make your own guild, because no raid team will always do things the way you want them done.

And one thing to note for the people who leave.  The grass is rarely greener.  I will say that the three raiders who left Dreamstate for greener pastures did not find them.  And the 14 who left Conquest probably won’t either.  All they will find is that Matticus dealt with a lot of headaches they didn’t even know existed!    Probably the only case where you will be happier is if you make a radical change in your raiding focus i.e. go from casual to hardcore or hardcore to casual (I actually think those words are hopelessly inadequate to define raiding teams these days, but they will do).  RFA wouldn’t be useful for these players either, because if you want to make that change in focus you are never going to be happy staying where you are and forcing people to stay would just build up that resentment again.

The silver lining
There are positives you can take out of accepting ever changing rosters.

Firstly, those people who leave because the guild isn’t giving them what they want are not a loss to the guild as long as you are running the guild to the ideals you originally set out.  We accept that maybe some of our raiders aren’t going to make us the top guild on the server.  We accept that people in our guild might not cap their Valor Points every week because they have families, jobs and other real life issues to deal with.  We would rather have fun in a raid than have miserable raids with highly skilled players who have bad attitudes.  If you have players who don’t like that and want the guild to change, then its a good thing when they leave because all that does is make people miserable.  The Officers get tired of listening to ‘the hardcore progression player who constantly moans’ because thats not the kind of player the guild is set up to embrace.  If it was a hardcore guild, the Officers would equally get fed up with ‘the nice player who is a bit supbar’.  And no guild likes ‘the jerk’, ‘the time waster’ or ‘the loot whore’.  I like my guild and the people in it, but when those people who left are clearly looking for something the guild was never intended to provide, I can’t help but feel they are better off leaving because its the tensions in expectations that are the biggest problem most guilds face.

Secondly, you get to meet new people and make new friends.  And that is always something worth doing.  Its the reason I like MMO’s above any other genre.  I know people through WoW that I have been friends with for years now, and I make new friends constantly.

Embrace your changing rosters.  They will make your guild a better place to be.

Standing down as an officer

I made a very hard decision this week and stood down as an officer in my guild. Why? So I could spend more time with all you lovely readers! At least in part. I enjoy writing this blog and I would like to have more time to spend on it.

What you give as an officer
Time. Being an officer takes a lot of time. Time in which you could be playing the game and doing other things. The game has vast amounts of content I would like to do. I want to get more achievements. I want to improve my alts and do some things with them.

However, its hard to do achievements when there are constant demands on you. People want to talk to you about things, ask you to do things for them. You also get asked to arrange things, to lead raids for other people, regardless of what you want to do. I found this last problem in particular was gaining a lot of momentum.

Also, people don’t like to hear no. If I’m in a heroic, they can’t understand why I can’t instantly relog and craft an item for them. If I would rather not lead a pug raid, I get told ‘oh but its easy’. Which always made me want to say back ‘if its so easy, lead it yourself’. But as an officer, no matter what happens, you have to remain polite and calm. I was finding that increasingly hard to do.

What you get back
There are two main features of this – job satisfaction and a sense of control. I enjoy making the guild work for others. I would lead raids I didn’t always want to do, knowing that it was for others. I used to lead some Friend/Alt raids, until the demands of progress raiding took over and meant I didn’t have time any more. Seeing the guild progress and knowing you contributed to that is very satisfying.

Also, I got to help try and shape the guild. I could object to things I didn’t like and try and make the guild a good place to be.

There comes a time, however, when what you get back is no longer compensating for what you give up. Real life has thrown me a few curve balls and I find I just don’t have the patience for the drama any more. I just can’t find the will to talk down that person who will just quit the guild if they don’t get a raid spot. It’s just a game, and other people deserve that spot too. I can’t find the energy to argue with yet another player who can’t understand that other peoples play times and aims don’t coincide with theirs.

It reached the point where I felt like I was being treated more like an NPC than a human being. That’s the time to quit.  I know that my RL frustrations were affecting my level of tolerance in the game, but still a bit of empathy goes a long way.

That’s not the whole story of course. But as an Officer, there are things I just won’t talk about publicly. Another plus is that I don’t have to feel like that now. Its my blog after all. I’m not an official representative of FH any more.

The moral of the story: don’t take your officers for granted.

Brave new (blogging world)
I have a post about the ret pala changes in 3.3 sitting on my laptop just waiting for a chance to be uploaded! And a post about enchants, enhancements and professions that should go up soon too.

What else would you like me to write about here? I know I have some readers (WordPress tells me I do anyway). What do you want to see here?

Of Noblegarden Bunnies and Female Officers

This is my first stab at an opinion post so I’ve decided to go for something nice and controversial!

Shake Your Bunny-Maker
Both Larisa at The Pink Pig Tail Inn and Green Armadillo at Player versus Developer posted last week about the Noblegarden Achievement Shake Your Bunny-Maker. The achievement requires you to use an item called Spring Flowers to put bunny ears on a female player of each race (10 in total) over level 18.

Use item X to do something to a set number of class/race/gender/level combinations is a pretty common achievement in most WoW holidays. So the basic mechanic is hardly original. What is different in this case is the pop culture reference. Basically a player chases women about and turns them into Playboy bunnies. This is reinforced by the need for avatars to be at least level 18 i.e. legal.

What is interesting is that neither blogger can manage to get mad about this. Both feel that this kind of sexism is so expected and ingrained that its not worth getting upset over any more.

The Playboy Brand
I totally understand the point of view of Larisa and Green Armadillo. Playboy has its own stationary range these days that you can buy in any high street in the UK. I remember being shocked and disturbed the first time I saw it, but now its just a part of the background. Playboy has become a brand and the fact that its built on the exploitation of women is hidden behind pink bunny ear logos and novelty cocktail glasses. The ‘Shake Your Bunny Maker’ achievement is degrading to women, but in a way that is so ‘mainstream’ as to be invisible.

The controversy of talking about women in WoW
Ariedan at The Wordy Warrior posted on Leading as a Female last week, and I was all set to post about how parts of that very informative post resonated with me. I found it useful and it helped clarify some of the issues I’ve faced over the last year or so of being an officer.

However when I went to look it up the post was gone! In its place was a post about why it had been removed. The author had expected a certain amount of controversy about the post, but felt that the comments were such that she had to remove it.

These two cases highlight a few things and raised some interesting questions:

  • Ariedan made a point of denying being a feminist which interested me – what does it mean to players to be labelled a feminist? Why would a woman posting about sexism or being a female officer in a guild feel that they had to make a point of denying their posts were feminist?
  • Its okay to post about acceptance of sexism but controversial to post about how to act in the face of it?

Feminism in WoW
Personally, I am a feminist and I’m happy to admit it. I’ve spoken up for myself and my gender many times in WoW even though its made me unpopular. I would feel deeply uncomfortable with accepting some of the more sexist things that happen in the game. The leadership post (which my Google Reader still has) was a great post. It was about letting other female officers know they aren’t alone and that they just have to be firm, assertive and professional.

That’s all the post was about and it was a good post. But apparently it sparked off a torrent of abuse. That’s not a surprise to me. I’ve seen it before. Defending yourself as a female will often result in this kind of response. Assertiveness in women in WoW is generally not acceptable.

Theres one paladin knocking about my server whos tried to apply to every guild I’ve been an officer in. The first time, we trialled him. He turned out to be not particularly skilled (in the first raid he warned us he was used to topping the dps meters – he came last), lazy (after that first raid he specced PvP and never showed to a raid again) and obnoxious (his comments about women were such that not only did they offend the women, but most of the men too – comments of that went well beyond flirty or jokey and probably would have gotten him a beating had he aired them in a club or the like). He was removed from the guild to general cheering (literally). Now because I always refuse an application from him, I am apparently sexist!

Another trialist walked out on the guild because I asked him, politely, not to call me ‘girly’ – to quote the Ting Tings ‘that’s not my name’. You can call me by my character name (any of them will do) or by my real name which most people in my guild know. But ‘girly’ and ‘chick’ are demeaning and unacceptable, especially to a married woman approaching 30.

I’m not naïve. I know that people have these opinions and that I can’t change them in the game. But I don’t want to have to listen to it! I don’t want to sit there and be called a whore or an idiot or talked about like I’m a blow up doll to my (virtual) face. I know guys talk about this stuff when they get together, but I’m right here! I see your guild chat, I hear your vent chatter. And its not even because you don’t like me or have had an argument with me or disagree with a decision. Its just because I have XX chromosomes.

Although I fully understand why she did, I wish Ariedan had not taken the post down. I know people were going to get offended – but sometimes that’s a good thing. Sometimes it takes drama and controversy to make people pay attention to a problem. And it is a problem, or there wouldn’t be any controversy. That being said it’s a lot of hassle to deal with abusive responses to having an opinion as this thread from Big Bear Butt exemplifies and the supportive comments in response to this decision were a very nice thing to see.

Female Officers
Not everyone can be an officer. I used to be an officer in my University Fencing Club. Each year lots of new people would turn up to the first session. We liked to get them fencing in that first session so by the end of it everyone was facing an opponent, foil in hand, and attempting an attack. The attack was simple – extend your arm and step forward. But a lot of new people can’t seem to get the hang of hitting other people. They sort of shuffled forward and poked the sword forward a bit, jumping if it met any resistance. It’s the same with Officers in a WoW guild.

You need to be confident, assertive and in control to be a female officer. That’s not to say you might not lose your temper, or that people won’t leave over your decisions. You will make mistakes and regret them. But you need to earn the respect of your guild and you do that by being professional, consistent and fair in the actions you take and the decisions you make.

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