Thursday, July 29, 2010

Preferences - Guild Structures - People: And What's Important

As clearly stated here on the front page of my blog I live in Las Vegas, NV. You will never find out my real name, so good luck stalking me. I also went to college here and am a big supporter of the basketball program, the Runnin' Rebels. A college basketball super-power from the mid 70's to early 90's, we defeated Duke in the national championship game in 1990 by the largest margin of victory ever in a championship game. Of course we lost the next year thanks to corrupt refs (bitterness on my part), but that's a different story.

Bottom line is, I'm proud to be a Rebel. The question is, are you a rebel?

I don't pretend to know everything about guilds as I have not been a member of every WoW guild in history nor have I a degree in guildship. But I've been around, witnessed various leadership styles, loot distribution systems, and hierarchal structures. I've also been a student, reading about guilds online from some who have written books on the subject to commenters blasting their guild leaders. Currently, Gronthe (my Warlock), doesn't have a guild. One day I woke up and was guildless, don't know why. But my main raider is in a "casual" raiding guild, and enjoys it there...even if it gets weird at times.

I'm not very good at finding old threads on forums, so when I went to MMO-Champion this morning to try and find a post from about a week ago I failed miserably. Please don't laugh, I don't even have a cell phone, ok! I can code an Excel spreadsheet to reconcile over 4,000 transactions from a mortgage banker's 1 Billion credit line in 30 seconds, but can't find an old thread on a sue me!!!

Anyway, someone was looking for advice because his guild decided to NOT continue their attempts on LK 25 hard mode, but rather move on to Halion for a while. The poster was attacked viciously, many reinforcing the same basic theme..."You do whatever your raid leader tells you to do...period!"

I may be an overreacting git here, but many of the comments to this guy made it sound like when you are in a raiding guild that you follow the raid leader’s wishes without question. If the raid leader says you're doing Naxx 25, you do it, no questions asked. It really surprised me, and it got me thinking about guild structures, rules, government, and other guild related subjects. I'd like to share a few observations and some opinions on a few of these topics.

Playing the Game Your Way...or the Guild Leader's Way
All too often I hear and read about people who play the game their own way, according to their desires, and don't enjoy being part of a group that tells them to play in a manner that's not conducive to moving the "fun" meter. I've seen people, bloggers included, encouraging others to play the game how they want to, something in my heart I support. Krizzlybear is another of these, playing and raiding as a Frost Mage and doing a great job at it.

But how many of us capitulate to a guild's request to play the game in way that we don't enjoy? Perhaps that’s too strong, maybe I should say we’re asked to play the raiding game in a role that wouldn’t be our first choice. Grow up a Fury Warrior only to have your raid leader tell you that you MUST gear up and become a tank? I've seen it. I've always made my preferences known to my guild that I’d rather not heal, but even so I was “encouraged” to become a healing Shaman, though that’s not my preference. Even though I do enjoy healing now, I mean I really do love it, I yearn for opportunities to raid as Enhancement. An argument I have heard quite often is that when you join a raiding guild you need to be ready to put off some of these selfish qualities and subjugate yourself to the will and needs of the guild/raid group, abandoning those things you may desire most for "the good of the group."

When faced with scenarios like mine or the Warrior, you come to a point where you ask yourself, "is it worth it"? Is playing the raiding game with these particular people worth playing the game in a manner you would not have chosen for yourself? You begin to examine your motives for raiding; is it loot, the challenge, the society, or something else. After taking a rapid look into your soul you decide, to submit or to be a rebel? I think my old college friends wouldn't take too kindly to my decision, to bend my will to that of the needs of my guild – we’re supposed to be Rebels. But at the time, as I thought the request a reasonable one, and seeing the need and my ability to fill that need, I decided that it was best to be a help rather than a hindrance. But was this best for me, individually? I can say with conviction, definitely not. For the simple reason that it’s not my first preference.

Also curious to me is how easily and readily people accept the guild structure at the raiding level. It acts almost like a fascist government, with some additional freedoms. Fascism seeks to organize people within a nation (or guild in this sense) according to "Corporatist" perspectives, values, systems (like political or economic). Corporativism "views a community as a body based upon organic social solidarity and functional distinction and roles among individuals". Corporativism is common throughout the world in many major world religions such as Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. It has also been found in many political ideologies such as, for example, fascism, capitalism and socialism. I found the evidences in Christianity most interesting, especially how it relates to the game.

A Bible author taught, generally, of a form of politics and society where all people and components are functionally united, like the human body. Is this not how a raid group interacts, how it's structured? All parts, tank, dps, and healers alike form one whole body, but each function important to the betterment of the whole. You will not succeed with the loss of any body (raid) part. The necessity to work and function together is essential, and this idea is that of Corporatism.

Further notes on the subject discuss how "In Italy, various function-based groups and institutions were created in the Middle-Ages, such as universities, guilds (a mix between a union, cartel & secret society) for artisans and craftspeople, and other professional associations. The creation of the guild system is a particularly important aspect of the history of Corporatism because it involved the allocation of power to regulate trade and prices in guilds, which is an important aspect of corporatist economic models of economic management and class collaboration."

Maybe to call guild fascists is too much, (definitely too much), but to call them Corporatists is not. Where fascism views violence and its use as positive, I've yet to meet a guild leader who used violence to marshal the guild into following him/her. Still, Corporatism is prevalent in all raiding guilds. If it's noticed that a thumb is missing (i.e. Holy Pali), then there is a recruitment period to fill that role so that the body can function as a whole again. But if one can't be found, often some Pali in the guild will be asked to build and offspec gear set and fill that role.

The raid leader has the power to regulate the raid groups, to ask someone to sit out or to invite someone else in. When a body piece is missing and somebody's offspec can fill that role, that raid leader can and should, according to many, demand the use of that offspec for the good of the raid. And the individual, in order to be a part of the Corporatist group, either feels pressure to fill that role so that once again, as I said before, the raid body can be whole and functional, or they do so willingly because they truly enjoy acting as different parts of the body. I think both scenarios can be good, depending on motive.

There is a disconnect out there that I can't fully understand. I saw a lot of comments (in this MMO-Chamption thread that I still can’t find – darn the internet and my ignorance) and opinions saying that you/I should remember that if you/I want to be a part of a team that we should be ready and willing to lay down our will and desires at the feet of the guild and raid leader and become whatever part of the guild body that is needed. But there's an awful lot of people that say "play the game how YOU want to play it". Maybe there is absolutely no overlap, and half the people who raid feel one way while the other half feel the other way. But if there is overlap, that can only be described as hypocrisy or sheer luck of being able to do have your cake and eat it too.

I'm in a guild with some who have to eat cake they didn't want, or have a cake they cannot eat. They don’t whine and complain that they have been asked to change specs for one fight, their willingness does them credit. I've seen it in other guilds, in discussions online, and I'm left to wonder what the reality is. In a game with such freedoms to do things by ourselves we're often reminded, once we get into group content, how much of ourselves don't really matter, and that collective consciousness is the only thing that's important. Maybe it's the curse of anyone who plays a non-pure dps role that they will be expected, or sometimes demanded of them to perform a role they would not choose for him/herself. But at what cost? What, of ourselves, are we sacrificing for the good of the group? Personal satisfaction? Can I be satisfied performing well in a role not of my primary choosing? Even if I grow to enjoy that role, deep in my mind I/you know that you're missing something.

I’ve been the recipient of this counterargument a few times:

"If they don't want you as your favorite/chosen spec, go to a different guild. It's your game, play it how YOU want to."

I am not just speaking for myself, because I have known far too many people who have given up their "favorite" spec to be part of a group of people that fit exactly who they are. Each of us seeks something different from the game, in small degrees, and from raiding. But I believe (with only anecdotal proof however) there are many people out there who have given up what they wanted when so many others didn't have to. Is it your fault you love playing a Druid more than any other class? You've played all the others, maybe have multiple 80's, but the Druid class just "clicks" with you, and you love it. But the only thing people ever want from you is to tank or heal (or whatever). You can't just "play another class if you want to DPS", because why should you give up even more of what you want just to be invited to the party or chosen to be on the team?

If I own a business, a bank for instance, it's my job to hire the right people to fill the roles to make the bank successful. I don't hire a janitor to be a teller, just because he does the home budgeting in his family. I don't hire a marketer to be an accountant, even though she does her own taxes. I hire people who are good at what they do and have proven in the past that they can get the job done that I need done. For the most part, it should be the guild and raid leader’s job to fill the open roles with those who have an expertise in that role. Need a tank? Recruit a tank, not a Ret and ask him to switch. Regardless of whether the Ret Pali is willing to switch, I think the raid leader should do all he/she can first to recruit a tank who’s first preference is tanking.

I understand that there are limitations in recruiting, such as server population. And with the large number of guilds raiding in Wrath, it makes sense to ask some of your current guild members to build that tanking offspec set, that’s what dual-specs was made for. My point, however, is that I think the “offspec” route is taken more often than the recruiting trail when looking for that tank. That’s clearly a result of the dual-spec feature, but whether it’s good for people is the question I’m asking.

An individual may, by choice, offer to perform in a job that he/she is qualified for but not hired for if they choose, but the more I think about it the more I believe that that raid leader is taking something away from the gaming experience of someone who doesn't want to, for example, tank. Yes, it is taking away the enjoyment of a game by applying social pressure to fill a role unwanted or not primarily preferred by another player. It's obviously different if, as a Paladin, you enjoy both tanking and DPSing, because both play styles are favorable to you. You made a choice to have them both because you enjoy them both. But I still believe there are many who take on that offspec role not out of preference, but out of the social and situational pressures. There is no compensation for the loss of time, even if the newfound role is enjoyed.

There's no compensation because you cannot give back time, it's impossible. Once time has been taken it's gone into the abyss of the universe, never to return unless a wormhole is opened and time travel made possible. It's sad that we've allowed ourselves to be subjugated to a collective thought, not all of us, there are many who find that their role is perfect, for fate was kind to them. Many truly love all specs of all the classes they raid with. And there are still many who like what they do for their guild, but it wouldn’t be their first choice.

A Bit Too Personal – But here’s Why I do what I do!
My bitterness is too obvious at times, and I am embarrassed for showing too much of myself here on the blog. But it's how I feel. So why don't I quit my guild and join another? Because for everything that was taken away from me in a particular way in which I could have enjoyed this game in my preferred role (however large or small that level of enjoyment could be), I have been the recipient of far greater rewards.

Camaraderie, understanding and empathy of my disability, laughs, a sociality that I was unable to find in many previous guilds. So please don’t think that I'm here railing on my own guild for applying that social pressure I find unwelcome, because one act does not condemn a leader. My raid and guild leaders have been more understanding and supportive of me than I have ever found, and maybe, just maybe could ever hope to find. I look forward to chatting and laughing and sharing weird stories with them every day, which lifts me up to a place where I need to be. All too often my physical disability weighs me down, depresses me in reminding me of all those things I cannot do. The sociality of my guild quickly lifts me up, so I continue to play the game in a role that's not my Perfect or Preferred Role, but I do it for all those other reasons.

I know I'm not alone, I know there are others out there who have traded a favorite spec for the friendship and sociality that came with their guild. It's not a bad tradeoff, but it is a tradeoff. In general guild and raid leaders do a great job running things. It’s a difficult job to put together the right groups with the right makeup, I don’t deny that. I guess in a perfect world (for me) those leaders would recruit more to the tastes of the individual, but that’s not their job. They need to explore all options available, and dual-spec offers a powerful option.

I am not claiming to speak for everyone, we all have different experiences in the raiding game. My thoughts are based on experience and anecdotal evidence, not on research performed at Stanford or MIT or even my beloved UNLV. But I think many of us do give up something in order to play with some really great people. They matter, for me it’s THE reason I give up what I do. What I get back in return is worth it and always will be.

In summary: Guilds are not fascist groups, they are Corporatists. Corporatism lives large in guilds today, and even though it's A form of guild governance, it's not the best. I’d like to see more freedom from social pressures, more targeted recruiting. I hope that Cataclysm will fix some of these issues by making more specs raid viable. Perhaps this will allow people to play more a spec they prefer and thereby give our server populations the variety needed to recruit all kinds of people.

I love the people I play with, they make my life more fun and my choice to do something I wouldn’t have at first chosen, one of the best decisions of my gaming life.


mattrickhoffman said...

Bottom line is this: yes, you should play the way you want to, but you have to decide what you ultimately want from this game.

If your only goal in the game is to raid as an enhance shaman and a guild will only let you raid as resto, then they're probably not the guild for you.

If your ultimate goal is to see the latest content, you have to decide whether it's more important to see that content or to play as your preferred spec. A lot of people, myself included, have chosen the former. I originally joined my last guild as a balance druid. Due to several people leaving and some other shenanigans, I was asked to go resto for pretty much everything past festergut in ICC. Though not my preferred play-style, I agreed because I wanted to get to the Lich King more than I wanted to play as my beloved moonkin. That guild has since fallen apart, but I don't regret the decision I made.

It's not necessarily about sacrificing the way you want to play or the fun you're having, it's about deciding what you want the most.

Piotr said...

While I do see your point, I belive it's important to understand the "historical" reasons for this thing happening.

First thing is, early vanilla, most hybrid classes were really bad at DPS. Back then, almost every raiding priest, druid, paladin or shaman was a healer. For many of the older (game-wise) players, this created a subconsious label for those classes.

Second... many of the hybrid class players can only blame themselves. I used to be a guild master and raid leader in TBC, and I've dealt with dosens of people who applied to my guild as tanks or healers, just to start whining about how they want to respec dps as soon as they got to member rank.

As for asking a member to play a different spec than the one he was recruited for, I agree - you can't force them. However:

- Asking someone to respec for one raid is not a bad thing. Think about it this way: you can raid on that particular night as your not-so-preffered role, or you can stay in Dalaran because the raid won't happen.

- Asking (not forcing!) someone if he wants to play a different role is an acknowlagement of someone's ability to play. If I have a boomkin that I belive would do good as a healer, and I need a healer, I'll ask if he wants to switch roles before I start recruiting - who knows, maybe he's been thinking about it as well?

gnomeaggedon said...

There are definitely trade offs. I guess I am happy to play the way I want to play and I know I will always handle myself well when I am in a group. But if it comes to a choice of do LK or play they way I want, then I can live without the LK.

I have a mate that is very keen to PvE with his Rogue. He has PvPed a couple of times with me, but isn't prepared to sacrifice his PvE.

As much as I would love him to play with me more often, that is the path he has chosen, I'll join him when there is a raid spot that doesn't require the top DPS - good is good enough and he can join me when we are messing about in a BG and are as happy to compare death counts to kill counts.

Missanthropy said...

I'd suggest that you can never be a truly phenomenal player until you've played all three roles, and understand how things fit together.

Likewise, you'll be a more effective raid leader if you're at least OK when playing each role.

So my counterargument is that you NEED the opportunity to play all roles. It's something to seek out, not something to resist.

And it's excellent burnout insurance.

Gronthe said...

@ Mattrickhoffman: I know when I decided to join a raiding guild I guess I knew that it might, just might come with some tradeoffs, but that I decided what was important...what I wanted the most. I think, however, that even in deciding what I wanted the most, it didn't mean that I didn't have other wants, but the supporting factors made it so I didn't care "as much" about those other wants.

@ Piotr: I always appreciate the perspectives of those who've played a long time. I've only been at this since the inception of Wrath. I agree that asking someone to respec for a raid is not a bad thing, but with the advent of dual-spec it just feels like sometimes it can be more than "asking", there's a social pressure that might not (no proof, just speculation) have existed before to the extent that it does now. For me, my reasons aren't just to see the content, I'll participate in my second spec because the people around me make it worthwhile.

@ gnomeaggedon: I think I envy you a bit. Like I told matt (above) I guess I knew what I was getting into when I joined a raiding guild. Some people give up a little here and there for the good of the group in that kind of setting. Now that I know what raiding is like, as we approach the new expansion I'm finding myself being more like you...without the gnome-like side effects.

Thank you all for your visit, you are all welcome back any time!

Anonymous said...

I think your point of view is very very selfish. I am one of the guild leaders and though my favourite character is mage (and my main too) I "have" to heal on my alts.It is a choice of either raiding with my main mage and having to pug a healer, and as a result one of our guildies will sit out, or i have to heal and it will be full guild run. Besides the fact the we all love a character and a role , we do love to play with our friends. You basically choosing either to play with friends or to pug. There always will be times when some of the roles won't be filled and you have to recruit or ask someone to switch roles/toons or pug. If you recruit, you will end up one day with too many dps, heals or tanks online and someone will have to sit out and probably will rage quit. Switching roles... I don't see anything bad in this if you ask different people all the time, so everyone shares same fate.( Unfortunately in my guild officers have to switch, as other selfishly expect to "enjoy themselves and playing the game the way they want".Pugs..they are like Russian roulette, never know what troubles they will bring and when.
I think everyone will have to choose how they play the game, playing one toon and accept that sometimes they will sit out, or if they have dualspecs and willing to switch to needed role they will raid.

Gronthe said...

@ Anonymous: I agree, I am very selfish, I don't deny it. But for all my selfish desires, I don't act that way. I give up some of those selfish desires, as do others, because the people I play with make it worth it.

It's for the same reason that, aside from the weekly raid (which, let's admit, doesn't count) I never, ever pug; even to fulfill these selfish desires. I have placed who over how, but that doesn't mean I can't want how.

The ideal, in my mind, is for there to be enough people to allow everyone to play how they want, all roles to be filled by raid leaders who recruit targeted specs, and nobody sit out. I realize this is IMPOSSIBLE, and dual-spec has changed that even more, but I can still dream. Thanks for your visit, btw, I appreciate it.

gnomeaggedon said...

In some ways things were worse before dual spec - unless you were prepared to go through the pain and expense of respecing, you may have no choice but to play the spec you least want to play.

At least now you can change to suit the purpose if need be without it being a "major" issue.

I have only a Mage and a Shaman (Resto/Ele). My mates guild will occasionally ask me to step in. They know my preference is on my Mage, but will occasionally ask for my Shaman (for the heals).

That's all good.. they will just as often be happy with the Mage, or will go out of their way to exhaust other healer options before asking me if I mind.

The answer is I don't... if they only asked for my shaman - I would. If they asked me to respec away from Fire on Gnome permanently... well it just wouldn't happen.

As for it being selfish... it isn't. As much as people spout that "It may be your $15, but it's 9/24 other peoples $15 as well", the reality is I don't pay my $15 for others to play my character. If it ever came to that - and I couldn't just go off on my own - I would spend that $15 on something else.

Anonymous' guildies do sound selfish, if they will NEVER, even occasionally, respec or play another... then again, maybe they are just confident in themselves and don't believe they have to conform to anyone elses standards. (Some consider this selfish, others consider this strong, or assertive)

Looks like I came back ;-)

Gronthe said...

@ gnomeaggedon: You did come back, how did you sneak in here like that?

What's funny is nobody seemed to care being comared to a fascist (well, a corporatist). I get the feeling, gnomeaggedon, that your more of an Anarchist than a Corporatist. It suits you, I think.

gnomeaggedon said...

The Fire made me do it ;-)