Surviving Guild Drama; Or, Lessons in Communication and Community Building Learned from Playing MMOs

If you want to learn how to communicate with other people on the Internet, forget about Facebook or Twitter. Instead, you should play a massively multiplayer online (MMO) game.

You can learn a lot about interpersonal communication by playing MMOs.

MMOs are rich microcosms where you’re guaranteed to meet people from many different walks of life and living in corners of the planet you may not even have heard of before. People whose cultural, educational and financial background, probably even race and language, are nothing like yours. And if you’re stuck in a guild or alliance with them, you have no choice but to work with them so you can advance your character (also known as “toon”) and enjoy protection from hostile players in your game world.

Unfortunately, when a pack of total strangers are forced to work together for the good of the guild or the alliance, one thing is bound to come up. That thing is none other than guild drama.

Guild dramas are a force of destruction.

Guild drama is as old as the Internet. More often than not it is the product of clashing egos, poor communication among guild members, and lack of initiative on the part of the recognized guild or alliance leaders. Unless resolved, guild drama is a destructive force that will eat away at the foundation of the guild and cause it to crumble.

Thankfully, there are ways to prevent guild drama from happening. There are also ways of nipping it in the bud before it corrupts the spirit of teamwork in the guild. How to survive and deal with guild drama is a lesson I think would be useful to anyone who works, plays or does business online.

Lesson #1: Anonymity doesn’t give you the license to be rude or hurtful.

MMOs are inherently anonymous. Even though there’s Facebook, the people you play with in MMOs won’t know who you are unless you tell them. And the truth is as long as you do your bit for the guild, they don’t give a crap. Thus, within the game world, you can be anyone or anything you want to be.

However, the fact that you’re shrouded by the cloak of anonymity doesn’t give you the right to forget your manners. Anonymity doesn’t give you the license to be rude or hurtful to other people, whether they’re in your guild or not. Behind the blood elf or the orc or the dwarf you’re playing with is a real person who deserves to be treated with decency. So don’t be a douchebag or a drama queen. If you can’t say anything constructive, don’t say anything at all.

Lesson #2: Never make assumptions.

In your guild, you have a role to play no matter what your rank is. You could be the guild leader, the raid master, the forum moderator, the lead healer, the guild cook or whatever. Whatever your place is in the guild, make sure you really understand what you’re supposed to do for your guild. Not only that, you should be able to communicate clearly to your guild mates how you’re going to do it.

Making unsupported assumptions about your role in the guild is a dangerous thing to do. Let’s say you went to your guild’s scheduled 25-man raid as the primary damage dealer. If you focused on killing everything in your path instead of paying attention to the big boss as you’re supposed to do, your team may end up getting wiped out. If you went ahead with killing everything in your path without telling your teammates about it first, you will end up getting wiped out, too.

Lesson #3: Your guild mates’ alts or personas are no concern of yours.

Most MMOs allow you to make more than one character (alt) so you can explore the whole gamut of the game’s mechanics. Whether you choose to roll multiple characters or stick to your main toon is your decision. The same applies with your guild mates.

So if you find out that your guild mate who plays a mage is leveling a warrior as an alt, it’s really none of your business. Don’t ask them about their warrior stats if they don’t want to talk about it. Don’t push your offer of help if they’ve expressed that they don’t need it. Don’t force them to spend more time on their mage character when it seems that they’re enjoying the warrior more.

Once they decide that it’s worth their while to share their stats with you, accept your help or spend more time on their mage instead of their warrior, they will do it. The most you can do is to list down the benefits of doing what you ask them to do and encourage them to do it.

Lesson #4: Ask and you’ll receive.

More often than not, players in the same guild look out for each other. They are usually more than willing to lend their assistance because they know that helping guild mates level up and get better gear will play to their advantage in the long run.

However, you can’t expect your guild mates to guess what kind of help you need from them and just give it to you. You have to ask them first. If it seems to you that your guild mates are more likely to help someone else in the guild than you, don’t pout or sulk about it. Ask for help when you need it.

Lesson #5: Always keep your cool.

In MMOs, not everything will go your way. The loot you wanted to get out of a raid may not drop from the boss. Or you can lose the roll for it and the gear could go to someone else. Or you can lose a bid for a shiny piece of equipment at the auction house. Or someone may tell you that your tactics suck and you’re the worst mage/warrior/healer they’ve ever met.

Whatever happens, just keep your cool and never take anything personally. Just keep joining raids until you get the gear that you want. If you lose a bid, wait until the item shows up again. If your game needs improvement, go ask a veteran player of your class for pointers. Don’t throw a tantrum on Skype, Ventrilo or the guild chat just because you didn’t get what you want.

There’s so much you can learn about interpersonal communication from playing MMOs. By communicating properly with your guild mates, you can easily prevent guild drama from exploding in your face. And whatever lessons in communication you learn from playing MMOs you can definitely apply elsewhere in your life. After all, guild dramas can happen outside MMOs, too.

Have you been involved in a guild drama recently? How did you survive it?

Image: Evan Hall/Kevin Schwantje


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Anna Sibal-Gonzaga is a freelance writer based in the Philippines. She likes reading books and watching movies and TV shows in the sci-fi, fantasy and historical genres. She is also a casual gamer and an all-around nerd.

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