The Guild Master's Handbook: How to Deal with Guild Drama in an MMO.
Leadership Skills in MMORPGs
How to deal with problems in your guild.
Dealing with "drama" as we call it in an MMO is dealing with problems and if not dealt with correctly, trouble - not only for you but your guild - will arise. I have seen numerous legions fall apart and vanish due to the improper handling of dramatic events taking place at the social level.
Do not treat issues with players lightly. People can be vengeful, hateful, cruel and downright mean. Being online does not mean you get to hide away from the unfortunate existence of some human beings who can be downright childish, dishonest and a royal pain in all the wrong places.
The following advice is taken from my 20 years as a teacher, dealing with student issues and over 10 years of playing online. I hope they will help to run a smooth guild and take the pressure off you while leading. It is a difficult job that most refuse to do.
1. Do not ignore the drama caused by a player or players.
If a player is being racist, sexist, cruel, complaining all the time about pretty much everything or anything else that you deem to be unacceptable according to your rules and guild charter - deal with it quickly. Do you very best to speak with this member privately and do not say or do anything in front of the rest of your members. You do not want to draw extra attention to this player - most of the time this is what they want.
Depending on the seriousness of the act, you will want to keep the member with you. Kicking members out should only be used as a last resort and for very serious issues. For example, I had a member who continuously stalked our female members by sending them private messages which were vulgar and completely inappropriate. When 5 women came to me within a short period of time, I really had no choice but to kick him out. Later it turned out that he was not an adult. I always have an age limit of either 18 or 21. He was 14 but had lied. How could I know?
The positive act of speaking to a member or group of members about a dramatic issue that is unfolding in your community is that you get to know them better and find out what is really wrong. You can never know the truth about a player or players until you directly confront and speak to them. Although you can't compromise all the time, there are often ways to stop problems.
I once had a group of elite PvP players in my guild who did far more good for us than bad. But they would continuously show up late to our one mandatory event. Them showing up late all the time set a bad example for everyone else. They did not truly want to show up for our fortress takeovers and defenses but it was one of the bottom lines of our community. You had to go. It was once a week. And twice but the second was voluntary. I asked myself what I could possibly do.
There was no way I wanted them to leave. They were wise, excellent players and all nice people. But they had formed a small elite clique within our ranks. They adored PvP more than everyone. I asked them for a meeting. I made 2 of them PvP raid leaders and the rest scouts. I also told them it would be OK to show up a maximum of 5 minutes late. And we came up with an idea to give them the combined title of our assassin group. This meant that they would scout ahead and be able to PvP while providing us with crucial information. I solved this with them. They bent a little and so did I and the problem was solved. They became a recon unit of death. It was excellent.
2. Never give away too much power or responsibility. You are the leader. Be a strong one.
If you give away power and control over too many things, especially to a person who you do not know, you may be surprised at what can happen. Make sure you keep control over what matters. There should never be many people able to kick members out. You should not allow all kinds of people to control your Ventrilo and the same goes for moderating your website.
Furthermore, remember what the focus of your guild is at all times. And if members come up with ideas that will get in the way of this concept - tell them no. If your guild is PvE centered, you do not want to suddenly have PvP events simply because one member suggests it. And if you are a PvP group, a massive crafting project is a bad idea unless it can somehow enhance all members of the guild. They can craft privately.
Saying yes when you mean no is wrong. Do not be pressured into every suggestion thrown at you. In fact if a person has a suggestion, tell them to write it up on the website and that it will be considered. You do not have time to be having meetings with everyone all the time. Make space for yourself. Do not spread yourself too thin.
3. Have a bottom line.
Make this clear in your charter and rules and have it posted online on your website. Ask all members to join the website and read the charter and rules. My legion is always multicultural, international, multilingual and for men and women. All are welcome. One thing I do not tolerate is racism. I state this very clearly on my site and make sure all my officers know this. And I promptly and immediately kick out members who make racist commentary. There are very few reasons to kick someone. Use it wisely.
High Stress Situations Like Raids are a Bad Time to Deal with Drama.
4. Deal with problems and drama when you are well rested, have eaten and are in a good mood. Be very patient.
Long hours at the computer lowers serotonin and makes people edgy. Often while gaming one forgets to eat or stretch and if you are a leader of a guild you may be multitasking for hours. Be sure to deal with problem players when you are not tired and stressed. It is best to leave it alone until the next day when tempers have cooled down. And you also get a chance to think about the best way to deal with the issue.
You need to be patient and never ever react to the poor attitude a person displays when they are in the midst of having a problem or causing one. DO NOT REACT.
If you react to drama immediately and on the spot, you may be doing so emotionally and this is really not what you want to do. I myself have totally flipped out on vent with 45 people listening. It was during the largest raid we ever had and it was extremely important that everyone remain quiet.
We were coordinating with 2 other large guilds and timing mattered, positioning mattered and people kept talking. I lost it. It was the single and only time that happened. The mass coordination of 195 people is not easy. Everyone shut up. The vent was silent. We won the raid. I later apologized to everyone and explained all of the things I was doing at the same time. They were understanding. Regular members do not know what you are doing or how much time and effort it actually takes to win and run a good group. You need them to know. Otherwise they are there having a great time and do not know why.
5. Get Officers to deal with problems and drama.
Many people are good at this. They do not take things personally. Ensure that you have communications officers who are very close to you and willing to act as a buffer between you and your membership. You most definitely need officers to send people to. An Assistant Guild Master, a First and Second Officer, communications officers and others in charge of PvE and PvP events are key. Do not take it upon yourself to run the entire show. If you have 250 people in your group, you will burn out and not last. I managed to last for 2 years in one game. But I did this with many officers. And if it were not for them and all their support - I would never have made it all that time. After two years the game was officially dead. And so it was off to search for a new game.
There are other ways to deal properly with conflict. Conflict resolution and diplomacy are key ways to run things smoothly and have the very best time. Keep it fun. If logging on is not fun anymore, something is not right.
In the end you need your members and they need you to achieve large goals. Think wisely before kicking people out.
Please remember that I did not know how to run a legion when I started off in 2004, I learned some of what I know from playing in other guilds. And some it from the very best types of guilds. It was only after many years that I was able to make a name for myself online and I did not do this alone. I had many friends, officers, assistants and just great people who helped me.
And without all of these people and my own personal experiences of what I like about certain guilds and what I absolutely hated about others - I would never have come up with something I am happy about.
Thanks for reading!
©Randall Jonas 2014
© 2014 Randall Jonas