Why GMs Quit – Part 1 of a Leadership Series

Posted: March 10, 2011 by Raparth in Uncategorized

I’ve decided to split what I’d planned to accomplish into 4 sections:  being the  Guild Master (video games), Dungeon Master (tabletop games), Friend, and Significant Other.  The latter two I will collapse into a single week’s post, giving us 3 weeks for this “leadership series.”  It may seem like I’ve pushed back what I majorly wished to talk about until the end, but upon further mental organizing I determined that it would be best if I explain my experiences and general take-on GMing, DMing, and being a Friend/Member, all to give context and meaning to my eventual talk about being the Significant Other (whether I or Cynthia are the GM/DM/Friend).

This week we’ll deal with Guild Masters, guild officers, and why both groups generally stop wanting to do what they do.

I will first say that much of this post will be related to World of Warcraft.  That happens to be where the largest chunk of my experience is, but by no means does this mean that this discussion cannot equally apply to other games/groups/scenarios.  If you haven’t played WoW, you should still be able to understand 99% of everything here.  If you have played WoW, particularly in a guild-heavy style of play, you’ll have a much faster and intuitive understanding of how these dynamics that I’m describing work.

Mini-Disclaimer: I am not claiming universal-truth or even comprehensive-WoW truth.  I am merely describing how I think GMs, officers, and guild members should behave in relation to one another.

First thing’s first: People expect too much from their Guild Masters.  They often expect too much from their guild officers, as well.

My time in end-game WoW has been spent towards raiding.  A small, if always growing, proportion of WoW players engage in that sort of activity.  I have not, nor do I wish to be, in a raid-only and only-raid guild.  There are hardcore raiders that do the cutting-edge content, be those edges world-wide (e.g. Paragon) or server-specific (e.g. Pantheon, on my server of Fizzcrank).  I really respect their abilities, but, for me, the game is not only about the content I can burn through or the dps I output.  It’s about the social environment.  I would not, hands down, play WoW if it weren’t for the social environment.  I’ve made great friends there, some I’ve had for a couple years and have heard (via Ventrilo) me go through various ups-and-downs in my life.  This is largely due to my experienced big mind-body separation (sorry, I’m a philosophy-major, and I just think of myself as a mind, not a brain and especially not a body), but I consider some of my online friends (in and out of WoW) to be some of the best friends I have, for various reasons.  That said, I am not into the solely-social or wholly-leveling guilds.

What I look for in a guild is a combination of the two facets.  I want a guild where I can raid, with a group of other competent people, and do well.  I want a guild that’s populated with my friends (though not everyone needs to be my friend), raiding with a group of people I really get along with and mesh well, and do well together as a group. Back in the late-Wrath pre-4.0 days, I was mainly a DPSing Unholy Deathknight.  Quantitatively, I was a damned good one.  On a young, medium-low population server, I was doing 10k+ dps on dps-centric boss-fights.  It was really fun for me to be able to get really good at my class, to know it really well.  I would never, however, join a raid-only and only-raid guild, (1) because I’m not that good and (2) because it was fun when I was excelling with my friends.  We did well together.  We learned mechanics and got bosses down together.  When we were stuck on Sindragosa for … 4 months, because of various real-life complications one after another and changing membership in our 10man, it was the (I think) 4-8 of us that stuck it out together that made the suffering bearable.  And when that bitch finally died, it was a group of friends that celebrated, not just a group of really-great-gaming individuals that happened to band together.

These were the results of the raiding environment I was “raised up” in.  When it comes to raiding, I’m a middle/late Wrath baby.  I’ve watched my dad play WoW since late vanilla and raid since early Burning Crusade, so I had a great resource to learn things from before I had to enact them myself.  I was originally part of a 10man group.  We had no strictly defined leader.  To unpack that sentence: We had someone who scheduled for us, some people who knew their classes a little better, some people who knew the fights a little better, but we worked together as a team, in a very democratic way, to overcome our obstacles.  I can be a bit of a loudmouth (it must be a philosophy-major thing), so I would generally say more than some others, but I was the newbie, and I listened to people who had more experience.  That didn’t mean that my observations and insights into what seemed to be the fight mechanics went unrecognized.  We were a great 10man for figuring out strategies that worked well for us.

We had no autocrat for a leader.   I’ve seen guilds, of various sizes, that autocracy has worked well in.  When I ran 25mans, as I ended up doing, I had requests from some people to be more autocratic.  And, in that context, I admit that I needed to be.  25 voices are just too many to progress well via equal weight of voting.  As someone who vastly prefers 10man, and who plays with people who vastly prefer 10mans, I don’t like dealing with people that way.  When I’m talking to a raid or guild member, be it as the raid leader, guild master, or guild officer, I don’t think of the dialogue as an unequal one.  I am an adult having honest and fair discourse with another adult.  When someone tells me something, I respect their right to hold that opinion, take it into careful consideration, and interpret it as charitably as possible.  (Side note: the Principle of Charity is a big deal in philosophical thought.  You read someone as if they are saying something interesting, something cognizant, and something reasonable… or, at least, try to read them as nicely along those lines as possible.)

And here’s why GMs quit.  People ask to be dealt with fairly, like adults.  People also ask to be treated like children.  Favored children, but children nonetheless.  Many guild members want their officers and/or GM to find them a group of their best friends that are the most competent, a time that works excellently for themselves and that everyone else in the group can be counted on to show up at that time, and that they be asked to do nothing more than whatever they wanted to do anyway.  I do not mean to turn this into a “oh, look how Raparth can whine about people” contest or a “oh, my experiences as a GM are sooo much worse than yours,” but rather to point out the division between how I believe relations should be constructed and how others often construct them.

An autocratic leader can be counted on to make those sorts of decisions.  A democratic leader or, as I often like to term myself a “facilitator,” engages his/her subjects based on equality.  When I engage another guild member (for I, even as GM or member of the officer council, am a guild member), I do so on the basis of equality.  We are both gamers, both adults, both paying $15-a-month to get a social- and gaming-based enjoyment.  (I would like to say that, even with someone as young as 15 {and perhaps even younger} I expect this level of adult responsibility and respect.)  We come together, as a pair, as a 10man, as a 25man, as a guild, to have fun and to have that fun together.  I should not and cannot rightly expect others to be perfect, mood-less, mistake-less automata.  They should not and cannot rightly expect the same of me.  It does not matter whether I or the other is the GM; that relationship of equality remains the same.

The next time you approach a guild officer or a guild master, please remember that, despite the fact they take up extra logistical responsibilities (and may even, if they are so psychotic as myself, enjoy a lot of that logistical arcane), they are still fellow guild members and fellow players.  They, too, come to the game expecting to get their $15 worth of socializing and dragon-slaying.  We come together as friends, Azerothians, fellow gamers, to do this thing we love.  And that is: game.  We can do this in a civil, adult, responsible, and, most importantly, FUN manner.

Let’s have fun together, guys.

See you on the flipside of PAX East 2011,

~ Mr. Pacman


  1. Raparth says:

    Sorry about it being 10 minutes overtime, guys… Today was a busy day. Cynthia and I get on the plane for Boston PAX in 6 hours, so we get to the airport in 4. Today was the tying-up-lose-ends day. Anyway, I’ll make sure to get next week’s post done at least before noon, to make it up to you all.

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