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Officers' Quarters: Chased out of guild chat

Every Monday Scott Andrews contributes Officers' Quarters, a column about the ins and outs of guild leadership.

Barrens chat. Someday, if WoW becomes popular enough, that phrase could become immortalized in the English language as a synonym for childish, pointless, and offensive blather. Whether it's public offers to cyber or waxing poetic about Chuck Norris' roundhouse kick velocity, if you've ever leveled a Horde toon in the Barrens, you've heard it all. It's one thing to put up with such nonsense for 10 levels. It's quite another to endure it day after day from members of your own guild. What if your guild chat was little better than Barrens chat? Today's letter is from an officer facing this grim situation.

Hi Scott,

Thanks for all the great articles at WoW Insider. You do a fantastic job!

I have a question for you that hopefully you have some insight on [. . .] I'm a member of a successful guild whose core members know each other in real life and have gamed as a group since before WoW. I've been with them since late 2004, and while we've had our ups and down as a guild, having a core like this has kept us alive through it all. I'm now an officer and a raid leader, so I have quite a bit of leverage in the guild.

We have never had any written-down rules about how you should play your character or act while in guild. We stress the basics that any guild should abide by [. . .] We're on a pvp server, and many of the members come into the game to unwind from their daily stress. As such, guild chat can be extremely vulgar. There was one instance a long, long time ago where a black member of the guild gquit because of a few guys BS'ing on gchat and using the 'N' word. I think that day has been forgotten. Gchat has been rife with some pretty controversial word use lately, and I've just been approached by one or two concerned guildies.

Now, I don't want to control anyone. I know that by entering an MMO I'm opening myself up to the rest of the United States. People talk all kinds of smack with their friends when they feel they won't be checked for it. And since most of the guys in the guild know each other IRL and have played online together for 5+ years, they're comfortable with the levels gchat is at. Me, I typically just ignore the channel. What do I tell these concerned guildies? I feel like if I bring up the issue with the other officers -- who are part of the problem -- they will get defensive and a whole can of worms will open up. I'd like to ban a couple of choice words from gchat and [Ventrilo], but I doubt it's possible. Do you have any advice on how to go about this problem carefully?

Thanks a lot!
[Anonymous]

PS: no names please, if you do use this :-)

Thanks for the question, fellow officer. To me, the most telling part of your e-mail was confessing that you just ignore guild chat altogether. That sets off some Gnomeregan-style alarm-bots right there! If you, as an officer, are so offended or put off by the language used or topics discussed in guild chat on a regular basis that you completely ignore the channel, then something is terribly wrong.

It sounds like you've made your peace with it. You've decided the benefits of being in the guild outweigh these offensive conversations. And that would be okay, except for the fact that you aren't the only one affected by it. As one of the few officers (or perhaps the only officer) who isn't part of this group of real-life friends that run the guild, your members are looking to you to establish some basic rules of decency. You can't ignore them just because the people they are complaining about are officers.

In a guild comprised mainly of adults, guild chat is naturally going to be the domain of some risque language and some words you can only say on HBO. In most guilds, it's no different than if a group of friends were hanging out together and talking in a casual setting. You wouldn't censor yourself in that type of setting. However, most people would agree that some words and topics are best avoided in any situation, particularly if other people nearby are going to hear what you say (which, in guild chat, is pretty much a guarantee). The "N" word (no, not this "N" word) is a prime example, along with any other racist, sexist, or homophobic comments. Such comments are inherently risky in an online environment where you might not know a player's race, gender, or sexual orientation. Furthermore, they're just unnecessary and make you look like a jerk.

I know you feel like you would be the "bad guy" or the "party pooper" in this situation if you bring your concerns -- and those of other members -- to these officers. But you aren't the one who's crossing the line. You are the person who's looking after your members' best interest. The other officers are not.

Now it could be that they aren't aware their behavior is a problem. In this case, making it known that people have concerns could be enough to get them to tone it down, especially if they find out that you share these concerns. Your opinion as an officer should hold a lot of weight. Otherwise, why did they choose you?

As a compromise, you could suggest that they keep the more colorful discussions in the officers channel. That doesn't spare you from exposure to it, but it would protect the members. Also, it would let you read guild chat again and feel like part of the community rather than living in self-imposed exile.

On the other hand, the officers might not be so willing to change their habits. They could assert that the guild is theirs and they have a right to do whatever they want. I hope for your guild's sake that they don't have this attitude. It's an immature and destructive point of view. But if that's their decision and they absolutely won't listen to reason, there isn't a whole lot else you can do -- unless you really want to get tough.

Technically what your officers are doing is against Blizzard's own Terms of Use Agreement (you know, the one you scroll past at lightning speed so you can click the Accept button after every patch). At the risk of sounding like a lawyer, I direct you to Article 5, Section B, Part 1:

[You may not] Transmit or post any content or language which, in the sole and absolute discretion of Blizzard, is deemed to be offensive, including without limitation content or language that is unlawful, harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, defamatory, vulgar, obscene, hateful, sexually explicit, or racially, ethnically or otherwise objectionable, nor may you use a misspelling or an alternative spelling to circumvent the content and language restrictions listed above[.]

Now, you have every right as a paying customer to report other players for violating the Terms of Use, as does any member of your guild. Whether you really want to take that step is another story, since most certainly the officers will know that someone in the guild reported them. If you've already tried to speak to them about it, they're going to assume that person is you. And they will most likely face a temporary ban as a result. In short, they are going to be very angry and you are going to shoulder the brunt of that anger. It's very possible that they may kick you out of the guild. However, there's a small chance that it may make them realize what jerks they've been about it and maybe, just maybe, they'll have a change of heart. At the very least, they'll be more cautious in the future for risk of getting permanently banned. That would be small comfort to you if you have to find a new guild and start over. So think carefully before you take it this far.

Whatever happens and whatever you decide, make sure to inform the concerned members that you did try to help them. It's important that they know someone among the officers took their side and tried to fix the situation.

I have a feeling that it won't come to anything so serious and that your officers will be willing to hear you out. They aren't going to like what you have to say, but they obviously respect you and consider you a friend. If they find out that they are having such a negative impact on your gaming experience, how can they refuse to listen?

/salute

Send Scott your guild-related questions, conundrums, ideas, and suggestions at scott.andrews@weblogsinc.com. You may find your question the subject of next week's Officers' Quarters!

Filed under: Officers' Quarters (Guild Leadership), Guilds

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