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15 Minutes of Fame: Amazon grace, how sweet these guilds

15 Minutes of Fame is WoW.com's look at World of Warcraft players of all shapes and sizes -- from the renowned to the relatively anonymous, the remarkable to the player next door. Tip us off to players you'd like to hear more about.

Why would players want to play only with others just like themselves? Members of special interest guilds tell us their groups allow them to play away from others who either inadvertently or purposely seek to harass or offend. GLBT guilds, Christian guilds (scroll down to Recruiting) and similar groups offer a haven for players seeking a peaceful place to hang out with like-minded souls. This week, we look at a new group that offers not one, not two, but three special interest guilds. The Goddess guilds of Nesingwary and Winterhoof, along with a brother guild also on Nesingwary, welcomes females - actual, physical females, not female characters - with a friendly, events-focused environment. We visited with long-time gamer and Goddess guilds founder Myredd to find out why so many women appreciate playing in a females-only environment.
Main character Myredd Nesingwary-H; Anfyral Winterhoof-A

15 Minutes of Fame: What got you thinking about forming an all-female guild in the first place?

Myredd: With a severe case of altaholism, I have experienced a number of guilds on several servers. While every guild has drama at times, I began to notice that the kind of drama that broke guilds apart and the kind of behavior that disrupted my own enjoyment of the game seemed to come from male guildies - especially teen boys. Guild chat often disgusted me for its sexism, its arrogance, its intolerance. The best guilds I was part of were run by adult women, who seemed to take a greater interest in fostering cooperation, helpfulness and civility.

If you read discussion threads in groups of female WoW players, you'll see that we are not always treated well or respectfully in-game. As a female in a traditionally male profession (I'm clergy), I know how good it is to have a place where I can share with other women who know the special challenges we face.

All of that together made me think that for the often-derided demographic of female WoW players, a safe place might be welcome. As it turns out, it was.

How long have the Goddess guilds been running now?

Goddess of the Horde was formed on Nesingwary in March 2009 and has 224 members. Goddess (Alliance) was formed in Winterhoof on August 2009 and has 67 members. Each guild also has its own Facebook group.

What are the benefits of being in an all-female guild? How is the atmosphere different?

Many women just want a place where they don't have to listen to constant talk of what guys would like to do to their female toons, extensive talk of female body parts, and frequent use of "rape" as a general term for fun, in-game conquest. One of our guild members had been so burned that when one of us said, "Oh, I love my druid!", she said "Stop it! That's disgusting!" Then she remembered where she was and said, "Oh wait. This is an all-girl guild, right?" We said we were. "And there are no boys here?" Again we agreed. Then she loosened up.

Female players feel safe with us. We have some who have been victims of domestic abuse, and an all-female guild offers a place where they don't hear the kind of chat that triggers old wounds. There has been woman-to-woman help with relationship issues and other family concerns as well as a place where our talk of pregnancy, menopause and other women's issues don't have to be relegated to whispers. We get it.

Do you actually run things differently?

My sense is that we are more social. We like to do just plain fun things together as well as questing and running instances. On the third Saturday of each month, the Goddess of the Horde guild celebrates guild birthdays by giving away gold to low-level players outside our guild. We hide in lowbie areas and each of us hands out 10g to the first person under level 20 to find us. When people ding 80 (thus earning the guild rank of "Goddess"), we gather in the Undercity courtyard and celebrate. We dress up in elegant clothes, share food and drink, turn each other into whatever someone has a wand for, roll for wrapped mystery gifts, shoot fireworks, throw paper zeppelins, show off our pets, and tell /silly jokes. We go heffalump jumping.

Are there drawbacks to being gender-segregated?

There are two main drawbacks that I've encountered so far. The first relates to female players who play with males they are close to in RL. Mostly it is husbands or significant others, but there are mothers who play with sons and women or girls who play with male friends. We have recently addressed that issue by having the husband of one of our guildies start a "brother" guild on Nesingwary, Lords of the Horde. We have a joint chat channel and run things together.

The other drawback is in recruiting. I have only rarely put out a general recruitment message in trade, because the trade chat trolls jump on an all-female guild like Alliance PvP players on The Crossroads. The instant assumptions have been: 1. I'm really a male pedophile looking for victims. 2. We're a lesbian guild. 3. We're Wiccans (because of the Goddess name). Depending on the reigning assumption, chat then degenerates from there. As the males in trade troll on, females will often whisper support to me. I usually don't engage the trolls except to thank them for showing everyone why an all-female guild is necessary.

The hassle and abuse from recruiting in trade means that 99% of recruiting is done by friends inviting friends, plugs I put on Facebook groups and forums, or by direct encounters and whispered conversations in-game. I often whisper unguilded female toons (a number of whom turn out to be RL males-especially BElves), but that means I miss women who roll male toons and all women currently in guilds who might be looking for something like us.

Do you find that the Goddess guilds have a different age demographic than other guilds?

Both guilds are mostly adult women. Our oldest member is 62 and there are several of us in middle age (I'm 50). There are also a number of young mothers, some of who play with their daughters. We have people across the age spectrum, but it is heavily weighted toward adults.
Are the Goddess guilds home to many lesbian members, or is the membership more generally heterosexual?

We have several partnered lesbians in the guild, quite a few with boyfriends or husbands, and a number who are single and I have no clue what their orientation is. The issue of sexual orientation doesn't enter into chat often, and it's not an issue for us unless we are defending a guildie who is being attacked outside of the guild. Intolerance for any group is not acceptable within the guild.

Do you require that applicants be the appropriate gender?

The first of our guild guidelines (posted on the website) is "Be a Female. This is a guild for real-life females. Your toons can be male or female, but we are a guild of women and girls. You don't have to submit DNA to join, but we will remove members who are discovered to be males. We don't dislike you guys, and we're more than happy to group with you, especially if your wife or GF is in the guild. But this is a guild for female players. Please respect that. Guys can be part of the action by joining our brother guild, Lords of the Horde."

Is being a "closet male" grounds for an automatic guild kick? Why have males tried to "sneak in" -- what have they sought to gain?

We do kick those we discover to be male. In some cases there seems to be genuine confusion about whether "all-female" means in real life or just the toon gender, and those we try to remove as gently as possible, encouraging them to join the Lords. Some have.

In other cases, however, there have been males (those teen boys again) who have overactive imaginations and think that chat in an all-female guild will be filled with the sexual secrets of women or otherwise be a turn-on. They say they are female to gain access to that fiction. The kind of person who does that usually has enough personality problems that issues surface and we discover their gender. They often cause major drama in revealing themselves as a male and in those cases kicking them becomes quite satisfying.

In a few cases, our closet males have made me sad. They are the social misfits that get bullied in school and are usually young boys looking to our guild for a mom. But caring for them would be a guild with a different mission than ours, so out they go. But again, we try to make their exit kind.

How have your members reacted to the all-female atmosphere?

What people say about our guild are:
  1. "It's so nice to be in a guild where the chat isn't all about body parts!"
  2. "I love being in a guild where I'm respected and not made fun of."
  3. "I really like being with other gals who share my interests."
  4. "Teen boys cause all the drama."
What's up with the teen boys?

Since our Goddess of the Horde founding back in March, we've had three instances of drama. One was a 13-year old girl and we worked with her to improve her behavior. The other two turned out to be boys who then admitted their gender and quit the guild.

You sound as if you've got a steady hand and more than a few years of gaming under your belt.

I have been a PC gamer since Zork and did Pong, Space Invaders and other Atari console games before that. Yup, that would make me old. I've played Sims of all sorts, casual games, RTS games and adventure games, but RPGs have always been my favorite.

Anything else?

Having an all-female guild also means that we miss out on some of the really awesome guys we meet along the way, but our hope is that forming the Lords of the Horde will let us have the best of both worlds. We still don't have a brother guild for our Alliance guild on Winterhoof, as that guild is much newer and smaller, but I'm hopeful that the same opportunity will present itself there, too.

For more information on the Goddess and Lords guilds, visit Goddess of the Horde and Goddess of the Alliance.

"I never thought of playing WoW like that!" - neither did we, until we talked with these players. From an Oscar-winning 3-D effects director to a rising pop singer ... from a quadriplegic player to a bunch of guys who get together for dinner and group raiding in person every week ... Catch it all on 15 Minutes of Fame.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, WoW Social Conventions, Virtual selves, Guilds, Features, Interviews, 15 Minutes of Fame

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