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Officers' Quarters: It's a secret


Every Monday, Scott Andrews contributes Officers' Quarters, a column about the ins and outs of guild leadership. He is the author of The Guild Leader's Handbook, available from No Starch Press.

Normally, for the introduction to this weekly feature, I write a little bit about the topic at hand before I post the email that will serve as the focal point for the discussion. This week, however, I don't want to spoil the tale for you before you read it. So, let's dive right in!

Hi!

I just recently started reading your column, and even bought your book on guild leadership for my husband's birthday. I have a question about behavior as a guild leader, and am curious as to what you think of my situation.

I started playing in a family-oriented, RP guild on Moon Guard about two years ago. I joined just a few weeks after the guild's creation, and made quite a few friends among the other members, even meeting my husband through the guild. Sadly, I had to leave the server for a while, due to real life issues with a stalker that was trying to track me through the game.

Fortunately, those issues were resolved, and my husband and I decided to rejoin the guild, even though we knew things would have changed. We were welcomed back, and I was even promoted back to a position just under my old one as an officer, allowing me to help recruit as some of our guild members had taken time off. However, my guild leader then did something that hurt me deeply, making me wonder what I saw in the guild in the first place.


He created an alt and, with another officer's help, got the alt into the guild. So far, no problem, except for one thing: He didn't tell anyone who he was. He pretended to be a new roleplayer in order to spy on the guild. When he was on the alt, he was hard to approach, rude, argumentative, and unresponsive. Every time he signed in, the few guildies who were on would say hello, ask if he needed anything, and my husband and I offered to help him learn to RP. He never answered us. Finally, he signed in as the alt one day, started some guild drama, I can't remember what about it was so petty, then /gquit without warning, prompting my very blunt husband to wonder "what bug crawled up his backside" in guild chat.

Five minutes later, he signed in as the GL, and said he'd been putting the guild through a test and that we'd failed. He then proceeded to dress my husband down in guild chat for his comment, saying that my husband was wrong to start "talking about him behind his back", and that if we were going to give the cold shoulder to new recruits, the guild was going to fail. My husband responded by saying that he hadn't intended it in a malicious way, and that the way a guild would succeed was if the members were more involved, not through tests and secrecy. Then my husband offered to leave the guild, in order to avoid further conflict, which he ended up doing.

My problem is with how my guild leader behaved. Is it just me or was that a complete breach of trust, especially since I later learned that another officer had been in on it the whole time? I honestly felt like he'd slapped me in the face, since I'd worked so hard to get real life issues dealt with so I could go back to that guild, and the first thing he did was trick us like that. I've since left the guild, due to further remarks about "some of us having real lives outside of
WoW" from that guild leader, but it still bothers me, especially since none of my former friends from there will even speak to me now.

Thanks for all the work you put into this, your columns are really useful, especially since my husband and I are currently trying to start a small RP guild of our own.

Myrric
<The Hungering Bear Clan>

Hi, Myrric. I've certainly encountered this idea of guild leaders and/or officers using anonymous alts to mess with the players in their guild. It's the kind of thing that officers sometimes joke about. However, this is the first time I've heard about someone who actually went and did it.

In MMOs, distrust is a fact of life. You don't trust a hawker in trade chat to give you a good price without looking up the auction house average. You don't trust the random players from the dungeon finder to pass on loot they don't really need. You don't trust the formal-looking email from "blizzaccounts@warcraft.com" when it tells you to log in on a website or risk suspension. The people in your guild are often the only people in this entire gaming world that you can trust. That's supposed to be the safe place, the place where people aren't out to scam you into giving them too much gold for an item, ninja a trinket or hack your account. If you can't trust the people in your own guild, what's the point of belonging to it?

Trust is implicit in the guild experience. A guild is a social setting built on the concepts of honesty and fairness. For officers to abuse your trust like this is completely inappropriate. This situation goes far, far beyond merely "spying." It's one thing to lurk in the guild on an alt, hoping to catch someone acting poorly (and even that is sort of creepy and unnecessary) -- but to pose as someone else in an attempt to elicit a negative response? That's taking the situation to a whole new level. By undertaking this undercover operation, he was also demonstrating that he doesn't trust any of you.

Not only that, but the way your guild leader went about this "secret test" was setting you up to fail. It sounds to me like you did everything right. You offered to help. You tried to engage this new "recruit." If anyone had a "cold shoulder," it was him. He was the one rejecting you, not the other way around. It's practically entrapment.

What more could you have done? Are you supposed to overlook the rudeness and the lack of response? Who would do that? Honestly, if a new player in a guild goes out of the way to be insulting and start drama, who is going to go out of the way to make them feel welcome or stop them from quitting? An extremely unfriendly and sensitive "recruit" quitting the guild was the best-case scenario! Would "passing" the test mean you embraced this player, forgave every fault and allowed him to run rampant in guild chat? If so, then the test is only to see how much of your pleasant guild experience you will sacrifice in order to be courteous to a ridiculous a**hole.

What baffles me the most about this situation is what point your guild leader was trying to make. What was he hoping to accomplish here? What good could possibly result from this scenario? What is the lesson to be learned? Does he actually want people who behave like his "recruit" character in his guild?

Imagine a future where everyone in the guild is always over-the-top nice to every new player who joins, regardless of their response, purely out of fear that it could be the guild leader in disguise. Real recruits will think you've all lost your minds.

Then, the icing on the cake: Your guild leader emo-raged when your husband made a comment about the whole thing. To me, your husband reacted naturally. I probably would have said the same thing. The only person doing something "wrong" in this situation was your guild leader.

The bottom line is this: It's not a guild leader's place to "test" your behavior. Ever. Honestly, I can't imagine a context in which it would be appropriate for anyone to do this, under any circumstances. The sheer self-righteousness of it nauseates me.

If someone is acting like a jerk, it is the job of the officers to rein that player in or kick that player to preserve the guild environment for everyone else. Until that moment comes, however, your officers have no reason to get involved. If your guild leader somehow feels compelled to judge the behavior of his players, he should judge them by their words and actions every day, not by the result of some one-time, artificial scenario. Furthermore, he should keep his opinions to himself until someone actually causes a problem.

It's unfortunate that you were severed from your friends by this situation, Myrric. I'm surprised that more people weren't outraged by this stunt. At least you met your husband there before it all went south!

I wish you luck with your new guild. Believe me when I say you are better off no longer dealing with that guild leader and his officer accomplice.

/salute

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

Filed under: Officers' Quarters (Guild Leadership)

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