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Drama Mamas: Dealing with absent RP guildies

Drama Mamas Lisa Poisso and Robin Torres are experienced gamers and real-life mamas -- and just as we don't want our precious babies to be the ones kicking and wailing on the floor of the checkout lane next to the candy, neither do we want you to become known as That Guy on your realm.

This week's is a long one, so let's get right to it.
Dear Drama Mamas,

I belong to a small roleplaying guild on a fairly heavily populated server. Two of our guild leaders have recently retired, and the discussion that followed seems to have opened up a particularly ugly can of worms. There are a lot of complicated drama subsets that are going on at the moment, but I fear I may have started the one that's now bothering me the most.

Previous to our guild leaders retiring, we had a few incidents of members who had been very active suddenly disappear with no word of why or when/if to expect them back. (We have a forum for the guild, so the means of communication are readily available). We have a very strong policy of RL > the game; but as a small, close-knit guild, I feel that someone disappearing impacts guild members both in story lines and in the way they feel OOCly.
I recently had an experience where a previously active, involved guild member, who seemed to get along with everyone quite well, disappeared for a while and then came back. It turned out she was having family problems, and we all were understanding of this. Then, she disappeared again with no note as to why or for how long.

Eventually I spotted her characters online and whispered her after noticing that all of her characters had been removed from the guild after a "cleanout." Cleanouts are announced ahead of time on the forums, where it is explained that anyone inactive on both the game and the forums for over a certain amount of time would be removed. And if those players showed up again, they can simply whisper an officer to be re-added. I explained what was up, and assured her there were no hard feelings. A couple weeks later her characters still hadn't been added, and it turned out another guild member had given her the same talk I had. But she had instead decided to join a different guild.

I have no problems with that. In the past our members have been very open when they decide that they'd rather raid more heavily or run with a different RP guild, and we've been understanding and supportive. She still has yet to say anything to anyone, and she had characters deeply involved in the stories of just about every active guild member, including myself. Part of me remembers that she was a wonderful friend and wants to treat it as though she has done no wrong, but another part of me is hurt, and knows others in the guild were hurt as well.

In the forums, we were discussing the shrinking size of our guild, what to do about it, and who was now leading the guild. Still feeling the sting of the drama above, I brought up my opinion that if a guild member knows they're quitting the game or taking an extended break, it would be polite of them to tell us. No need to say why or exactly how long, just a quick, "I'm quitting WoW, no hard feelings, you may RP my characters as being dead/missing/away on a very long, distant quest."

Shortly after this, a member who had been silent for a long time (two months) made a post within that thread explaining that she had not been playing the game or on the forums because of her ailing father. I have no problems with this, Mamas. I am more than happy that she's doing the right thing and taking care of her father over playing a computer game. That's common sense. And now she has informed us of what's up, so we don't worry too much about her (and keep her father in our thoughts) and know that she isn't, in fact, going to be in-game.

What bothered me about the post, though, was that she went into great detail about what was wrong with her father and how his condition affected him, and how they were caring for him. Tone is a dangerous thing in forum posts, but from the wording I fear she may feel somehow offended that I was upset that people were leaving without so much as an "adios." The discussion on the original topic has ceased entirely. I'm not sure if it's because the guild leaders are discussing the topic privately or that no one (including myself) can think of a polite way to react to someone who is, in essence, a stranger telling them all of this and then steer back toward the subject while still being respectful. Said player has also left the guild, which makes approaching her in-game even more awkward.

Mamas, am I causing more drama by asking for communication?

Yours,
Boggled and Lonely

Drama Mama Lisa: Achieving game-life balance with a game like WoW that dazzles players with XP, achievements and socializing can be a twitchy process. Throw in the pressures of endgame raiding or the intrigues and personal dynamics of roleplaying, and you have the potential for real disaster.

Let me be clear: I am not advocating that you should stop taking the real-world needs of your guildmates and fellow players seriously. I like your emphasis on taking care of real-life business first and admire the care with which you separate in-character and OOC needs while recognizing how they intersect and influence one another.

That said, Boggled and Lonely, you've brought much of your current boggled loneliness upon yourself. It's entirely possible to dwell too much on in-game issues, and I smell a whiff of obsession in the depth of your anxiety.

These guildmates you've written about have done exactly what's been asked of them. That's the danger of giving people options; they may choose to use them. If you "clean out" your roster, it's inevitable that some members who get removed will feel hurt or will take the opportunity to look for another guild home for whatever reasons. If you ask members to post up if they're having real-life issues, some will inevitably take the opportunity to unload some very real, very pressing issues and feelings. For you to pick at the scabs caused by either of these explicitly requested actions is, in fact, to cause drama.

B&L, you have to let these things go. Immediately. Without further discussion. Without further posting. Without further whispers, or emails or private messages. Whatever else you may do, leave these particular players alone. You've been clear with them, and they've been clear with you. Don't beat a dead horse, and don't cause drama.

[/editorial hat on] Furthermore, because I'm now in this post for a second time in my editorial capacity, I have the opportunity to look ahead, and I simply must reinforce a point Robin makes more lightly in just a moment: You're not a guild officer. If you're not a cook, you have no business in the kitchen -- so please, no side conversations. If you have concerns about guild business, talk to an officer in private, not in a public channel or forum (especially since you already recognize that your efforts, however well-intentioned, could be making others uncomfortable). [/editorial hat off -- Robin, don't kill me for swiping an "extra turn."]

In terms of addressing your broader guild systems, your guild should get rid of policies that are pushing players away. Look no further than the roster clean-outs. Let's be real: Nobody likes to be dumped, despite any pseudo-friendly claims of "we're just a whisper away." Getting dumped sucks. No matter how many times the guild smiles, waves and points to the so-called open door, booting members graphically demonstrates a lack of patience for their real-life situations. The guild is saying one thing and doing another.

If experience shows that dropped characters and storylines are interfering with the guild's roleplaying as a whole, set clear participation benchmarks. Officers should proactively stay in touch with members driving key storylines who're experiencing extended absences. The guild might or might not decide to cut people whose non-participation continues. However the guild decides to handle it, though, it's important that you allow the officers to handle it and not try seize the reins yourself in a situation that's already proving to be uncomfortable.

Drama Mama Robin: I have a confession to make. I was very excited about creating and hanging out in <B.L.O.G.>, our roleplaying guild, at first. But it's just this kind of drama that made it difficult for me to keep it up. You and your guild have very common beliefs in what I've seen of the RP community -- along with many unwritten rules -- that are a bit more real-life-unfriendly than non-RP guilds. Yes, I'm generalizing from my experiences and your letter, and no, I don't think this applies to all RP guilds. It's obvious to me, however, that there are many guilds like this and that's what I want to address. Let me break it down into what it's like on the side of the absent guildie:
  • Communication isn't always easy. Of course it would be better to log on to the game and/or the forums to notify and explain an absence. But if your father is ailing and you have to take care of him, it can be extremely hard to start that conversation online. Many people, including myself, would like to complete our physical world duties offline and then return to a guild that is understanding.
  • Guilt is icky. When dealing with serious issues in the physical world, logging on to WoW should be an escape. If you are inundated with well-intentioned questions and not-so-well-intentioned "should haves" and "next times," traveling to Azeroth ends up being a guilt trip instead of a stress-reducing trip.
  • Do you really need more policies? These unwritten rules, established systems, strict guidelines -- they're harshing my RP buzz, man. Call me a grumpy hippie, but it's hard to be creative when you're worried you're going to break another rule. Strict attendance policies (that are written) make sense in a raiding guild that relies on certain roles arriving at certain times to coordinate certain abilities to complete a certain goal. Exploring characters and storylines should be unfettered by so many restrictions, in my artsy-fartsy opinion.
I completely understand that you are roleplaying as a group and that disappearing characters interfere with your story. My solution is to relax and roll with it. You don't seem to be an actual officer in your guild, so I recommend to stop trying to suggest more policies and otherwise worrying about attendance and the state of the guild. Just focus on your character and your story. If one of your guildies doesn't show up to participate, then just have your character deal with that in character. And if you want to have more guildies to RP with, then you may want to start looking for another guild.

Dodge the drama and become that player everyone wants in their group with a little help and insight from the Drama Mamas. Remember, your mama wouldn't want to see your name on any drama. Play nice ... and when in doubt, ask the Drama Mamas at DramaMamas@wow.com.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Drama Mamas

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