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15 Minutes of Fame: Progressive guild thrives under uncommon leadership team

Daily Kos WoW guild
From Hollywood celebrities to the guy next door, millions of people have made World of Warcraft a part of their lives. How do you play WoW? We're giving each approach its own 15 Minutes of Fame.

There's plenty about Wreck List of Garrosh (US-H) that's a little different from your run-of-the-mill World of Warcraft guild. The sprawling social guild doused Ragnaros just days ago with a team of core raiders rooted by several members in their 50s and 60s. In fact, the guild is run primarily by women over the age of 50 -- "at age 51, I'm the baby of the group," admits guild leader Dkosmama. With a median member age of about 40, Wreck List boasts well over 200 members, half of them women.

Even more remarkable than its unusual gender and age mix, though, are the guild's roots -- Wreck List is the unofficial guild of the popular progressive political blog Daily Kos. Not limited to members from the Daily Kos community, Wreck List is open to any player looking for a sanctuary from trade chat madness, away from "threatening racist, homophobic, and misogynist language and ideas." The group's official Declaration of Purpose clearly states that "while guild chat is mostly non-political, it is also where we express our leftist political views, which sometimes may include a sharp word or two about Republicans. Because many guild members did not come to the Wreck List through political blogs, we do not expect everyone to hold progressive views on all issues; however, we do expect that all members respect the liberal foundation of the guild."

An unusual balance for an entire guild? We thought so, too, and sat down to visit with Dkosmama about the balance of ideas and free expression that makes this whole group hang together.

Editor's note: This article focuses on this group's integration with the World of Warcraft and is not an endorsement or promotion of any particular political ideology or agenda. Please keep comments focused on the guild and its activities, rather than political ideologies.

DkosmamaMain character Dkosmama
Guild Wreck List
Realm Garrosh (US-H)

15 Minutes of Fame: Take us on this journey, Dkosmama -- how do we get from a well-known political blog to a World of Warcraft guild? What kicked off this idea, and who stepped up to make it happen?

Dkosmama: In late March of 2009, Moodyloner posted a comment in a community diary on Daily Kos about World of Warcraft. Other players joined in, and within a day or so, they had decided to roll Horde on Garrosh and start a Daily Kos guild called Wreck List.

Moody, a fan of nontraditional online organizing, explains: "I've been in other guilds before. Good guilds. Solid raiders. Nice people. But, and this is a big but, I'd find myself watching what I talked about in guild chat. I'd soon learn that there were subjects that I could not talk about -- politics, rights, equality, feminism. Soloing was worse -- general and trade chats were infamous, and still are, for the hostility. ... And I was trying to level, and I couldn't talk to my guildies, and I couldn't talk to anyone else.

"I thought it would be something, not to have a raiding guild or a PvP guild or a leveling guild, but to have a liberal guild," [Moody continued]. "A guild united not by what people did in game, but what people were like out of it."

By all accounts, it sounds as if it's grown to become a pretty large group.

Currently we have about 825 members representing about 270 accounts. Roughly two-thirds of our members are from Daily Kos or other liberal blogs, notably Balloon Juice. The other third have come to us from the server or are people who searched for a "liberal guild," found us, read our guild's Declaration of Purpose and Principles, applied online and then switched servers to be with us.

What proportion of the players refer themselves over from the Daily Kos?

Of our Daily Kos members, some are just readers, and some are very involved with the site. Every summer, our raiding takes a bit of a hiatus as a bunch of members attend the annual Netroots Nation conference. One of our members, Suluca, is a staff writer for the front page of Daily Kos as well as a moderator for the Black Kos community.

Every Thursday, Moody posts a diary to Daily Kos about what's going in with the guild -- and every week, like clockwork, we have at least one or two new members join us from there.

Guild recruitment event
What about players who come into the guild based on meeting other members in game? Do they seem taken aback at your foundations, or are the group's political leanings even that evident?

Actually, we've have had some issues in the past. Because of these issues, last year I asked a group of senior members to draft a Declaration of Purpose and Principles for the guild, to be like our constitution. The committee included two lawyers, an anthropologist, and three of the founding members of guild, one of whom was an experienced raider and another who never raids, plus Moodyloner.

As they worked on the initial draft, I asked other senior guild members to be quest givers for a series of quests that would introduce the newer members to our history and guiding principles. By doing the quests, members would unlock a forum on our guild website where they could read and help edit the draft declaration. The whole process took about three weeks, and most people had a blast!

Today, we require anyone who wishes to join the guild to read the Guild Declaration first and then fill out an application.

For the majority of people who join, being a member of the Wreck List is a dream come true -- a dream of civility, cooperation and compassion -- but we aren't for everyone. We expect all members to respect the political foundations of the guild. Additionally, we also are not a hardcore raiding guild, although we do have two excellent raiding teams. So we've had a few Daily Kos people join who were looking for the discipline and competitiveness of a high-end raiding guild and decided that we weren't the right guild for them, either.

So your guild culture is appreciably different, then, than that of most other guilds?

I think we are very different. For example, I read about issues of fighting in raids, loot ninjas, factions, and general guild drama. We don't have any of that. The one issue that does come up occasionally [is when] a conservative or hardcore raider joins the guild because of a friend or family member and then realizes that he or she is in the wrong place.

Other differences include that the guild pays for every member's repairs, whether for raiding or just leveling. We work hard to make sure that we can help new members get equipped, and if someone needs a stack of gems to level JC or an epic crafted piece, members help with that, too.

But I think the main thing that sets our guild apart is our demographics. We have members from elementary school up to retirement age, with a median age of about 40. We have a number of university professors, as well as attorneys, political activists, military personnel, scientists, teachers, writers, and students, which means that the topics that come up in guild chat are fairly diverse.

And for anyone who thinks that raiding is something that only young people can do well, I'd like to introduce them to a few of college professors I know.

Guild principles
Is the guild atmosphere particularly political? Do you find there's more debate and discussion about current events and politics in guild chat or on the forums than most other guilds?

Right now on our forums, there is a thread discussing capital punishment and Troy Davis, another debunking the recent GOP attacks on Social Security, and third on racism in the trade channel and how to get Blizzard to address it. If you're in the game and there is important breaking news, someone will always let the guild know.

There are discussions all the time about politics and current events, but also about history, science, and literature. And we even talk about the game, too. What we aren't doing is arguing about politics, so much as sharing various progressive takes on issues of the day.

Do you have any rules of engagement as far as political debate goes?

In general, all guild chat is rated PG, and personal attacks or statements that are meant to cause offense or drama are not permitted. In the opening of our Guild Declaration, it is quite clear that we are not a debating society. Because we share similar values, we can have spirited discussions about policy specifics while all agreeing on the core issues. While some members may disagree with President Obama's handling of certain things, no one in the guild doubts the fact that he was born in America.

In the past, some conservatives who were in the guild because of friends challenged us, saying while we claim to be tolerant toward diversity, we weren't tolerant of different political views - just like GOP members of Congress today demand that the Democrats be bipartisan while refusing to compromise on anything.

It's not about tolerance. We absolutely do not allow any comments in guild chat or Vent that are racist, sexist, or homophobic. And we also do not allow right-wing talking points. In other words, having women, gays, members of ethnic/racial minorities, or senior citizens in the guild is not a sign of "tolerance" -- it's who we are!

You certainly do have a demographic that's definitely different from the norm.

About half the guild is women, including officers. There are a lot of families that play together here, too - spouses, parents and their kids, and so on. We work hard to keep this a safe, comfortable and family friendly place to play.

Guild event
What sort of in-game content does the guild focus on as a whole?

We try to do it all, except for serious roleplaying. We have two progression raid teams, some very dedicated PVPers, and lots of leveling, as well as the occasional special guild event, heritage raids, guild achievement chasing, and so on.

Actually, during our guild quest event last year, many people really got into roleplaying, too. There's a funny story about that. One guy had joined as a friend of a friend just before the event started. Everyone was sent off to find the first quest giver. The first quest involved collecting 10 Small Barnacled Clams and turning them in order to get the next quest. Pretty easy standard WoW quest, right? We've all done hundreds of these. Well this guy went off the deep end: "You want me to collect clams and then turn them in just so I can get another quest? You people are crazy!" And then he rage-quit -- or as we like to call it, clam-quit.

Tell us about your own involvement at the Daily Kos, Dkosmama.

I started posting at Daily Kos back in early 2003. That was in the early days of political blogs. I found the site through my online involvement with the Howard Dean campaign and became a regular reader and sometime contributor.

Daily Kos has evolved from a simple political blog to a massive online community where anyone who joins can post a diary or blog as well as join in discussions by posting comments. I post there a couple times a year, although I comment regularly and read it almost daily.

Guild recruitment eventAnd how did you become guild mama of the WoW guild?

I became guild leader sort of by accident, but after two years, it seems people like the way I do things. Early on, we had several of members who had their accounts hacked. At the time, I was the only one with an authenticator, so the then-guild-leader put me in charge. We had some rocky times with drama and personality conflicts -- basically, growing pains. And there were times when my husband questioned the amount of time and emotional energy the guild required. That was my prime motivation for creating our guild Declaration of Purpose and Principle.

Since then, so many members have offered to take on various aspect of guild management -- everything from keeping the guild vault organized, to moderating our guild forums, to running our Facebook page, to coordinating raids -- that there's not a whole lot for me to do these days. I only step in when there is an issue that requires the guild leader to take action. For major decisions, I always talk to the senior guild members, the Guild Elders, and we work together to arrive at a consensus.

I've never felt that this was "my guild." Rather, is it an organization I am honored to be part of and especially honored to lead. This guild is a fabulous and supportive place to hang out with people who share similar values and really care about each other and the rest of the world.

Editor's note: This article focuses on this group's integration with the World of Warcraft and is not an endorsement or promotion of any particular political ideology or agenda. Please keep comments focused on the guild and its activities, rather than political ideologies.

Learn more about the guild at the Wreck List website or read more about the group's World of Warcraft involvement at the Daily Kos.

"I never thought of playing WoW like that!" -- and neither did we, until we talked with these players, from a player battling Alzheimer's disease to Game of Thrones' Hodor (Kristian Nairn), gaming industry insider Liz Danforth and El of El's Extreme Anglin'. Know someone else we should feature? Email lisa@wowinsider.com.

Filed under: Guilds, Interviews, 15 Minutes of Fame

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