Thursday, December 11, 2008

Glasses, or "Yes, I Wear Them IRL, But This Is The Metaphorical Kind"

I usually don't write response posts to other blogs, but something got me thinking. Since I already wrote a long reply to the post itself, this will be less of a reply and more of an in-depth piece on how the subject affects guilds. My take will be more preventative, and the post I reference is more about dealing with situations you're already in.

What Made Me Think

Pink Pigtail Inn is written by Larisa, an older woman who, to me, is the epitome of the casual, sensitive gamer. She always has the welfare of other players in mind, and she worries about letting other people down. She does not take well to gamers who act harshly toward others, and I get the impression that this frustration stems from a self-conscious fear of being judged harshly herself.

The post I want to reference is a defense of players who come across as incompetent and get verbally abused because of it. Larisa chastises people who refuse to see beyond play skill to the person underneath, and suggests that a sincere and sensitive beating heart could very well be under the muck-ups of someone you're pugging with. Larisa most likely identifies with people who are yelled at for their mistakes, probably more due to her own sensitivity than much experience being yelled at herself (self-conscious people are often the ones who try hardest not to stick out and therefore rarely make mistakes). She suggests seeing other players through pink lenses (ie, rose-colored glasses, or optimism) instead of steel lenses (ie, cynicism).

The Problem With Lenses

The thought occurred to me after my reply that if you're seeing the world through any sort of colored filter, you probably aren't seeing it as it truly is. This isn't to say that I don't agree with a healthy dose of optimism or that I think Larisa is wrong in her stance that people should be more patient with those who don't know how to play, or that I think she was wrong to recommend pink filters to people who have too much grey. It just means that I thought it important to point out, for the sake of covering every angle, that I don't think everyone is as kind and honest as she is, and it can be dangerous even in WoW to be too optimistic about people.

If I were to see the game through lenses, I would pick lenses as close to clear as possible. Clear does not mean colorless -- it means an even balance of both optimism and cynicism. It means being able to see when people are trying to do their best and when they're trying to hurt you, so that you can act accordingly.

The Dangers of Cloudy Vision

I was recruitment officer for my guild for most of 2008. We just removed the recruitment position, as we aren't taking recruits who aren't connected anymore (i.e. yes spouses, no walk-ins), but it left me with a lot of experience in making judgment calls on people when I only have a limited amount of information on them.

The danger I reference is simple: if you trust everyone and let them in, someone will mess with your guild. If you trust no one and let no one in, you cannot grow or make new friends. As recruitment officer, I was considered The Gateway. I was our defense against people who would ninja the guild bank or use us as a stepping stone to a serious raid guild. I was not a defense for myself but for my guild. And if you love your guild and want the best for it, that is a sacred duty.

More than keeping out people who would ninja the guild bank, I considered it my personal mission to keep out the selfish, people who wouldn't break the rules or be "bad members" per se, but who would use our resources (be it items or people) without giving back. Which was very hard to detect, and I'm sure I sometimes erred on the side of caution.

The hardest part was the social aspect -- trying to decide if people would fit. More than protecting our guild resources, I had to protect our guild soul -- our community essence, which is our most precious resource, beyond anything we own in the guild bank. This meant determining if the player in question would be a surface-level player, someone who would be a decent member but never really invest in us the way we wanted, and thus protect the guild's heart from being broken when they found somewhere they preferred. I also had to try and detect if someone would be socially unstable, another hard-to-anticipate danger that we tried to circumvent by requiring member recommendations.

I had to protect the guild from the people who might have injured us in the long run, and I had to gkick failed trial members -- only two, actually: one a constant beggar who would have kept taking and taking (someone saw this 12-year-old a few months after the kick, in Orgrimmar, begging for gold for his level 30 mount), and one who failed the social qualifications (talked over people trying to do Arenas, often failed to follow the "no bad language unless your group says it's okay" rule, got on people's nerves, and was finally considered too set in his ways to try to work with).

Screening potential members required the clearest sight I could possibly muster. I believe I did well. I did my best. But I think clear sight is important whether you're in a simple instance where the stakes are low or a guild where the stakes are high. I know who in my guild has the clearest lenses on their eyes, and I always go to those people for help and advice. Because I know I can get an answer that is true as well as just.

Officers who cannot see clearly will cause drama instead of maintaining balance. They will see conspiracy and foul motives without proper evidence, or they will see innocence and offer absolution when the member has not actually been cleared of guilt. An officer core should be like a panel of judges -- clear-headed, trusting in proof and evidence and rational discussion rather than running high on emotions and fear.

Members who cannot see clearly, especially in a guild where the officers do, will not be consulted for opinions in touchy situations or fully trusted when that opinion is offered, though their feelings will be considered. Often these members are the ones who make the situations worse rather than better, because they jump to conclusions and then jump to defend their conclusions. Members who stay calm in a crisis make things easier for officers to do their jobs.

How Can You Tell Intentions?

Nuances like word choices, tone, or the little details people drop without meaning to can help you make informed decisions about people you've just met. Very few people are able to lie convincingly in writing. There are always clues, particularly in little addendums that seem to be stream-of-consciousness. Whether it be deciding if an applicant cares more about gear than guildies or figuring out if a guy wiped the raid on purpose or not, the details a person drops without thinking are always useful in figuring out their state of mind.

Understanding why a person is acting the way he or she is, why they're saying the things they are is key to knowing how to deal with them. When people are upset, for example, they often blow up about little things that don't matter and have nothing to do with the reason they're upset. Figuring out the root of the problem is just like figuring out the root of an applicant's intentions in joining your guild. You just have to examine the situation closely and look for keys to the explosion -- few people are so unreasonable that they'll go off on a fellow guildie for being late paying them back, but if the two guildies have a history of one taking advantage of the other, then it isn't the lateness that is the issue -- it's being taken advantage of. And unless the officers address the real issue instead of just the one occurrence, it won't stop being a problem.


This has been enough of a monster post. I'll release you now. Be free!


  1. This is a monster GOOD post. Why haven't I already you on my blogroll? It's a shame. I'll fix that instantly.

    Actually my post wasn't written from the perspective of the yelled-at-casual. At least I don't think so. What I was trying to say was that getting annoyed is an unpleasant experience and that there's no point in it really. By seing the world in a more optimistic, loving way you get happier. Don't worry, be happy, or how that song refrain was. Casual or not - well, I guess I'm somewhere half-between. But I'm rarely - if ever - yelled at, myself. And if I was I think I could cope with it. I'm - as you pointed out - "older"... :)

    I liked your thoughts about how to protect the guild soul. I'm convinced that good guilds have souls, as I wrote i another rant a few days ago.

  2. I wasn't entirely sure I paraphrased you right, so I'm glad you clarified. :) Ty!

    I read a book in college (for a class) about how we can't control the world around us but we can control our reactions to it. And our reactions are sometimes moral choices -- are we going to be jerks about stuff or deal with it in a competent, respectful manner? You can chastise someone or even gkick them in a way that is respectful, even if the task itself is unpleasant.

    ^_^; I got "older" from your post about the Wrath midnight release -- you said you felt like people might think you were there to pick it up for your son or something.

    And I definitely thought of your guild soul post when I wrote that part. :)

  3. This is the third or fourth post of yours I've read, and, I've gotta say, you have some really good points.
    I'm not a yelled at casual, but I have had some people who didn't play their class as well as they could have in a group. Whenever I tell someone they aren't playing well or are doing something wrong, I tell them what they need to improve. After all, if I hadn't spent hours learning far more about my class than I needed to know, I would've stayed a half-decent DPS and crappy tank.
    Actually, I was still a bad tank when I quit, but I got a bit better.

    I suppose my point is, you make is seem like criticizing a player is always bad, but telling them what their problem is and how to fix it is not bad.
    For example, if a DPS keeps pulling aggro on a boss, tell them to slow down a bit.

    If a lower level character you're running through Deadmines is pulling monsters while you're half dead and in the middle of a pull, tell them to stay back. If they get pissy, well, you don't have to run them.
    Yeah, personal experience on that second one. I never ran people I didn't know after that.

  4. Constructive criticism is always the way to go over just plain criticism. One teaches, one tears down.


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