A hard decision

Over the weekend I came to the painful conclusion that my current guild is in a terminal slump and it is time for me to leave. It is a decision I have been wrestling with for several months, and not one I arrived at easily. But it is a raiding guild that stopped raiding about the time Hellfire Citadel went live, and both membership and nightly activity levels have plummeted steadily since then. When I first joined, about two years ago, even on non-raid nights there would be 12-15 people logged in, guild chat was fun and lively, and someone was always asking for additional people to group up to do X activity. But for the past couple of months or longer, the nightly active population is less than 5 — more often 2-3 — and chat is more rare than in a contemplative order of nuns. It is possible that Legion will revitalize the guild, but even if it does, that is still months away, and meanwhile my raid skills are disappearing  faster than my New Year’s resolutions.

And truthfully I doubt if the guild will bounce back even in Legion. It has entered a downward spiral that very few guilds can overcome — inactivity leads to lessened interest by guild members, people leave or just stop logging in, leading to more inactivity, etc. Recruitment becomes impossible because the two biggest selling points for a guild — raid teams and “active guild” (social or otherwise) — disappear, leaving only the true but lame “friendly, helpful members”.

I saw the exact same spiral in the guild I left before, and I had been in that guild for almost 5 years. It took me a year to decide to leave that one, and it was an emotionally wrenching decision. In fact, the only way I could leave it was gradually, first taking out one alt to join my current guild, then another alt, then making several attempts to revitalize our recruitment program and set up guild activities, all to no avail. The organization was dying and there was no way to save it.

The two common denominators I can see in both guilds are: WoD and abandonment by the GM. I have written about WoD being a guild-killer before, so I won’t repeat that particular rant here, suffice it to say I still believe it, and while it may not have been the sole cause of the demise of these two guilds, there is no doubt in my mind but that it was a major factor.

Regarding the GMs of each guild, “abandonment” may be too strong a word, possibly “neglect” would be better. In both guilds, the GMs underwent changes in their real lives that caused them to spend less and less time logged in. Please do not misunderstand me, I am absolutely certain that in their place I would do the same thing. My comments are not a judgment about that, rather about the undeniable effect it had on the guild. In the case of my former guild, it was a kind of double whammy, because we had for all practical purposes two co-GMs — not related to each other — who independently but simultaneously stopped logging in except very briefly every couple of months (I suppose to keep themselves from being ousted as GM).

Guilds, I am somewhat surprised to realize, are very personality-based. Almost always that means they are driven by the personality of the GM, though sometimes it can be by a particularly good officer or raid leader. When the GM is active and engaged, the guilds seem more active and engaged. There is a noticeable difference in the energy level of a guild, often reflected in a subtle change in guild chat, when the GM is logged on. And the guild environment itself reflects the personality of the GM — if he/she is calm, mature, fair, friendly to everyone,  then the guild also seems to adopt that kind of personality. If the GM is perceived to play favorites or to blatantly ignore certain members, then the guild will be clique-y and unwelcoming to many (the first guild I ever joined was like this, it was a terrible experience).

Interestingly, GMs seem often to not realize what a huge role they personally play in the vibrancy of the guild. In one way this is a good thing, because it shows they are not ego-driven or arrogant. But in another way it is bad, because they can fall into trap of believing their game activity level has nothing to do with the health of the guild, that if they step away from the game for an extended period the guild will chug along just fine without them.

It won’t.

It would be better in such circumstances to actually step down as GM, maybe appoint a trusted officer to take their place so that the guild would have a chance to continue to thrive. However, there are plenty of drama-rich stories of this course of action going horribly wrong, enough so that most GMs do not even consider it. Can’t really say as I blame them, but it does almost inevitably mean that when the GM loses interest in the game, their guild dies.

Anyway, I have wandered far from my original point, which was that I have — reluctantly and sadly — decided to leave my current guild. I am sure they will not miss me, and I fully expect to leave on excellent and undramatic terms, with a short explanatory goodbye and thank-you to the GM and the small number of officers. They are a good and friendly guild, I had fun times with them, and I really hope they come back strong in Legion.

Meanwhile, I am talking to one of the largest and most stable guilds on my server, so with any luck I will not be guildless for long. But if I am, the depressing thing is, it won’t be much different than being in a guild on life support.


About Fiannor
I have a day job but escape by playing WoW. I love playing a hunter, and my Lake Wobegonian goal is to become "above average" at it.

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