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The one thing I have found running a social style guild is that I get anxious about how guildies are doing.  And by “doing”, I mean feeling internally about the guild as a place they want to continue to log into.  Are they getting bored? Are they getting frustrated?  Anxious? 

Since ours is a smaller socially focused guild (about 180 toons and 40-50 accounts) the typical motivations of your “average” WoW player that fuel a guild are harder to count on.  Establishing a regular schedule for our guild is a huge hurdle.  This makes me, as a social guild leader anxious, because that is when you begin to worry if the community you have created is successfully keeping people’s attention. 

We all know it’s a fact that the majority of players recognize they are “progressing” by getting new gear.  This game is ultimately gear based as the source of fed accomplishment.  At least 85% of those that play regularly would say if you’re not consistently upgrading your gear, what’s the point.  I guess it’s good that 99% of our base is made up of that remaining 15%.  When I start to personally stress that things are getting stagnant in the guild, that maybe my guildies are losing interest in being a member, that’s when I remember the importance of events. 

A well timed, well planned event has saved my ass a few times.  But events do more then simply ease my mind whether I am doing my job as a GM or not.  As it goes with any guild that is successful and endures over the long term, the officers are a big part of it.  Luckily, I have officers that are very creative and enjoy coming up with new ways to use the game in a non-traditional fashion.  We have the typical stuff going on: screenshot competitions, races and such.  But for each one of the standard type events, adding a twist or extra layer of flavor to make it stand out is extrememly important for it to attract the attention of your guildies. 

I remember back in the day in high school and college when the teacher/professor would announce some big creative project.  Then (the jerks) would begin rattling off all the great ideas that previous students turned in. It destroyed so many opportunities of putting my individual twist on an idea that I thought I could create.  When I heard it was done before, I typically refrained from even trying.  So the rest of this post isn’t about actual ideas and events that we run as a guild… but more about providing what we look at to help get the creative juices flowing and why conjuring those ideas help out the guild as a whole.

Recently, we have been using numbers off the stats page of the Achievement page to build events off of.  Some of the numbers can change frequently and can be directly or indirectly adjusted.  This provides a great source of creative fodder for events.  I was blind to it, but luckily have creative officers who recognized this and used it to thier advantage.  Recognize that time is a factor in this game… and time stops when you log out.  This can be a great source of “racing”.  The new guild achievements and guild profession achievements benefit the entire guild and many allow the entire guild to help out no matter what level.  Look to those as a source of ideas.  Even lore and the creative talents outside of the game can still be used in the guild.  Remember, as social guilds, our contacts more often than not will extend outside of the game and social networking sites are a benefit, not a hinderance.   

But the other way to brush some of that GM worry about a stagnant guild base in a social guild is to let all in the guild know that they can be creative and find their own way to devise a great social event opportunity for the entire guild.  Making sure that your ranks are set appropriately and that all those in the guild you trust can offer their ideas on the calendar is of the utmost importance.  Why… because it provides your guildies an opportunity to get busy thinking about the entirety of the game and not just their own toon.  They have the opportunity to think about the community and how their specific perspectives on the environment can affect the guild as a whole.  Some find out that they have a knack for finding wierd things out about the game.  For others, they like to try to test an idea against the constructs of the game developers environment.  The ability to create an event that has no loopholes, is fair with a minimal ability to cheat is a challenge… and you may have some great creative minds that enjoy that aspect of gaming.  LOL, a game within a game.

The other bonus to making sure events are ever present is that it fills the guild calendar up.  Perception is key.  George Orwell taught me that.  When there is a lot of items on the guild calendar it demonstrates that the guild is active.  Creating opportunites for guildies to get together is what it is all about anyway, right.  Of course events need substance.  You can’t add a bunch of empty events on the calendar and expect people to be impressed by it.  Though, it is equally true that a bad event, one that goes horribly wrong, brings guildies together and provides that, “remember that one time when we got together for (insert event here) and it was sooo fail.”  That moment is a tying of guildies together.  They now have something in common if they didn’t have anything in common before.  The more “tying” events that are created between guildies, the stronger the bonds that are built between them.  Once those bonds are created and the word spreads, more guildies will be inclined to sign up for the next event… whatever it may be.  All they know is that the last one was so funny and even though it wasn’t perfect, those who were there had a great time. 

Our events, and the way I describe them on our guild website, tends to be a great advertisement for the guild as a whole.  New folks that join the guild quite often are impressed by the ideas of our events and remark on their originality.  For those that want a social guild, it is a huge selling point that attracts like minded individuals to want to congregate together.  This means more recruits.  Then, you sit back and cross your fingers that since you have more players coming in… a bigger pool and base of players, that you can get that ever elusive raid going.   Now you are satisfying that gear need for a base of players in the guild. 

Another side result is that guildies see new people joining.  Any ideas that the guild is floundering or stagnant are tempered with the natural reaction that if people are joining then I am in a guild that is rife with possibility.  Ultimately it reduces guild stagnantion anxiety.

A word to the wise though… despite how awesome any event that you or your officers create may seem to be, it only makes it better when there are cool prizes available to the winner(s).  If you have the means available, non-combat pets and mounts off the Blizz site are a real draw.  But off course gold, rare in-game pets, high level crafted gear, etc., works just as well.  Other ideas for prizes to consider are out of game, but still guild related benefits.  I will break my rule and give you two ideas we have used: we have allowed members to name their own guild channels in our vent and choose the background music for the guild website for a particular period of time.  These are little personal touch prizes that extend beyond the game and are very satisfying as everyone gets to see/hear their own personality shine even when not logged into the game.

As I stated earlier, being a GM of a social guild is about getting people together to create experiences as a guild and foster new friendships in game.  In order to do that, as GMs we need to get people out of their comfort zones, into social environments and flourish.  The best way to do that is by creating events that all can participate in together.  In turn, by doing that, we, as GMs, are actively pushing the guild forward towards the goal and mission we created our community for in the first place.  Players are not just active in game, but in many cases are active out of game.  They log in and see activity… which breeds activity.  They are out of game and want to chat with guildies or get in game when they can.  When GMs provide the opportunity for creativity and an alternative to the “gear grind” we are truly embracing the MMO genre of gaming.

‘The one thing about a GM who has experienced computer problems… well not really problems, but basically the absence of an ability to log on… is the importance of being able to stay in contact with guildies so that an absence (short or extended) is not one of GM absence, but keeping in touch.

If you as a GM all the sudden find yourself separated from your guildies because your comp decided to eat a super burrito and drop it’s contents, your absence could be detrimental to the guild. The one thing that is a constant with being a GM is that your guild expects that you always can log on.

In my case I got a terrible virus by hitting a WoWhead site looking up BoT trash, and it screwed up my comp. I am not an IT guy… I have a degree in psychology, not computers or engineering. So once my computer started to betray me (much like my sweat glands when I just want to chill at a party at get to know new people) I knew that it was my job as a GM to make sure my officers were aware of the issues and, even better my guildies, knew what was happening.

As a GM our presence is vital to morale. OK, i guess it depends on the size of the guild which determines how important the GMs presence is. It is debatable that in a raid style guild the presence of the GM is more important than it is in a social guild. A great topic for another blog….

It is the goal of a GM of a social guild to recruit and create a guild environment that can exist without the GM. The true test of this is when the GM suffers the BSOD and is rendered an observer from the website, but not in game. Note that I say “an observer from the website”.

This assumes that the GM has a website for the guild. What we are ultimately talking about is when the GM experiences a situation where he/she can’t get online to tell his/her guildies that for a while they are out.

Thus, setting up the ability to contact your guildies through other social networking avenues is very important. As a GM your comfort level with establishing and maintaining these types of outside communications should be second nature. If you can’t trust your officers with contact info that can allow them to reach you immediately then you should check your comfort level with your officers and their place within the guild.

Here’s what I have in place and see what aspects of communication makes sense to you as a GM:

- Website, with forums and email blasts
- Guild Facebook
- individual Facebook with Officers and Guildies I trust
- phone contact with officers
- email contact with officers (and vice versa for everyone in the guild)

All these are low risk options to communicate with my guild if I am at work, have a smart phone, have the ability to use a friends computer or even use a pay phone… if they even exist anymore.

As a GM, your presence is the ultimate moral boost at the end of the day. If you’re not logging in, your guildies will find a reason not to either. Over time it will lead to /gquits.

While we all have our own perspectives on social media, remember this is ultimately a social game. As a GM you need to ensure your presence is felt even if you can’t log on to WoW proper.

GuildingBlocks is Here!

I established this blog to provide my experiences, ideas, news, failures and successes when it comes to running a social based World of Warcraft guild.

It’s not about calling out individuals in my own particular guild and not about whining and complaining about guild drama.

This space is about relating ideas and setting up a helpful place for all GMs who run a more social style guild to come and get information and spark a dialogue that really has been neglected out in the WoW community.

I look forward to jamming on my keyboard about things that spark my interest when running a social guild, discuss things that keep me tossing and turning at night and trying to verbalize why, and run by possible solutions to those who may be having the same issues.

I look forward to writing for you all and hope you find it helpful.

So as a GM I really came into it haphazardly. After playing for a while I got my friends into the game. Since we had all been friends for years, it was natural to start a guild.

As a group of friends I knew that we spent a lot of time talking about doing things, but never really getting them done. Considering I helped get all my friends to cough up cash (that night at a party, I might add) to set up WoW accounts, eventually I felt a kinda sense of responsibility to make sure our talks about starting a guild actually happened.

So one day, after talking to a future co-founder I got the gumption to walk into the guild creation spot, get a guild charter and start selling signatures for 4 gold to get it off the ground while my friends weren’t online.

Soon enough we had our guild, tabard design, name and foundation on our server. (These are all types of events that i do mean to address in this blog for those that may be curious.)

After that I thought… shit…. what do I do next. This is where I always have felt like I could have saved myself a lot of heartache. I had basically only been playing the game for about 8 months at that time. My friends had all gotten accounts at around the 6th month of me playing… so needless to say we were all new to the landscape. None of us had really experienced an MMORPG in the scope of what we were playing together at this point.

Once my friends had initially signed up we all ended up in a guild for about a couple months before we all /gquit and started the guild I am talking about now.

So needless to say none of us had any guild management experience whatsoever.

And that brings me to my point; starting a guild blind, with not just an absence of what a community is about, but also how to lead others in this (initially) socially anonymous environment was something of a burdenful task I had no idea I was getting myself involved in.

Immediately it came to mind that I needed rules, email, a place to put all our info. Then I discovered the guild bank, rankings, permissions and how those affect each player. (Needless to say my close personal friends) And OH LORD when invites, behavior, expectations and running in groups popped up as issues, did I just feel like I made a mistake.

I have been through a lot. Our guild was founded in November of 2008 and I have been running it ever since. I have experienced pitfalls, disappointments, successes and times of sheer joyousness related to the guild I run. It is a rollercoaster running a guild. I have made a great many mistakes, a great many changes and changed the lives of guildies for the better a great many times.

Honestly, while I now look upon how I started the guild, I see exactly what I would have done differently. At the same time, taking it all in and reflecting on the experiences that have shaped my ability to GM, I wouldn’t have done anything differently.

That is what this blog is about. I will hope to tackle various topics realted to the aforementioned story, and all things that have happened since in order to provide insight, advice and hopefully a positive outlook that, yes, you will get through it.

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