I wanted to take a break from Shaman topics today to talk about a subject which equally fascinates and frustrates me, and which I have been struggling with since Day 1 of my raiding WoW career—guild loyalty. (I’m seldom the type of person to respond to other bloggers by way of my own blog, but after reading a recent topic posed for discussion at QQ Pew Pew, I felt compelled to share my relevant experiences.) I consider myself a loyal person by nature, but I guess in my definition that corresponds to being non-confrontational as well. “Stubborn” and “dedicated”, I’ve discovered, are two sides of the same coin. Historically, and as many of my ex’s would attest, I will stick with someone or something through blind faith and the strong belief that if I work hard enough, everything will turn out for the best. As you can imagine, it’s a strategy that doesn’t always yield favorable results.
Unlike some high end raiders, who would have you believe they sprung onto the game fully decked out in epics and leading meters by a mile, I’ve not shied away from mentioning my humble and noobish beginnings. While I’ve grown as a player and a person since the days of forgetting how to talk in party chat and having EVERYTHING on my bars, (and brace yourself I’m going to go into full cheesy philosophical here), my journey has shaped who I am and how I view the World (of Warcraft). I’ve been in 8 guilds over the past 4+ years, and my journey has been one about loyalty, of all kinds.
Starting at the beginning
My first real guild for my then-main, a mage, was a large “friends-and-family-that-also-raids” affair. It was a collective of 70+ players with 300+ toons and helmed by a tenacious yet endearing figurehead of a woman. There wasn’t a person in guild that she didn’t know and didn’t want to help, and she and her husband (an officer) were the glue that held everyone together. They were the type of people who would volunteer to run you through a heroic 50 times just so you could get the one trinket you thought you needed; they ran Karas for mains, for alts, for secondary alts, and for third alts that you never played. When I joined them, I found instant family among the membership and a safe place to develop as a player and as a raider.
When I was promoted to mage class officer after about 9 months, I gladly wore the title. I took over some management and recruiting duties, and helmed the implementation of the guild’s dkp system (which was a HUGE deal considering this was a semi-casual guild). I wasn’t universally liked, because I always thought we could do better and had no problem speaking up about it, but I was mostly respected for my consistent presence and ability to deliver top performance every raid, despite my relative newness to the game. Making friends with the other “hardcore” players only helped insulate my standing.
Somewhere along the way, whether it was simply because I was a great salesperson or because they actually believed it, the other officers started to sing the same chorus of “we can be better than we are”. And so after much strategizing and planning, we started to try to morph ourselves into something new, a casual guild with a dedicated raiding arm, a collaborative that spanned the spectrum of what players might want in a guild. We started to be fiercer, we upped our raiding schedule, we held LONG officer meetings to discuss management practices and boss strats, and we pushed our raiders hard. I was so proud when we started seriously working on Vashj, because I knew the skill that our team had and I was confident that we could be up there with the big guns if we simply put our minds to it.
But after several months, raiding 5+ nights a week, we discovered that willpower alone isn’t enough to make “friends-and-family-that-also-raids” into something more dedicated and, dare I say it, cutthroat. Frustration started ramping up for all people, and soon the guild leader and officers were neck deep in raiders who had lost the spark that had inspired such hope. After a couple of devout and long-standing officers called it quits, claiming burnout and needing “family time”, we let up a bit on the reigns and decidedly to try to regain what we had had before.
But the damage had been done. Not to the guild, maybe not to the guild leader (who was happier to be everyone’s friend rather than the dreaded Raid Leader), but the damage was done to me. Having tasted something more competitive, more driven, I knew I wanted more. To the handful of hardcore-but-retired players in our ranks, it was more than obvious that I had been bitten. But in my desire to show my appreciation for the players and guild leader who had fostered me from a nublet into a somewhat capable raider, I made a mistake that will haunt me for the rest of my days on this earth—I stayed silent. I didn’t mention my frustration to anyone, and I went along doing what I had always done before. But frustration is like an open wound, and before long, it was all I could do to keep my composure together during a 4-hour raid. The jovial nature, the we-may-or-may-not raid attitude, the underperformance, all of it drove me to absolute distraction. For maybe 3 or 4 months, I raided that way—frustrated, angry, guilty, ashamed and distressed.
And then the devil showed me an opportunity where none had been before. A new guild was developing on server, helmed by the same guild leader who, before his brief retirement, had propelled several server members into infamy, and he needed dps. And not just any kind of dps, my kind of dps. They would be powering through BT and MHJ and into Sunwell, and they would be doing it with the “more” I knew I craved. And after speaking with the guild leader at great length after he popped into vent to chat with one of our “old hardcore raiders gone casual”, I knew he was someone that I’d enjoy playing for.
So I stalled and debated, hoping that the opportunity would pass me by, like the candy bar in the office fridge that you hope gets eaten before, in a moment of weakness, you decide that chocolate would be better than the apple you brought in for an afternoon snack. But he was persistent, and after 4 weeks of putting him off, I caved. As most players would put it, I made a decision about where I wanted to be with my $15 a month. At that point, I had been in my starter guild for almost 2 years, and so it was with a heaping amount of guilt and shame that I pulled the guild leader into the officer vent channel to tell her my decision. The conversation wasn’t easy, it wasn’t short, and it was everything the opposite of light-hearted and up-beat. And despite all of my good intentions of hiding my frustration, the GL could not get over the fact that I, one of her inner circle, had been lying to her for the past month, pretending that everything was okay. I argued that I didn’t think it would have been right to ask her to shoulder my inner turmoil; she argued that I should have trusted her more.
And then, after 3+ hours awash with emotion, it was over. I gquit on my main, branded a traitor, a deceiver who had chosen selfishness over family.
I remained on the server and joined the new guild, who as promised, quickly rushed through MHJ and BT. But wearing the guild tag felt like wearing a Scarlet Letter emblazoned on my character, and chance interactions between myself and former guildmates had all the awkwardness of bitter divorcees pretending to be friends “for the sake of the kids”. And so when my shiny progression guild collapsed mid-way during Sunwell (the amazing GL had a mild stroke one night after a night of wipes), I took the opportunity to shake off my guilt and the mantle of disloyalty and transfer to a new server.
A Second Chance
Being me, I did my homework and selected a server which (at the time) was one of the most progressed out there in terms of PVE and PVP. Not that the latter was important to me, but I figured that the more skilled the player base, the better chance I had of finding somewhere more tuned to the qualities I was looking for. It was at that point that I also chose to make my Shaman my main, having been equally fueled and maddened by the constant epeen wars that waged at the top of the dps meters. (In other words: I was dammed if I did [top meters], and I was dammed if I didn’t [top meters].) Even more, I saw from my former guild that healers held so much more control over the outcome of a fight; I couldn’t resist the calling.
When I transferred Vixsin to her new server, she came only with some Kara and ZA gear to her name. A short while after her arrival, I joined a newly-formed guild, hoping to exercise my healing chops. It was a group of people not unlike those I had left on my previous server—friendly, supportive, rowdy, and generally good-natured. But I made it clear from the onset (since this was only several months before the 3.0 nerf hit BC), that I was only looking for a home for the remainder of the xpac. Thankfully, the GL was (and is) one of the most supportive people I’ve ever met, and had no issue bringing me along for the ride. So, like in my former guild, I showed up every night, gave it my all, and eventually helped the guild down Council before 3.0 hit. Sure they weren’t the level of my mage’s shiny progression guild, but there were perks to being known as someone who could put out 50% of the healing in a boss fight. For my efforts, on the guild’s first Illidan kill, the GL gave me a healer’s pre-Sunwell wet dream—my very own Crystal Spire of Karabor. And he did it despite the fact that he knew I was going to leave come WotLK, because, as he said, I had earned it.
Wrath launched a short while later, and true to my word, I qguit the guild, Crystal Spire in hand. There were no ill words, no animosity, no drive-by rage whispers from the GL—just the encouragement that I should take my skills and aim high when looking for a new place to call home.
The Wrath Experience
As it happened, I didn’t saddle up to one of the top guilds on server (many of whom disbanded/dissolved/server transferred during Ulduar) but rather joined a medium-progressed guild who had managed to kill KJ after the 3.0 buff. I had done several PuG raids with their members, including their very ferocious Canadian MT, the most leapy tree I’ve ever met and the guy who will always hold a special place as my shaman yoda. On a competitive server, they weren’t the cream of the crop, but they were my entrée into competitive raiding.
After only a couple months in guild, it became apparent that not everything was what it seemed. Raids were led by the ferocious Canadian and the leapy tree, with the GL taking a silent role in almost every operation. He was absent more than he was present, unless there was loot he needed and then you could be sure he was the one leading the charge. But I didn’t pay the situation much mind, happy to be raiding on my shaman with a group of mostly like-minded individuals. When it came time to put in serious work on Sarth 10 3D, I was the stand-in for the holy pally we didn’t have. And when we lost our DK tank, we made a tanking blueberry work, so that we could get Plagued Protos for every guild member who wanted one. And when we needed to do Undying achievements, I signed up for every one (I did 8 of them, total).
And then, as if to compensate for the guild’s successes and with no apparent provocation, the GL decided to turn us all upside down. In the middle of the night one evening, he logged on and proceeded to manually gkick every last toon in guild (there were around 250). Like all of our main raiders, I logged on the next day to no guild tag and a piece of hate mail in my Inbox—a rotten egg (yes, the actual item) accompanied by a slew of insults. A gbank full of materials and about 200k worth of gold was unrecoverable, and more so, our guild tag had been retained by someone with no intent of giving it back.
And so we did what any group of stubborn and scorned raiders would do—we formed a new guild and set about recreating what had been destroyed. I take full credit for the guild name, which unfortunately also could be shortened to an abbreviation for erectile dysfunction, but fortunately only lost a handful of inactive players during the transition (due to the bad name choice or attrition, I’m not sure). For my efforts, and for the second time in my career (but not the last), I was offered an officer position. But I declined, the burns from my first guild still very much in evidence.
New guild tag equipped, we finished out the first raid instances, actually managed to grab The Immortal and 5 min Maly to round out our Black Proto Drakes, and readied ourselves for Ulduar. We did PTR raids, and upon launch, were out of the gate in 25s. And when our main raid ended on the first night of release, myself and a select group of players (read: those willing) set about the task of clearing 10man. We raided straight through and took only one 5-hour sleep break. We spent 10+ hours on Vezax alone, and in the wee hours of the morning on April 18st, our scruffy little group managed to snag US#1 Secrets of Ulduar (10man). As I’ve said countless times before, it was the most thrilling experience of my WoW career to date.
If I could have only raided with those 10 people for the rest of the expansion, I would have been a happy camper. But a few months into Ulduar, our de facto leader and MT, the ferocious Canadian, made the choice to cut back his raiding hours due to family issues. Two of our main dps elected to quit to accommodate growing workloads, and my own shaman yoda hung up his spurs. Still we recruited and shouldered on, working our way into hard modes, albeit a tad behind much of the competitive raiding population. We were struggling to hold it together and I feared that we’d find our end in Ulduar’s later hard modes.
Now if we’re talking about seminal events in my guild history, and tests of guild loyalty, then there’s one important discussion that I’ve not yet touched upon—the Ulduar healer legendary. It was a big debate for most guilds, but ours was left in the hands of one very decent man—our leapy tree RL. So, given that I was the only other healer with a viable claim on the item, prior to the release of Ulduar, the RL broached the idea with me that due to the lack of “ideal druid stats”, the legendary should be mine. While I think my heart skipped a beat reading those words, the debate that ensued was something akin to a “you should have it”, battle-of-the-selfless argument. In the end, as I so like to do, I changed his mind and he acquiesced to start collecting shards. But nowhere in that discussion did I mention one of my motivations for not taking the legendary—if I left the guild, I didn’t want to take their hard work with me (or said differently, I didn’t want to be tied to the guild by guilt). Looking back, I oftentimes wish that I would have been more selfish, would have replied “Yes, I’ll take that legendary!” and felt like all the time and effort I put in would have balanced out the effects if I had dipset with all those shards. I still wonder, does doing the “right” thing for the guild count if you do it for some of the “wrong” reasons?
I did eventually leave the guild, when the shard count was around 35, I believe. After having been with them for around 9 months, seeing the members that I appreciated playing with flake away and after a serious chat with the RL and officers about diligent progression (which they weren’t interested in pursuing), I once again had that dreaded conversation. But this time, it went differently—the GL told me that he was happy to have had me for as long as they did, and that he knew I would find my way to the top. Even the RL, who had borne much more than his fair share of my frustration, sent me off with glowing praise and his best wishes.
The end of an xpac
And so, over a year past, and 3 guilds later, I find myself still wondering about this concept of “guild loyalty”. The two guilds between Ulduar and my current home on BDF collapsed under their own weight, victims of two guild leaders making “it’s my $15” decisions about where they wanted to spend the rest of their days (hint: it wasn’t at the helm of a progression guild). And both times it happened, I felt betrayed by these people I hardly knew, who in my mind, had some sort of implied commitment to the guild that they had created and that they had kept going all those years. Loyalty, I’d argue, is all about perspective.
We all have our demons, experiences in our past which don’t conjure the best of memories, which make us cringe slightly and wonder if at some point we’ll be judged on those situations alone. The demon that rides my back is the one that whispers in my ear about the collapse of my first raiding guild, the one I naively tried to make into something greater. After I left, the guild stopped raiding almost entirely, and ~ 6 months later it collapsed. Since that guild, over 2+ years of raiding, I’ve maintained 100% attendance in every raiding guild I’ve been a part of, and the number of times I’ve been late to a raid can be counted on one hand. I’ve honored every commitment that I’ve made and helped 50 or so people get Ulduar and ICC mounts, long after I’d earned my own. I’ve farmed rep, items, mats, instances, and played as Elemental, because that’s what’s been needed. I’ve worked my ass off the entire way, desperate to prove that I am worthy of being where I am.
And yet, that demon sits, perched on my shoulder, ready to nod in agreement with anyone who should suggest that I am not the paragon I try to be. Because he knows, behind it all, I am … disloyal.