Blog Post

Drama in Virtual Communities: Part I

I’ve been playing World of Warcraft (WoW) for maybe 3-4 years. Initially, I played predominantly by myself even though the game is set up so that you can socialize with other players. I began playing WoW because all the single-player fantasy, role-playing games were no longer being made for the Mac (and I’m a Mac user); but I dreaded having to play with other people. I just wanted to be by myself, goofing around, blasting enemies, and becoming incredibly game-wealthy. I found it personally satisfying to be able to smote 10 enemies with one fireball and being ridiculously loaded in some reality somewhere (since I’m not in real life – lol).

But since I could no longer play by myself, I allowed myself to be convinced to play WoW. For a long time in the game, while you are leveling up your character, you can really be pretty much on your own. You can skip dungeons, which require groups of people, and other group quests altogether. It makes leveling slower and sometimes more difficult (because the better gear for your character is obtained in dungeons and by doing group quests, and this gear makes you more powerful and better able to handle what the game throws at you); but it is doable.

Periodically players would ask me if I wanted to join their guild. Guilds are formalized groups of players who have decided to work/play together and share resources. Each guild has its own value system (such as “we raid dungeons every night at 8pm and if you aren’t there, you don’t get to go” or “we are a family guild and we don’t make anyone do anything in particular, just have fun” or “you have to be at least 20 years old to be in our guild, no kids!”); and each guild has its own ways of managing resources and game play. Each guild invite I got, that I accepted, ultimately ran stale on me. I didn’t feel a part of the guild. I didn’t pay attention to guild chat. No one really made an effort to get my involved and I was too shy to do so myself. So I quit guild after guild until I decided “no more guilds!”

Then one day, I’m hanging out in a small town in the game and this player with a really weird name asks me to join her guild. I believe I said something flip like “why should I?” Somehow she was able to convince me to do this. And off I went on a series of guilds that I was heavily involved in and had great personal attachment to. (Now it is impossible for me to not be in a guild. I have three level 80 characters. Level 80 is the level cap currently; and if you are that high up in levels, you really do have to be in a guild or else you just don’t experience a lot of end-game content otherwise.)

I really loved the people in that guild. They were funny, kind, and helpful. We played in chat – I mean we cracked jokes and performed and played with words and phrases. I had so much fun with those people. I ultimately left that first-love guild due to a disagreement with the Guild Master (GM). I was an Officer in the guild by then; but I didn’t like the way the GM excluded guildies from dungeon runs. He only wanted his best buddies and officers to go. Other guild members were not allowed. This conflicted with my value system. I tried to talk to him about this. He didn’t agree with me. So I left. When I left, some of my friends in the guild followed me. The Officer who has originally invited me to the guild refused to speak to me.  C’est la vie.

So there I was – guidless – and now having the “I like guilds” itch  (or loneliness?) when I remembered this really interesting person I had spent all day with one day slaying the Headless Horseman for the Halloween holiday events. She was running a guild and I asked her if she remembered me and could I join. She did and I did. I loved that guild too. There was a group of us that would run this 10man dungeon every weekend and I loved the tank (the main melee fighter who lead the fights and directed the group) and his wife. I was so impressed with his lack of arrogance, his humility and kindness. I really enjoyed all those folks.

One day I log on and the tank sends me a personal chat saying hello. I noticed he was in a different guild. Alarmed, I asked him about this. He told me the night before some of the people in the guild backstabbed my friend, the GM; and so she and others left and formed a new guild. Well, I joined that guild because of the GM, so naturally I quit and followed her and the tank to this new guild.

What had been happening, among other things, was that since the GM was hearing impaired and couldn’t use voice over IP chat (like Ventrilo, aka Vent), other people in the guild were bad mouthing her on Vent. Interesting to me how technologies exclude people in more than just the technical sense; and how others take advantage of this to cause harm.

I loved this guild too but as I will tell you in my next blog post, I ultimately quit this one. So stay tuned for next time.



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