For about a year now, I’ve been fighting something of a feeling in World of Warcraft.
For 10 years, I’ve been a part of a raiding guild that I am an officer of – was the raid leader when we started, in fact. The guild was built from the ashes of the guild my friends and I called home during Wrath – the guild leader had left for Rift (remember Rift?), but was (rather dickishly!) logging in to prevent us from transferring the guild leader title to me or the person who ended up being guild leader alongside me as raid leader.
Functionally, we were fine – the guild was in spirit ours, but in principle, not so much. Coupled with guild challenges earning money for a guild bank we couldn’t count on, and the new to Cataclysm guild leveling system giving perks to someone we couldn’t trust, and the strain broke that guild – we all left and formed the new guild, which has persevered to this day.
In some ways, it is a minor miracle that the guild made it through all of that time. Regardless of how the game was perceived as doing, we trudged on – 10 player, normal raiding was our niche, and when flexible raiding and difficulty was introduced with Siege of Orgrimmar, we became a Normal into Heroic guild, progressing both difficulties in all the tiers we could.
A lot of it is down to effort – when I was raid leader, I made every effort to ensure the guild had a working raid group, trying to make the 10 player limit work even as we sometimes expanded slightly past that mark. When I went on hiatus during Mists of Pandaria, those who stepped up in my absence did a good job of keeping things steady and moving even as a bit of upheaval occurred. Raiding was fun, but not too serious, and by the time Legion arrived, we were in probably the best state we’ve ever been in.
Unlike a lot of guilds, we knew most of our members in real life or at least had met them. I went to the original guild leader’s wedding, and he was invited to my 2013 wedding that never happened. The original guild leader married one of our DPS – they met outside of the game! – but it was funny. At the wedding, I ate and drank with people whom I had played WoW with in that guild. None of them were people I even knew before WoW, but they had become friends. Many of our other raiders were people I knew at home – friends all around.
For the members who joined or came in after the beginning, I knew their real names, and met nearly all of them at Blizzcon 2017 in person. For the few I hadn’t met IRL, I was friends with on Facebook or followed on Twitter.
This made the guild a really tightly cohesive unit – and gave a layer of understanding to our runs which was fantastic. It felt great to have a level of understanding on which we all operated, to know that we all approached the game from a similar mindset. Our approach to new raid tiers, to how we would clear content in the game, was easily established and didn’t require a lot of discussion or argument at the beginning of each tier. We also all started to wear out on content at the same time, and hiatuses at tier end and expansion end were easily agreed upon, with the raid group reconvening in time for the next bit of content.
We’ve had a few people outside of the main cluster join over the years, and in most cases, with only a few of them at once, it was easy to establish the kind of environment I enjoyed. What I would perceive as my legacy as guild leader and raid leader is that I worked to maintain a sort of friendly environment, focused on clearing content, but also knowing the limitations of each raider.
Last year, though, we had hit sort of a weird conundrum. We were getting close to a 10 player roster again, rather than the 12-15 we had throughout much of the flexible raiding era. While we had what we needed to still raid and continue to progress, there was a desire to match breakpoints and ideal ratios of roles, so we had to do some recruiting.
My thought was that we could either continue as we were, or recruit just to a breakpoint – a steady 14. However, an opportunity presented itself – a guild merger.
As we pushed Crucible of Storms, the merger was trialed and quickly moved upon, and within a couple of weeks, we had a merged, effectively new guild.
Now, all of that preamble has a purpose here for me – this changed the character of the guild sharply. The unified attitudes on content progression and player performance we used to have eroded. The guild we had absorbed was full of players who were…not necessarily elitist, but definitely more focused on competitive play. They were concerned with parses and maximizing performance – changing talents per pull, having AoE and single target gear sets, and all the trimmings that come along with that.
This alone isn’t bad, and early on, it was fairly suppressed. Some of the people in the raid were a bit more gung-ho about it than others, but it was definitely more of a running theme with these new raiders, and as Eternal Palace ground on and we transitioned into Ny’alotha, it became more apparent, to the point that they’d often start to meter-shame or generally be aggressive. Not a lot of them, but outliers – one of their players does it consistently and is certainly on my shitlist, but a few of their others do it here and there, and the rest are largely cool and I like them.
It did, however, make raiding more tedious and annoying. As our Discord admin, I had often contemplated muting the rogue who was the cause of my aggravation (it is always a rogue, isn’t it?) but my nature to avert conflict meant that short of quips aimed at him, I just tuned him out and played.
Ny’alotha was a good tier for us – probably the first since Cataclysm where we’ve done the Glory achievement when the tier was current, and things stayed together for quite a while. For me however, when content was farm, it was the worst – because this rogue would never shut up on Discord. Ever. My mute finger was twitching, possessed, positively dying to mute this motherfucker.
Finally, about a week and a half ago, I hit the wall – we had our achievements, news starting to leak that Shadowlands wasn’t going to be as early as I would like, and yet still trudging along two nights a week through farm content, and I knew it when I logged in to start the raid week – I wasn’t going to last until Shadowlands without doing something aggressive to this dude, and I wasn’t having fun.
So I made it my last raid week.
So far, I’ve logged in about once a week to farm old raids (so I’ll have discussion points there), and I’ve been eagerly keeping up with the Shadowlands alpha (no invite yet though, sadly!) and that has kept me pretty happy. I definitely feel like I made the right choice, and the time since has made me far happier.
But I am left with a somewhat complicated choice related to the draft title of this post (Losing a Home in Game – but it was too dramatic even compared to the clickbaity one I used!). A lot of thought is starting to turn to perhaps leaving and finding a new guild for me when Shadowlands comes into focus. I’ve been consumed by the thought that the guild I built with my friends 10 years ago is dead – there’s some new thing that has come up in its place that masquerades as it with a new name, but it just isn’t the same. The environment isn’t the same, the gameplay isn’t the same, and the degree of ease I once felt logging in and raiding is replaced by a gnawing sense of unbelonging. I’m sure that for many of our raiders, including several of the originals from all those years back, this new guild is just as good – not everyone is looking for the same things I want in a guild. But that camaraderie is gone for me, replaced with dick-waving parsing contests, a hyperactive rogue talking so much in Discord I want to stab him, and this sort of awkward seam where the fused guild uses their real names and knows a lot about each other, and our originals know a lot about each other, and there is very little crossover outside of that.
Now, the flipside is that I know if I leave, I’m not likely to find a guild that offers the kind of environment I worked to cultivate over the years starting back in 2010. I’d be a spoke on the wheel of a raid group, but in some ways, that has some appeal. Part of the apprehension and disappointment I currently feel is due to the fact that for whatever the guild is and has become, I felt a sense of ownership and pride in what it once was. That environment, the friendly atmosphere and interpersonal relatability, that was something I felt a lot of joy in and it took some work to reach a point where that was the case. As weird as it might sound, at the point in my life where the guild formed, I needed the skills that leading a raid offered me. I needed the chance to build a group and see it move to a point of success. The skills I sharpened in that environment brought me professional opportunities and improved my quality of life.
And so if I can’t find that environment and don’t have the desire to put in the work to create such a thing, I guess I find myself with a weird dilemma. Does that mean I just quit WoW altogether? Would I just play the game alone and maybe find pickup groups for normal raiding? Is there another path?
Contemplating all of this leaves me with no easy answers, and trying to do so while also thinking about playing current content was too much, and so now here I am, not playing WoW while also thinking about what happens when I resume serious play.
The odds are pretty good that I simply get over it and return and play normally as though I never reached a breaking point where I contemplated if leaving the guild I helped build was worth it because the social environment has reached a point where I no longer feel welcome and as though I belong and I don’t have an easy path to remedy that or the support of others in trying to better integrate the two guilds into a single cohesive whole.
But, there is at least a possibility that I think about other options, and I’m not quite sure what shape that would even take now.
For now, though, that is a Shadowlands problem, and Shadowlands is still a pretty far way away.