“If I intend on staying in the guild, I cannot just keep going without being more direct about the way I feel about the guild environment and how it has sapped the energy out of me – and a part of that means being ready for things to get more sour quickly followed by exiting the guild.”
Some prophetic writing from my last post on this very topic
Well, it happened.
Last night, after about 4 hours of text deliberations and discussions, watching wrestling for two hours, and then a surprisingly-brief-for-seventeen-characters /gquit spree (PCI-Express 4.0 NVME drive real benchmark, let’s go!), I quit my guild.
Let’s start with the funny twist on it, but first, to note before going in – I intend this to be as little about gossip or behind the scenes drama as possible. Some will be unavoidable, and I might get a little saucy in one spot, but I don’t intend this to be the drama bible or WoW TMZ (even though, from a business perspective, the post about stopping raiding did make a substantial amount of revenue from traffic). I want this post to be what the blog itself has always been in my mind – just me chatting about what I’m doing in (mostly) WoW and sometimes other games and hobbies.
That’s a lot of preface before the funny twist! So, let’s get that in focus.
I Was Trying to Come Back To Raid
What can I say, I’m a sucker for 4 uneven hours of raid-based entertainment per week.
I kept talking to my friends after I had decided to not raid (I guess that’s a weird way to put it, but now it’s staying) and after the patch launch on Tuesday, I felt my urge to raid rising. I was wanting to min-max again, I was looking at raid loot and the boss fights, and I was thinking to myself about my problems. The biggest part of my problems were the behavior of a couple of individual players and how those would be sometimes reinforced by a lack of negative response, and both of those players were on my current raid team. As the preliminary rosters were rolled into the officer channel on Discord, I saw an opening. Not enough DPS on the other team, too low of DPS, they would say, and maybe too many healers. The wheels were turning, and as I rounded out my Korthia gameplay that day, I ran Torghast for the first time in 9.1 (more on that soon), got a good chunk of Soul Ash, and recrafted my Havoc legendary to the back slot in preparation for raid gear. I told my friends I was coming around on raiding, but I wanted to go with them. It solved a lot of problems very neatly in my mind – I’m exiled away from the players who would sometimes make my raid time very negative and from the “progression at all costs” attitude I was coming to loathe which was more prevalent in the group I was in, my friend group gets more DPS and a better raid ratio, and I get my friends in raid again. Solved!
As we discussed it, another friend (who had sat from raiding in solidarity with me, which I appreciated) was also coming around and wanted to raid on his hunter. Fair enough, now we’ve got a stew going. But, he rightly pointed out something that my nature was all too eager to ignore – that I was in conflict avoidance mode. I wanted to avoid the discussion that would come if I said, “I want to raid with group 1, because of…” and then dumped about half of my prior 8,266 word essay on quitting raiding into a meeting. I knew it would be contentious. I knew it would be unwelcome by some. But mostly, I feared a response of inaction – that a simple ask for a friendlier, less-contentious raid environment would be met with derision.
But, I came around. Surely, I was being cynical and unfair. Surely, that would not be the case – it couldn’t be, right? After all, despite the differences I was feeling, the distance I felt, I liked the officers that were in our core. Surely they wouldn’t confirm that the possibility of that player being belligerent in response to asks to be a bit nicer was enough to stop them from joining me in asking for that?
Haha, mmm, well…we’ll get back to that. You probably already have an inclination for where this is going, if I am anywhere near the writer I think I can be!
A big part of my apprehension in that last post about leaving the guild comes from a knowable, understandable place.
We started this guild in February of 2011. Right now, the guild is just over a decade old. My relationship with my WoW guild is (was, old habits die hard) older than most relationships in my life. I’ve known my wife for half the time I was in the guild. I was with my ex-fiancee, start to finish, for less time than the guild existed pre-merger! I have a handful of friendships with deeper roots – most of which are with people I founded the guild with! – and then of course family.
The thing that always, always made me hesitate about leaving, besides the unavoidable conflict of it, is the idea of sunk cost. Let’s get psychological – the Sunk Cost Fallacy is an observed psychological phenomenon wherein a person commits said fallacy by continuing to engage with something because of the perceived loss of resources already invested into it. If I buy a combo meal at a fast food restaurant and eat past the point of fullness to avoid the waste of money already spent, that is an example of this behavior. You gain nothing or even lose something in the pursuit of not losing already-lost resources.
For me, I knew for a while that my desire to not leave the guild was down to this very idea. I had spent so much of my adult life building this guild with my friends, with new friends I made through the game, that the idea of ever leaving it felt like leaving that time on the table, or depriving it of its value. When I started this guild, I was 25 years old, and I turn 36 this year. An unfathomable number of miles are between me now and the person I was then – that plucky 25 year old had a much narrower outlook on life, had never left the United States or even really left the west coast of the US, and hadn’t really lived yet. I was defined by two things that motivated me both intrinsically and extrinsically – being a good, upwardly mobile employee, and being a competent, well put-together raid leader. (I guess I would throw being a good boyfriend in too, but then we could talk about how sunk cost affected me in that relationship and my ultimate breakup and we’d be here all night.)
While I could soliloquize about how I knew that my experience in the guild was about good memories and fun times that no future event could ever take from me, on some level, I did honestly feel like leaving the guild was not for me – that it would dishonor or taint those memories, that it would hurt my friends, and that I would lose that time investment – the literal years of building that place up from the skeleton of our prior raiding guild into something we could call home. It colored my every interaction when I was starting to feel left out, lost, or unwelcome. I’ve spent so much time with the people here, I owe it to them to continue on, to find a way forward, to help steer the ship through the uncertain waters. But that was all just an excuse, what I was telling myself to avoid the hard decision I knew I needed to make – was the guild right for me still or was it not?
Leaving the guild wasn’t going to be some earthshattering event for anyone, not even myself. It would suck, and it meant a lot of things for myself personally to admit out loud that I was thinking about it at all – but I owed it to everyone involved to air my feelings, to see the response, and to act based on that. I wasn’t doing any good stewing inside, feeling the way I was, not to me or anyone else. It would be a bummer if I left – I certainly didn’t want that, nor did I want it to be my first port of call. I knew that bringing up my feelings, as I so prophetically quote-embedded at the top here, could lead me out of the guild – but it could lead to a better guild environment.
So when my friends agreed that I should raid with them, under the caveat that I needed to be open with my concerns with the remaining officers, I agreed with them. We waited for a moment where we were all online, where we could discuss it readily and we were all at PCs with both Discord and Facebook Messenger open to discuss (okay, we didn’t coordinate to that degree, but I know that was my setup!). My friend who had wanted to sit out the tier with me in solidarity would also mention his concerns, and so we both started typing. I got cold feet, so he went first, and then I tagged in as his concerns were addressed to add my own.
Before the conversation, I had thought internally about where my red lines were, because I had one really obvious one – I wanted us to try doing something about the homophobia from the DK and his friend in Discord and guild chat. Besides that, I wasn’t really sure – a recommitment to bring more people to Mythic Plus runs, to work and train people up to higher keystone levels if they were interested were things I wanted, while the push for a progression team or benching raiders wasn’t something I wanted, but I wasn’t sure if that was a red line for me or not. I still think they’re fine on their own, but adding them into the mix for a merged guild, neither side of which seems to have had them before, felt really shitty to me, as I’ve documented before, and I did feel like that was close to my redline.
And in truth, I didn’t even know what the something I wanted to do about the chat environment was. Just that I wanted things to be better – I wasn’t about to outline a disciplinary plan or anything so stilted, but I was hopeful that we’d discuss it and figure out some happy medium. They’d talk about how they handled him pre-merger, we’d discuss what kind of options were on the table, and we’d find some happy compromise. Everyone gets to play in an environment that mostly works for them, good talk. Should be easy enough. However…
It’s Not That Easy
When the conversation started, there was a fair and reasonable amount of back and forth, and I felt confident that we were getting close to a solution, at least on the meter-shaming and related M+ group configuration problems that stemmed from it. I jumped in to talk about how that had affected the raid environment negatively in my eyes, and discussed my concerns from the prior post, opening up and being honest about not liking the guild direction and wanting us to figure out a way to make it better.
Honestly, it was bouncing a bit, but it was fine. One of their officers was fairly responsive and offering good counterpoints and it did feel like there was some point we could meet in the middle.
But there was this troubling mention of “we could just split.” All of my friends and I said no – that wasn’t necessary. And I do believe that sincerely – I feel like there’s a good group in the merger, and the problems I was talking about were largely driven by overloud individual players, coupled with a lack of negative feedback. It’s not unfixable, it just takes a bit of work at it. It sucks to do as a guild leader because it’s adults talking about behavior with one-another which is always weird, but hey – part of the burden, ultimately. Secondly, it was kind of baffling because it felt like a split, in theory, would be easy – which tag did you have before, okay, rewind – but in practice, there are people who came in post-merger, people who might not opt to go back to their original choice if offered that (on both sides) and then new additions might have been brought in by one player but become good friends with a player on the opposite “side” of the pre-merger guilds, and to me, it just looked like a mess. It felt like refusing to walk 500 feet and instead deciding to sprint 500 yards (I don’t know if 500 yard dash is a thing, but I put 500m initially and I didn’t like the mixing of Imperial and Metric, so…here we are). Like, obviously I’m going to say that my case was reasonable – a small ask that would entail far, far less effort than splitting the guilds again.
Discussion continued for a little bit until my former co-lead finally came in to offer up feedback.
At this point, I’d said pretty much everything I had to say – put my case on the table with the specifics that I previously discussed, had my redlines in mind (settled on two: no action on chat and pushing for a progression team again), and was looking on intently to see the response.
On my first redline, I had two responses that indicated inaction, but in different tones – one a regretful, knowing intonation – the first responder knew that they hadn’t really been able to keep him checked in the past, and I think knew that was an answer that would seal my decision. The second, however, took a different angle, with my former-co-lead ignoring the homophobia and personal attacks to instead focus on the performance-shaming aspect, basically stating that if the group feeling meter-shamed and not enjoying that process were owed a fun play environment, it would also stand to reason that the people being called out on this behavior also shouldn’t be asked to change, because that would negatively impact their play environment. It was an interesting attempt at mental judo, but it didn’t wash for one simple reason – the math doesn’t add up. If you ask two people to be nicer about the damage meters and at least 3 people benefit, that’s a net good. Unless…you also agree with the meter shaming. The biggest thing here that got me, however, was that in glossing over the part about personal attacks and homophobia, it kind of, almost, sounded like asking this one person to be nice and not spew random jokes about how being gay is bad or take personal cheap shots was negatively impacting their play experience.
And like, okay, I was a little heated, perhaps that was an uncharitable reading (it almost certainly was), but he kept glossing over it, typing a few more paragraphs without revisiting it, so I’m left to take a charitable reading which is still grounded in not wanting to do anything, or the worst interpretation, which sounds….well, pretty fucking awful as a take!
So that is redline one, already crossed, in one case gently, and in one case bounded over in a single step like the Kool-Aid Man smashing through a wall. I have my decision firmly made at this point, but I’m not trying to be hasty. How’s the response to number 2?
A second person talking about resplitting, but this time framed as splitting the progression players off.
Well, okay then. My path is clear.
It fucking sucked. I was (stupidly, perhaps) hopeful that before the conversation that something good would come of it. Having it was the right move, it was the adult thing to do, and I owed it to them and the guild to do something, anything to keep myself from feeling badly about things and having that manifest outwardly in bad ways to my fellow players. Unfortunately, the most cynical voice in my head did, as foreshadowed earlier this post, win. The most cynical reading was correct. They were willing to do nothing, or do something far harder than I had asked in a guild resplit, instead of making the very minor steps towards just saying, “hey, don’t say the F-slur in chat, don’t be weird about gay jokes, and maybe offer constructive criticism on DPS instead of just ragging on the player, please?” And I know the conversation would have been harder than that, but it was still, I believe, a far easier step than suggesting to split the guilds.
It sealed my fate, though. We talked for another hour or so past that point, but I told my IRL friend officers that I knew I was done at the point the conversation had veered in those directions. There was no saving it, to me. I’d asked for something very basic, maybe not easy, but simple at least. I wanted people to feel more welcome, whether that was people working on their performance, or those of different sexualities.
We discussed the meter-shaming point some more (apparently the only one my co RL wanted to discuss at any length) and had a few points. One pointed out that the meter-shamers are very helpful to people wanting to learn, which is fair enough. I pointed out that if they act like jerks to people, I don’t know that I’d expect them to be approached by people who might have been treated poorly by them. The response from O2 (I’m just gonna use that instead of co-lead from now on) was that they respect people who try to improve. Which, okay, but then it’s like who made them the judge of performance, who are they to determine what is or isn’t improvement in another player, and again – most of the people being hit with these comments aren’t asking for that.
It was just more frustrating than it needed to be. For me, I felt some progress and then O2 came in and bulldozed it all for me. We’d just ignored the actual hard part to circle back to M+ groups and meter-shaming and then one of our original officers (the only one that isn’t in my immediate friend group) asked if there was a line between banter and being insulting and were people perceiving that wrongly, and it was just going nowhere. It was quiet for a hot minute, there was a request to discuss further tomorrow, and that was that.
I appreciated the conversation for a couple of reasons. I think it was mostly civil and didn’t lean in a bad way. I think everyone listened and engaged well, for the most part – aside my notes about speeding past the meat of my actual beef (is…is that a good turn of phrase?) with the state of things and the rush to a guild split as a “solution,” it felt like everyone took the time to attempt to understand and get to a better spot. Unfortunately for me, we didn’t find that better spot as I had set it out, and we were deep in the redzone, past both my red lines.
I knew what I had to do.
But, I wasn’t about to immediately do it. I wanted time to decompress, since I spent most of my night last night literally just staring at text chats to that point. I watched AEW Dynamite, two hours of wrestling as a detox, and took a few deep breaths.
Ultimately, this is what I didn’t want. I had started the day playing multiple hours of the game, doing Torghast, joking with guildies, and thinking about what raiding with a new team would be like and how that might be the salve I needed on the whole situation. I finished the episode just past midnight on my DVR, and took a few more deep breaths. I sat at my computer, logged into World of Warcraft, and scrolled my character list to the bottom on the server. I took a few more deep breaths, my face resting in my hand posted on my desk. I logged onto the GM of my bank guild to open recruitment, a new trick you can use to self-invite by posting open for recruitment and then having your own characters sign up and accepting the invite on the GM toon. I know this because I play too much of this game. I logged out, back to the main list, to all the characters I had in the guild.
Fuck, I hate this.
I logged into my lowest alt in the guild – my Lightforged DK. Game loaded quick, /gquit. It was hard. I logged out and spent a couple seconds at character select feeling a tiny bit of doubt. But I had the answers to my questions, and I knew I wasn’t going to find the common ground I wanted. I repeated the process 16 more times. It got easier, almost trying to time trial it. I got slowed down by my level 60 alts, none of whom had been logged in post patch, so I had extra loading for the splash screen. When I got to my priest, I checked guild chat to see the confusion from one player. I finished up and exited the game, posted my goodbyes to both the officers and the guild as a whole (short and sweet, no notes about why), and left the Discord server. I also uninstalled Discord on my phone, for good measure. I took a few deep breaths.
I was at peace with my decision, because I had outlined it clearly for myself. I felt bad, because I knew it would confuse a lot of people I liked. I knew it would be discussed, and that people would have differing opinions of my choice, whether they knew the whole story or not. I know at least one ended up here, reading about the reasons I had left, and that was a funny thought I hadn’t had before – but a possibility I had considered when I was just quitting raiding. I knew my friends would suffer a bit more because of me – because I had sort of lit a powder keg, said “man this shit sucks,” and ran away with them still stuck in there. I knew they’d still have to talk through what would come next – what would come of the topics I had brought forward. I did feel guilty for that. At the same time, though, still overwhelmingly peaceful. This topic was getting to me quite a lot over the last two weeks, and I was relieved to have it off my plate. It did feel awful at the same time, however.
Selfishly, I set out on that conversation wanting to come back to raid, with what I saw as a solution that neatly solved most of the problems and was compatible with the “do-nothing” vibe I had ended up with. On the other hand, it didn’t actually solve for anything other than my personal happiness, and it was at the cost of basically ignoring the problems. I knew that my friends were right, and hey – being right sucks sometimes. This is one of them. Still, I’m glad I decided to try, and while it worked in a way that I thought I was cynical to even imagine, I knew that was a possibility and I had prepared myself mentally and emotionally for what leaving would mean.
In a way, I think this is one of the better outcomes, actually. Had I continued without saying anything, I might have had fun playing but felt bad about it. Had I left the guild without this conversation, as I had considered, I would have assumed the worst without any verification of it, and that would have weighed on my conscience. In a way, I needed to confront it – to get over my conflict avoidance and actually deal with the situation responsibly. Because there was always a fourth path – one where the conversation went somewhere and felt good. Not getting that does suck, but at least I put the cards on the table to allow for that to even have a chance of happening. It didn’t, and that’s genuinely fine, because it alleviates much of the guilt I was feeling. I made, what was for me, the right choice, and I did it having given everything a fair shot.
I’ve still got some Discord PMs to read through, and I spent a chunk of tonight bantering with a couple of now-former-guildies, all new to me from the merger, because I wanted to make clear as much as I could that I liked them and there weren’t sour grapes on my part to any of them. I also have a mix of public and private headhunters to consider offers from, which is both flattering and appreciated. But I have a final thing to consider to close out this post.
Do I Even Still Play World of Warcraft?
Oof, man. This one is tough.
In truth, in the heat of the moment last night, after g-quitting, I checked to see when my sub renewed. June 30th, already charged – damn!
In the past, when I wrote about perhaps quitting the guild, the thought was always centered on how that would likely mean that I would no longer play WoW in general. I don’t always take well to pickup-groups, I feel like I might be too socially uncomfortable to try and introduce myself to a new guild, and since the majority of the content I enjoy is group-required stuff, that would spell disaster for me, at World of Warcraft.
However…I’m not so sure I feel like this is the end for me. At some point in the next few days, I’ll probably log in to get my toons into my bank guild, at least, and I’ll probably do some alt Torghast and some Korthia stuff on my DH, or perhaps a few alts. I still have friends who do Mythic Plus, and I am in an in-game community that runs both Heroic raids and Mythic Plus cross-server, and I had a reasonably fun run in a failed +14 with them when I first met the group. I think it might be nice to be a free agent while I contemplate where to take my talents to next (oh god, am I Lebron James if he was like, remarkably average at basketball?), and I can still mix in some runs with my friends, my former guildies, and even perhaps with PUGs.
At the same time, this is the perfect month for a WoW break. I have a ton of split-out dental appointments (I just had four fillings done today and another appointment in 8 hours as I write this!), I have an apartment move at the end of the month, and all those projects I’m doing on the side still need doing. But I consider this blog one of those things, and I’m not done with observations about WoW.
Firstly, I have gameplay impressions from 9.1 to share. I’ve done revamped Maw content, Korthia, the new weekly Renown flow, and I’ll likely take some alts through later this week. I’ve done Torghast and I have observations about the new scoring system, talents, and related mechanics. I might dabble in some lore analysis with the new cinematic, but at the same time, I think it might be worth waiting for the whole current campaign to finish before getting too far in on the lore. I’m sure next week will come bearing a lot of surprises that will be worth discussing, however!
Secondly, I have some more FFXIV content I’d like to write. I’ve been playing a bit more of it lately and talking to former-guildies who’ve tried it out and it’s given me some interesting observations.
Lastly, I have a few one-off posts I might write about some things I’ve been enjoying outside of gaming lately. My wrestling posts are analytical death but treats to write so you’re probably getting another one of those really soon, and I’ve more strongly debated just throwing all prior nichebuilding to the wind to discuss Masterchef US, which my wife and I have been watching together since we had to put our dog down two weeks ago. We just finished season 2, where they start obviously turning up the reality show hijinks, so it’s actually a bit more interesting than just the cooking (still not a great show, though!).
Finally for this whole post, I want to say thanks to everyone who read and offered up comments of any sort on these heavier posts for me. They’re deeply personal and sometimes I know that it can be dull to read, so I hope I’ve given some value of entertainment if nothing else. This was a very hard thing to go through, much less to write, and I’ve tried to be aware that I am an unreliable narrator, where everything I say is filtered through my view of things. At the end of the day, I know this is just a game and that the decisions I make about it for myself aren’t huge lifechanging choices – but I think anyone who has been in an MMO long enough has been through something similar at least once.
And if it helps one person make the decision I had to make, then I suppose that’s at least sort of worthwhile.