In what I guess will be the final chapter (for now) of what I am jokingly calling The Unpleasantness Trilogy, I wanted to followup my guild-leaving saga with some observations.
As of this writing, all my characters on my home server are safely in my bank guild from 2012, with ranks based on which character is my current raid main, past raid main, dedicated alts, down to the banker characters I had once upon a time, one of whom is an original bank alt and the other is a boosted dwarf shaman that I had in the guild so I had a bank manager on my main account (I have 6 WoW accounts but only pay for one, and yes, it was a problem!). I’ve done Korthia dailies for a few days now on my Demon Hunter, did the full gamut of opening quests on my Druid, and then finished leveling my mage to 60 and was pushed into Korthia soon after finishing the Maw intro quests from 9.0, which is a bizarre experience, although gear scaling means that Korthia isn’t totally undoable at low gear levels (it does suck because of a lack of oomph, however).
At the same time, I think some references to The Unpleasantness are going to be unavoidable, because I might have been only the first domino in a series of them to tumble over, which is, with some distance, incredibly funny to me! (Spoiler alert – it’s most of the post. I should really stop making claims at the top of a given post, eh?)
It’s Easier To Play For Me Now
I loved my guild, genuinely. A part of the reason I cared about the social environment within it is because I wanted everyone to love it and to be able to have fun. With the way things have been since Castle Nathria, it was very difficult sometimes to want to play, or to want to engage with the guild. When I logged in, I would often keep my head down, and it helped that some of my troublemakers made little effort to learn what characters belonged to whom. I subverted this further by having my original raid main in the guild note for most of my alts, which meant that unless a player were with us from February 2011 through to…about October 2016, they might never have seen me play my old priest. That wasn’t purposeful, mind you – just lazy on my part!
Sometimes it would feel difficult to play peacefully, especially around the end of the raid tier and around April, when my former co-lead threw a tantrum and quit playing because he didn’t get invited to the Mythic Plus groups he wanted. I play at weird hours sometimes, which helped, and as the Mythic Plus push went on with more intensity and I was a part of it, it became a little bit easier still. By the end, I’d say it was okay for the most part. 9.1 brought back more guild chat and it was nice at most times to have a bit more activity. Generally, however, unless I’m partaking in a social activity, I tend to prefer to be head-down, keep to myself, and just play. I should clarify that this is what I mean by “easier” – that there was less chat to engage with, less to read, and less to deal with as an officer.
The downside of this is that I miss out on fun sometimes, like banter, because I’m in a 20-character guild alone, but it ultimately isn’t that bad. I’ve replaced that guild chat banter with…other banter, which I’ll get to later!
I Still Have Plans for Raiding and Mythic Plus
This was the big one that would determine my fate. How would I keep going in the game, functionally guild-less, for these group activities? Ah, well, here’s the rub.
Raiding has been easy enough. The cross-server community I met during my grind up through the Mythic Plus ranks has a home guild on Wyrmrest Accord that fills out their raids via the community, and they had DPS slots. They raid more than my old guild (6 hours a week in two nights vs 4 hours in 2 nights) but it’ll scratch the itch, and I’m eager to see how I do in a raid tier where I am not encumbered with the management of the raid or guild structure facilitating the raid, since it has been over a decade since that was the case.
Mythic Plus is the easier of the two to fill out – I’ve pugged mid-range keys before, and now I have a Season 1 KSM achievement and a high base item level to start, so that will help me get where I want to go. Havoc looks strong for this season, which also helps – the meta changes coupled with Havoc single-target buffs mean my main is more viable for Mythic Plus than last season, and Havoc was already pretty good in Mythic Plus in Shadowlands Season 1.
But I won’t have to PUG all my keys, because…
A Lot (A Startling Number, Actually) Of My (New) Old Guildies Reached Out
When I joked about being a revolutionary leader in my original post on not raiding (the very roots of The Unpleasantness Trilogy), my assumption in my head was pretty basic. If I led a walkout, I’d basically get my original guildies who are still playing minus 1-2. It wouldn’t have been enough for an all-guild raid, and I still believe that being the instigator of such a thing would have been a shitty play, and I am glad that I didn’t do it.
However, that hasn’t stopped me from ending up as an insurrectionist of sorts.
A fair number of people who joined the guild via the merger reached out to me directly as the dust started to settle, some to share basic, “sorry to see you go, I enjoyed playing with you” messages and others to say, “this sucks and I’d like to know more about why it happened.” In those conversations, I’ve made friends with people I would have missed, who I genuinely did enjoy playing with (the very same people who made me think a split was unwise, because they are in many cases the synthesis of the two guild’s positions on content and play environment) and got new Battletag friends and commitments to play more as the new season starts up this week.
I thought that was pretty cool, and it made me feel like I was actually sort of cheating the system in a weird way. I got to clear the weight off my shoulders, bailed before the actual raid rosters or much actual season discussion started because of the failed discussion about making things friendlier in the guild, I got broad agreement on my priorities from a large amount of the guild, I get to raid still, and I get to push keys with people I genuinely enjoyed playing with and already have favorable connections to!
It was a priority for me to not cause drama, to leave cleanly, and to only openly acknowledge drama here (because no one in my guild short of people I know read this blog, although a couple of others have come along to read as well), both because it was the right thing to do in my mind, but also because I’m sometimes a messy bitch that loves drama. Rather than over-explain or attempt to narrativize in guild chat or the guild Discord, I simply said my goodbye and left. I’ve been open and honest with those who’ve reached out to me, and it has been great to have those conversations.
Speaking of having conversations…
A Lot More People Than I Anticipated Had Pent-Up Feelings In Some Similar Directions
When I posted my last entry in this now-trilogy, I had put it simply – it was the mature thing to do, for me to speak up, make my redlines clear, and to let the chips fall as they may. My assumption, however, was that everyone else was already on the table, that our raiders were fine with things as they were, that the officers were largely the ones squabbling over culture issues like the progression team idea, benching players, and the sometimes toxic nature of people around both performance in raid and things like homophobia and personal attacks slipping in. Of course, these things can and would also affect members of the guild – but I had assumed, perhaps all-too-readily, that no one else was having a similar sort of “holding it in” to me.
Well, Naithin commented on my last post that it seemed very much like that was not the case, and that I was likely just the first of many to speak up and speak out, and once I left the guild…it began.
Obviously, my old co-lead had his issues – he wanted to maintain meter-shaming, wanted a progression team, and had a deafening silence on the toxicity issues. He joined the suggestion for a guild split after I left, alongside his friend, who had suggested it as a bullshit, do-nothing deflection to avoid the real issues (sorry, I’m going to be a little bit spicier in this post since there are no stakes anymore). Their remaining officer, I’m told, was fiercely against this, and told them off of it. However, this didn’t stop them from whispering a few of their original guildies, framing it as a culture war of us vs. them, we did it this way, and the like. This is what prompted some of the additional messages I got, because the framing was pretty confusing if you had just returned in late-BfA/early Shadowlands and hadn’t really felt the supposed difference.
In the original draft of this post, I went into some detail here about the things I’ve been told directly, but for the sake of not being too messy, let me just say this – a lot of people had a lot of different perspectives and by being willing to be the first one out with mine, and to have it flame out so quickly, it has prompted an interesting sort of chain reaction of people realizing some of the same things. It has reminded me a bit of the episode of How I Met Your Mother in which each character has a flaw that annoys someone else in the group, and once it is pointed out, everyone starts to see it.
It has actually been quite nice, however, in that it also drew out a lot of complimentary conversations. Affirmation of my ethos, people proclaiming they preferred my raid leadership to my co-lead, and, most importantly, something I hadn’t actually expected – a potential pathway to return.
Do I Envision Going Back to My Guild?
If you had asked me this on Thursday morning last week, the answer would have been an easy no. There was no clear journey that would end up at that destination, as I saw it. Wednesday night had hit me pretty hard, and while I’ve worked to keep expressions of that frustration here to a minimum, I was pretty angry. I am glad I made the decision I did, and pursued the things I did, but it pisses me off that what was a relatively simple ask was met with such complete idiocy. Especially given that it seems like the behavior that most directly bothered me is solvable, not just because it should be so for a group of adults, but because the people who most perpetuated it also want a more friendly environment, and it seems to me as though it would be easy to bring them to the table.
However, there was a source and amplifier for this behavior I hadn’t really noticed until all of this happened.
I actually liked my co-raid lead (gonna stick a huge pin in that past tense) and thought that he and the other officer that merged-in who participated in that discussion last week would be willing to help, to talk it through and find a way to common ground. It was to the point where my next trip over the mountains into his area, we had discussed getting lunch. During the talk last week, however, he made it quite obvious that he was unwilling to engage, by both ignoring a huge chunk of the discussion altogether and through his clear communication of his own culture preference. The “progression team” has never been about rising tides for the guild, or about a path forward for people who performed well – it was a selfish desire to barricade himself away from players he perceived as lesser, regardless of whether or not that was true. He’s been fairly transparent without directly saying so that he has little respect for those who came from my original guild pre-merger, and the cases where he’s made an exception have been for those whose performance is too good to ignore – like my own ascent in Shadowlands Season 1 and the perpetual goodness of one of the other officers that came from our side of the merge. He allowed meter-shaming and wouldn’t push back on it because he agrees with it. He defended it as a practice when told it wasn’t working and that the environment it was creating was toxic, because he doesn’t care if it’s toxic to anyone outside of his circle.
It is the quickest I have ever lost all measure of support for a person, perhaps ever. Yet, it was also obvious in retrospect, but I was foolish and I allowed myself to believe it was a sort of tough love on his part. He complained that we should “behave like a guild” when he was throwing a dumb temper tantrum about not getting invites to high M+, and yet he’s completely unwilling to help the guild bond when it may conflict with his own desires. If nothing else, I should have known better by early April when that childish outburst happened, but yet, I wanted to believe. We were on a raid team together, and I had built some camaraderie, but he was also all-too-eager to throw players under the bus in our private leader chats, to complain and caterwaul about those he saw as problems and wish that they would not return to raid. I thought I had bigger issues, but ultimately, the atmosphere that I saw as problematic was being held together by a common factor – a silent approval, a joining-in of the unhelpful criticism, and a sign-off that high performance was a ticket to act however you wanted, respectful or not. And it is worth saying – he’s not responsible for people choosing to be homophobic, but his refusal to work with me to act on the issue does allow it to remain and be normalized.
So I guess I would say that if he remains in the guild, I’m extremely unlikely to return. I won’t say I absolutely wouldn’t, but if he remains, I find it quite unlikely that the toxicity he enabled and allowed to run loose would be reigned in to any satisfactory degree. That may work itself out if he gets his way – because he seems to be somewhat still pushing for a split.
Naithin (again, spot on observations) also pointed out in comments on the last post that a split may not be the worst idea, and I sort-of agree. A lot of what I see as the problem with that idea is that the guild cultures at the individual player level are broadly compatible – straightforward Normal to Heroic raiding with the goal of Ahead of the Curve each tier, farming for a small period of time to get gear up in preparation for the next tier and to enjoy some power curving, and then players are free to do whatever they want. This sort of free time is where the other guild has, I think, helped my old guildmates, as the new-to-us guildies want to push Mythic dungeons and do other things together, while many of our raiders might have wanted to do that but just had a less-interested base to push from. Not to say my original guildies don’t like Mythic Plus, but that we didn’t have any players who did it enough and pushed us to come along and see how we liked it. I did my first 15, my first chase of a Keystone-related goal, and my first Keystone Master achievement in this last season because the break from raiding made it a viable activity, so I did it more, found the fun in it, and want more of it.
However, the interesting thing about a split is that it isn’t quite that viable from either side of it. When I thought about how it would work if I had done it, the numbers didn’t wash, but what I am seeing is that on the other side, the numbers don’t quite wash either. I had assumed a smaller number would have come with us while a larger number would have gone with my former co-lead, but it seems the reality is that the number of players that are super-dedicated to the idea of a progression team aren’t enough to start a raid with either. That’s actually rather fascinating to me, and gratifying, considering that much of the feedback I’ve gotten is that people I would have expected to leave would instead stay with us, and that is oddly heartwarming to me in a way.
If a split were to happen, it would likely make returning viable for me. Again, not to say that it must happen for me to return, but it would be substantially easier in that case. I doubt that it will happen, both because I think a strong case against it has been made (which I agree with), but also because I think it would be a self-own – and what would be revealed would likely not fill those with the desire to split with glee. However, I think the effort that was being undertaken to try a split might create the introspection I wish had happened when I brought everything up last week – and that thought irritates me as well (because it could have just happened last week instead!).
To return to the respect point with my co-lead, that isn’t necessarily surprising that so many of their original players might just want to stay, but the reasons vary. A new guild (even one made up of people you know) is still a new social environment, and that may not work out. For some, progression is about a mix of raiding but also doing Mythic Plus and having an adequate player pool to draw from to keep groups in-guild. For others, they might have expressed a desire to not raid under my co-lead any longer. While the presentation would make it sound like the merged-in guild was a Mythic guild pushing challenging progression, the truth is that both guilds were on roughly equal footing and not particularly far apart in server progression rankings. It’s frustrating, because in a way, I feel like the progression rankings actually prove my point for me – despite our casual approach prior to the merger and our desire to keep things light and fun, we were never more than 30 spots behind in rankings, and we won the race in other spots. I normally don’t even care for that kind of thing, but it was so infuriating to have this bizarre lack of respect shown, as though our players were incapable of even getting to AOTC, despite the fact we have a streak of it and were right in the race with them prior to merging.
All of it also called to light an interesting thing my old co-lead would say in the lead-up to all of this. He pushed back pretty hard when challenged on the progression team, saying “if people don’t like what the guild is, they should consider if they belong at all.” What I find funny about that now is that it seems, in effect, he is the one who is wrong about “what the guild is,” as it seems that even his original players dispute the way he’s framed the debate.
So all of this rambling is to preface what I think about returning to the guild right now:
–I’d like to, very much so, but I refuse to do so without some measure of change
-I don’t think I have a criteria list of what specifically has to be done, but I would like to see commitment to a friendlier chat environment and less toxic performance management, codified in some way
-I’m not interested in returning just for the sake of it
-I still intend to run content with many of my now-former-guildies, because me leaving was never about them
-In the meantime, I’m not going to concern myself with seeking out information about how things are going – I’ll let people continue to come to me with whatever they may, remain open and honest about what happened and why I’m gone, and I’ll always be open to playing with people who want to provided the environment stays positive
Me In The Meantime
A lot of readers commented that I should stay playing WoW, and for now, I actually have an oddly-renewed vigor for the game. I think it comes down to being somewhat free of the weight that has burdened me for the last year and change, and I think it also provides me with a lot of opportunities to discuss how the game feels on the other side of the fence from where I’ve been – with no (real) guild to sustain my gameplay, how will I get on?
Well, over the last few days, I’ve put myself out there in the patch content, and tonight, prior to resuming this draft, I signed up for my new raid team’s calendar events and pugged a +15 keystone run to shake off some rust prior to the new season to…day. It was great – we two-chested a Necrotic Wake 15 with no Kyrian player to provide golem buffs, and the Havoc DH buffs were super great to see in action. I’m actually really excited to see raiding from a new set of eyes – the first time in over 10 years I’ve been in a raid without being involved in the leadership and operation of said raid!
As for my old guild, well, I hate how things have gone even if I am also glad to have done it and believe it to be necessary for things to get better. I’ve made an active effort to not ask how things are going, to not interject myself in any way short of addressing individual players who ask me what happened and how I felt about it. I get some from my friends on Facebook Messenger, as our group chat has roster planning talk in it, however light, and I’ve been watching the streams of a few players I really liked to keep in contact and through that been exposed to some small amounts of conversation about how things are going. I really do want them to succeed and I’m sure they’ll be fine, whether or not I ever come back – but it still weighs on me to not be there, both because of the bonds I’ve made but also just because it is different than what I’ve grown accustomed to for over a decade of playing the game. It is weird to just log in and do what I want, to not have guild chat, people asking for runs, and the like. Even newer habits like active Discord chat outside the game and the facilitation of a two-team raid guild were things that had become a part of my routine and I feel their absence a bit.
But at the same time, I’ve been made hopeful that things can get better and that the majority of the playerbase of the guild wants things to be better. I appreciated that me leaving caused people to vocalize support for me – it was nice to see people reach out just to say they liked me, that they enjoyed playing with me, to want to play with me more, or to just compliment my approach to raid leading or my philosophy on enjoying the game. Yet still, I am also a bit angry still and I don’t suspect that will fade much over the short-term. Over the long-term, however, who even knows?
Right now, the game is full of possibility for me because I’m not strictly buckled in to a set routine. I could raid with multiple groups, with different groups, and see what works best for me. I can run Mythic Plus on an easier schedule since I won’t be bound to waiting on guildies, and the PUG environment for those is rather robust. Plus, I still have friends from the guild I want to run with, and leaving has actually made that more likely, in some ways. It’ll be very nice to be focused on improving my performance even further and establishing a name for myself as a strictly intrinsic motivation set, instead of doing so to win the approval of some jerk who takes the game way too seriously and joylessly. It’s all up to me, to my judgment, to determine how I want to engage with the game, and there’s no longer this external pressure to live up to other people’s expectations or make sure that a large group is still having fun and getting what they want out of their experience.
So they keyword is freedom – a clean slate, a new chance to build an environment to my liking, to do what I want to do, and the game has the tools to allow me to pursue that as best I can. Over the next few months, I’m sure I’ll be documenting all of that process – the good, the bad, and the indifferent.
Closing Thoughts On The Unpleasantness
Ultimately, this trilogy of posts has been hard, in a mental and emotional sense, but also from the perspective of not wanting to be messy, drama-fueled, or overly vindictive. I’m sure at points, particularly in this post, I’ve failed at that a bit. I’m okay with that and with putting it forward because I think it’s human. I’m not an avatar of neutrality, in general or in this situation – I’m just a dude who is really fucking bummed out over losing his guild. I do see it as a loss – I really enjoyed playing with the vast majority of the people in the guild as it stands today, and I feel a pang of sadness about it every time I log in or see one of my former guildmates out in the world. I’m still quite mad at the officers who refused to engage – I asked for something very simple and not at all extraordinary and was met with immediate resistance and refusal to engage, outside of the fucking joke of “oh we’ll just split again.” My opinion of those two officers has tanked, particularly my co-lead, but also the other officer who participated from their side, who I thought shared a lot in common with me and seemed amenable to making changes – but yet, he slipped right into offering a split and then trying to have this weird martyr complex about it and how it was “for us” that he offered it. I think I could mend one of those relationships, but the one with my co-lead was pretty effectively shattered by that conversation, and I was very disappointed in that, despite the fact that I was, frankly, pretty fucking stupid to have expected him to be any better.
Yet I stand by my original ideal and am glad to have taken a stand for it. I am very conflict avoidant and it was very hard for me to do any of it, much less the whole of it, and it feels like a moment of personal growth that I stopped just claiming a set of values and a vague discomfort with them not being met, and instead acted upon them in a way that is reflective of them. At the end of the day, it isn’t any high mark for myself, either – I left a video game guild, an act that won’t change the world in any meaningful way. But it at least puts me closer to the person I claim to be and want to be. WoW is a video game, but it is also a portal to social interaction and a way to draw people closer, and I feel pretty confident that wanting a better environment is always a good thing.
It’s my intention to not write about this topic any more past this post. This is something I hesitated to put in prior posts and ended up not claiming, with good reason – I knew there would be more. At this point, it’s pretty well resolved – there is, obviously, more that will happen, and I expect even by the weekend that things will move and shift around some more, but I gave up my right to have any real measure of control over how things go from here by leaving the guild. All that I know is left for me for certain is to resolve the bitterness on my end, to go forward into the plans I’ve made for myself, and to do the best I can to become a better participant in the community at-large, instead of isolating myself into my guild. This is the part where I’d pretend that I wrote this for the benefit of a nebulous reader who might be going through the same thing, but it isn’t. This one in particular was for me, a chance to vent and let go, to establish that I don’t know if I’ll ever end up back in the guild I founded and built since my mid-twenties, but that I hope it will work out that way some day.
But tomorrow is Shadowlands Season 2, and until I can see the day of reconciliation in focus, there’s no more point to contemplating what could have been or what might be – there is only time to create what comes next.