Guild Guide: Creating guild projects and community initiatives that work

How do you make your guild projects something that everyone takes part in rather than just two or three members?

One of the great parts about having a guild is that you can all work together on projects. If a boss in some particular content is proving difficult, you can clear through it as a team. If you need to craft something elaborate, you have a full team to take care of it. If you're trying to save money for something, everyone can work together to save money.

In theory, anyway. In reality, far too often you get guild projects that involve one person doing all of the work with one or two others contributing a token effort. Fine when the guild consists of three people, less fine when there are four dozen members, and this is something that everyone claims they want.

So, what's the deal? Well, the bright side is that you may not be doing anything wrong. Getting people to actual be involved can be an uphill struggle. But that doesn't mean you can't step back, take a look at your approach, and work out how to create some guild initiatives that everyone can work toward and get behind without feeling as if all of the work is going to ultimately fall upon you.

Make sure everyone wants it

Here's something you have doubtlessly learned if you were a teenager with a car: when you ask about going to do something, and everyone says "sure, I guess," that means they do not actually want to do that. It means that you are the person with the car and thus their choices are between "do nothing" and "do what you want to do." Most of them are going to go with the latter. This is not a failing on your part; it's due to some glitch in human programming that says that we should try to avoid making people upset for any reason if it means we might not get any more good times.

I've seen this happen more often than I care to recount in guilds. An officer proposes a project, and the collective response is "sure, I guess." The officer pushes ahead, then gets very upset when the members aren't really contributing, never realizing that what was actually offered was less of a "yes" and more of an "I offer no resistance."

You don't want people to simply go along with stuff; you want them to be passionate about it. So, don't start a project that the guild isn't actually interested in. Double-check. Look for responses more energetic than "sure, I guess." If that's all you're getting, it probably means no one is all that enthusiastic. And that is all right; sometimes you put the idea out, no one else shares it, and you have to revisit it further on down the line.

But let's assume that's not your problem. People are enthusiastic, but contributions are thin. Let's move a step beyond.

Adjust the participation

One of the things that ultimately killed a particular raiding group for me in World of Warcraft was time. Not in the sense that I didn't want to play the game any longer, but in the simple fact that a raid required me to spend several hours re-clearing content I had already cleared and then bang my head against a boss fight for hours on end. Bosses I could beat without a problem, but our newer members were not able to clear.

It was hours of work for no actual benefit. That's what kills a lot of guild initiatives: the feeling that these projects eat up a lot of time for very little actual benefit.

Some of this is outside of a player's control. You can't change, say, a project that requires 120 total combined hours of work. But you can, hopefully, prevent anyone from feeling as if they have to sit down for 4 hours every night to do some of that work. It's all about how you subdivide and assign responsibility, and when done correctly you can make sure that everyone only has to put in a little bit of work.

Acknowledge the possibility of burnout

To use the raid example from before, one solutions which was suggested (by myself and several other "vital" members) was to stop making raids run from 7 to 11 three days a week and have them run from 8-10 one night, 8-9 the rest of the week on the bosses that people were stuck on. While the result would be slightly less time, the other result was less burnout and frustration.

Asking people for an hour a night wasn't a huge commitment, but asking for several hours on a regular rotation made those days feel like horrifying slogs even before they happened.

Put it another way - let's say everyone in the guild is trying to earn 10 million gold to purchase a large house. If the guild has 10 members, that's a million each, which might feel almost insurmountable. But if you trim that down to 200,000 a week, then over a five-week span it's far less immediate commitment. It makes the goal into a slow build rather than a single climb to the finish.

Encourage and cooperate

Guild projects are a great way to build camaraderie in the ranks, but they can also be kind of divisive. The more that each person feels taxed to do something, the more it feels like you're taking on all of the burden.

Luckily, there's a way to avoid that: give stuff away.

The best raiding group I ever had in WoW had a simple approach toward loot. There were no elaborate rules about who could loot on what; the only rule was that there was always someone from the "loot officer team" in the raid, and the goal was always to just be as generous as you could. The culture was one wherein players would frequently say that they did not need an item because it was a bigger upgrade for someone else. "It's going to improve your DPS more, go ahead and take it."

Big crafting project? Offer your guildmates free materials that you have. Working on your team ranking in games like League of Legends? Offer skins to your fellow players, let them know your tricks, and so on. Work together as a team and give the feeling that everyone gets something, no strings attached, so long as everyone is working together.

The whole me-first mentality is one that crops up a lot in games when you don't know if your friends are going to be your friends forever, and that's understandable. It also sucks when you feel like you're being asked to give more than your fellow members, but often this is the most useful way to get the ball rolling.

It sends the message that everyone is pitching in, everyone is offering something by way of compensation. No one is an island and forced to rely on their own resources.

Obviously, there's no sure way to make sure that everyone pitches in. But by structuring things carefully, you can give people every reason to pitch in, and you can make people feel like they actually want to participate as a whole. You want to create an environment in which no one has to do too much, but everyone should do something - and when the goal is accomplished, everyone feels like they overcame together.

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Published Dec. 8th 2015

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