Ten years of Officers’ Quarters
OK, maybe not quite. There was, after all, some time at WoW Insider when there was no budget for Officers’ Quarters. However, it is true that Officers’ Quarters debuted on that site ten years ago, in May 2007.
Looking at that very first column today, it’s a little bit embarrassing. I wanted to make a splash with the first one, so I tried to pick a topic that would be somewhat “controversial”: punishing your guild members.
Today I don’t agree with very much of the advice I gave there. I’ve since come to believe that you can’t really get anywhere by punishing members who break your guild’s rules. That kind of thing is for high-stakes groups like the military or pro sports teams. In guilds, it’s better to give a warning, move on, and then ask the person to leave if they repeatedly violate the rules. A few of these “creative punishment” ideas are pretty terrible and not all that effective. I wish I had written about something positive instead.
After that lukewarm start, how on Earth did I make it ten years? That first column shows just how much I’ve learned in the process…
This week’s OQ is going to be a little self-indulgent. It’s all about me and this column. If you’re just here for the advice part, feel free to skip to the final subhead!
OQ: Origins edition
As one often did back in the 00’s, I bought World of Warcraft at a Best Buy. Download speeds weren’t generally conducive to digital-only versions back then, so buying physical discs was still common. I’d like to say I was a diehard Blizzard fan, that I was in the WoW beta, that I preordered the game and got in line at midnight to pick up my copy. But I was playing Final Fantasy XI at the time, and I was skeptical that WoW would interest me. I loved the Final Fantasy universe and aesthetic. So as many cash-strapped gamers do, I waited for the reviews to come out before pulling the trigger.
I’m glad I did, because WoW changed my life like no game I’ve played before or since. Two years after buying the game, I was leading a guild with hundreds of members. When the old Insider site advertised for writers, I had the idea to share what I had learned with others in the community. I pitched them a column called “Lonely at the Top: Advice for Guild Leaders.” Today I dug up that old email out of curiosity and oh boy … my pitch was over 900 words long! Here’s a “short” snippet from it:
Before Warcraft, I hadn’t led a damn thing since I was senior patrol leader in the Boy Scouts. And suddenly, there I was, night after night of tell hell, drama, and conflict. It was Emogeddon. In this situation, you can either let it overwhelm you and let the guild fall apart like so many others had before, crumbling under their own bloated rosters, or you can fight to preserve the worth and values of what you founded.
As guild leader, I’ve seen it all: the ninjas, the know-it-alls, the serial afk’ers, the compulsive liars; the shining knights that are always willing to help those they deem worthy of it; the drama queens who try to stage an uprising against the officers; the officers who come down too hard on the noobs; the hardcore guilds who recruit your best-geared players away; the espionage/counterespionage game with former members who are starting their own guild on your server; the thrill of a new boss vanquished and the agony of that boss you just can’t overcome, wipe after wipe, week after week. I’ve seen it all and I’m still standing.
Somehow after that rant, the editors actually said yes. I got an email from Mike Schramm, cc’ing Elizabeth Harper and Barb Dybwad, to conjure some names from the distant past (Elizabeth of course is still with us). And there I was, no longer just a reader of the site, but a contributor. I could hardly believe it.
First, we needed a better title for the column. Some of the ideas we considered were “Ask the Guild Leader,” “Leaders Lounge,” and “Running the Roster.” Mike came up with “Officers’ Quarters” and we all agreed that was the best. We disagreed about whether the apostrophe was necessary and the placement of it, but then we writers are always nerds about punctuation.
Just winging it
When I first started, very few people openly talked about guild leadership. Many guild leaders didn’t actually want to reveal their “secrets.” They feared that sharing such knowledge would help their competitors. Most were just winging it, like I did, and learning on the job. Few could claim to be an expert, and I barely counted as one in 2007. (I barely count as one today, but now you’re stuck with me.)
Eventually, I wrote a book on the topic. These days, I still don’t see people talking about guild leadership all that often, so I can’t claim to have changed the world or anything. I’m pretty sure most officers and guild leaders still just wing it.
Even so, I like to think that I’ve helped a few people out there over the years. For those of you who don’t just wing it, who try to research and learn from the people who have been in your shoes, you are the reason I’m still doing this. So this is my best advice to you, reflecting back on ten years of advice, a lot of it good, some of it bad:
Don’t be afraid to fail
Failure can only happen when someone tries to do something awesome. But no one would ever succeed at something awesome if they were too afraid to try.
I was terrified when I first became a guild leader. All of those people, some of whom I had never met in real life, now depended on me for the happiness and stability of their virtual lives. But I didn’t let the fear stop me — I embraced it. Fear of failure can be very motivating, if you don’t let it paralyze you. If you let it push you to exceed what you thought you could ever accomplish.
From that fateful decision to take the plunge into WoW and to lead that guild, I got this gig, I got a book deal, I made so many friends, and I learned so much. Not just about leadership, but about myself too. I even got to interview a bunch of Blizzard devs at PAX East! One of my former officers will be standing at my side next year when I marry my fiance.
Thank you to each and every one of you officers out there who has supported this column over the years! Thank you also to the hard-working Blizzard Watch staff and to our generous Patreon patrons for rezzing Officers’ Quarters here on the new site.
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