The Girlfriend Card

Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that I’m a proponent of fair policies that apply to everyone, regardless of guild rank.  So what do you do when a member asks for another member to be given special treatment by virtue of who else they know in the guild?

I hope that everyone realizes that I’m not specifically talking about the girlfriends of male gamers – the title is both sensationalist and a literal quote that came up with an old friend from the US realms

did you hear about _blank_?  She played the girlfriend card and got kicked for it.

In this case, it was the girlfriend of an officer (who was himself an in-law of the to the guild leader) who pushed for a raid spot without meeting the performance requirements.  The situation blew up and she was kicked (or asked to leave depending on who you ask).

This is always a touchy topic because someone is bound to take offence with it.  Lodur of World of Matticus saw a fair amount of backlash for his article on guild egoists, which left me wary of revisiting the same subject.  It was Gravity’s recent article on relationships that pushed me to re-open this draft and look at it from from another angle: the translation of real life relationships into the gaming world.

OMG Sexist

Not exactly.  The actors in this play can be anyone who know each other in real life.  Personally, I’ve been witness to more instances of “the husband card” than “the girlfriend card”.

Guys who seek to gain from their relationships in-guild seem to be subject to less scrutiny and fewer accusations of causing drama than their female counterparts, even though the motivation and actions are often indistinguishable.  This is unfair, but representative of larger societal issues that I’m not going to get into in this article.

I doubt anyone who has experienced relationship fuelled drama in game has seen it often enough to make any statistically value conclusions.  Nor am I aware of any scientific studies that have looked at this specifically in WoW.  Everything from here on in is my opinion.  I’m just going to refer to a “couple” from here on in rather than choose to bounce back and forth between gender pronouns.  Could be a spouses, partners, friends – the points herein apply to all to one degree or another.

Translating a Relationship Into the Game

If you have a relationship with someone outside of WoW, it’s a fair bet that the dynamics of that relationship will translate into the game.  If you like to do recreational activities out of game, you’ll probably try to run dungeons or raid together.  If you find yourself standing up for someone in real life, that protector aspect may also appear in game.

This is where things get tricky.  My tendency is to try to get inside other people’s heads, try to gauge what type of person they are.  If someone is a protector archetype and will stand up for someone in any situation, I may be hesitant to have that person be a strong voice in the guild.  What I’m looking for in guild leadership are people who can be even-tempered and impartial.  Being incapable of judging your friend / spouse / partner on merit while judging everyone else on their merits is a recipe for drama.

Likewise, if someone is more submissive than their partner, you may need to watch that the one does not become a proxy for the other.  A friend and family member who effectively has officer-level authority because their friend / partner spouse does whatever is suggested is not a good idea.

Of course, I shouldn’t be trying to get inside of people’s heads.  I’m notoriously bad at it.  The better approach is to look at concrete facts and consider what someone has done, not what they might do.

Pros

The advantages to having a couples-friendly guild is obvious: more recruits.  This can be as simple as having a “Friends and Family” rank so that a raider with a non-raiding friend can experience the social aspects of the game to bringing in top-tier talent that will only join as a pair.  If a couple has fun playing WoW together, they’re going to be looking for a guild that supports that playstyle.

I play WoW to have fun.  I want the people I play with to have fun.  If I’m only willing to take people who aren’t attached to anyone else, I’m squashing someone elses fun, and having been on the receiving end of that myself, I don’t want to do that to my guildmates.  Happy raiders = better raiders.  So long as the thing that brings couples happiness doesn’t adversely affect the guild, I’m all for it.

Cons

The obvious downsides are that as the real-life relationship goes, so will the in-game one.  If a couple are your star tank and healer, a change in their relationship can have you scrambling for replacements to keep raiding as they take care of things in real life or avoid each other online.  The change doesn’t even have to be a negative one – real life can and will collide with gaming , and two people whose real lives are linked only increase the chances of you losing a regular raider.

Conflict of Interest

The bigger problem, and the one that led to this article is the conflict of interest that can arise when one member of the couple has more authority in the guild and abuses that authority to the benefit of the other person.  The abuse can be subtle, and in cases not even intentional.  Something as small as guaranteeing someone a raid spot when everyone else has to show up on time and be chosen on merit is an abuse of power that left unchecked can undermine the sense of fair play your members have come to expect from the guild.

So, What To Do?

One solution is to mimic the policy in place at many companies: couples cannot be in a position of authority over one another.  If such a situation arises, one person is meant to remove themselves to another department .  In extreme cases (such as a senior executive), it may become necessary for one of the couple to leave the company entirely.  In a guild, you probably won’t have multiple deparments to move people around to – so you may want to choose to not promote one member of a couple in the guild.

Things get a bit more difficult if a relationship starts in the guild – do you ask an officer to step down?  It seems harsh and detrimental to lose an officer, but consider the alternative: evaluating each situation on a couple-by-couple basis.  Do you really want to put yourself in the position of deciding if a particular couple’s relationship is healthy enough that you feel comfortable with the potential for abuse, even if the risk is low?  That goes way beyond what a guild leader should be doing.  Rather than sticking your nose where it really doesn’t belong, keeping a strict policy gets rid of the chance for problems in the future.  It also may make your guild less attractive to otherwise great players – you have to decide what is important to you.

What I caution against is bringing people into the guild when you gut says “this is a bad idea” but your brain says “let’s just hope that things work out OK”.  Many of the cautions in my article on cliques are valid here as well.

The extreme end of the scale – having both members of a couple as leaders in a guild – can either be incredibly productive or a recipe for disaster.  My preference is to avoid it entirely.

Simple Policies Supporting your Purpose

Remember to always design your policies to support your guild’s purpose.  If your purpose is drama-free progression, your policies should support one or both of those goals.  Any policies that contradict the overall vision for the guild are good candidates for revision.  Know what you want to do and create as simple a framework as possible to achieve it.

Until Next Time

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