Your WoW Identity
A bit of a thought experiment this week.
I was ready to write an article about Guild Mergers, but after running over my thoughts on the topic I realized that there's some background I need to get people thinking about first. Here's a quick preview: the fear and trepidation that surrounds a guild merger is all about the fear of losing your identity.
But what is your identity? What makes you "you" online? How much of your personality and values make it into the persona you expose to your guild members? Are you more or less the same person, or do you build up a completely different you when behind a keyboard?
Consistency or Facets?
Assuming that nobody knows of the common player behind your alts, do you choose to expose a different facet, or even an entirely different personality on one character vs another? Or do you play all of your characters act in a way that is consistent with your personality and values?
Personally, I think of myself as a protector, and this comes through in all of my characters. It's what led me to always have a tanking or healing main character. It's why I only death grip on my DPS Death Knight to pull a mob off the healer. I like the idea that I am responsible for the other people in my party - not for their behaviour, but for their safety from whatever the game throws at us.
If you've never thought much about your personality traits, you might want to take a few minutes to take the Meyers-Briggs Typology test. The full test has 72 questions. There are shorter versions, like this one that uses the Simpsons characters, but you can't expect to get much out of a personality test that asks four two-choice questions.
(when our vice president joined the company and wanted to do some team building, he gave us the Simpsons version of the test and I came out as Principal Skinner. Read into that what you will. Now that I think about it, it might be fun to work out the 16 WoW NPCs that match the various typologies. Garrosh Hellscream for ESTP? Wait, "able to handle criticism". Perhaps not)
If you've done one of these tests in the past, you may know the general category you fall into. If so, pick one of your characters and do the test as them. If you're someone who does absolutely no role-play, there may be no difference in the results, but I suspect a great number of us switch things up even a little bit when playing.
What Are Your Limits?
Now that you have some general ideas about your personality and how those change online, ask yourself how important these aspects of your online life are to you. What lines will you cross if the reward is high enough? What lines won't you cross?
When people group with me, I'm going to give them my best, asking for their best in return. I believe in treating people fairly so long as they are acting in good faith. If someone slacks for no discernible reason, I'm not going to group with them again. If someone isn't performing up to spec but indicates that they want some help or asks questions aimed at getting better, then I'm going to give them a hand.
I am unwilling to compromise my positions on account sharing, hate speech, and people who exploit the game (e.g. using the "ledge" strategy in Halls of Reflection). If someone starts telling sexist jokes to a bunch of random strangers, I'm going to vote to kick them, and if the vote fails I'm going to leave the group.
I have strong opinions on those issues (most of which I've written about in the past) and I'm not going to change them because I feel that they are part of what defines me online. I feel that to go along with a group that wants to exploit an encounter compromises who I am, even just a little.
These positions also come out in the policies I've come up with for my guild, and the way that I react to change. I judge the actions of others against the values that I hold dear. If my guild makes a policy change that conflicts with my values, I will either challenge the policy or find another guild to call home.
Guilds also have identities. Sometimes these are the common parts of the identities of the members, and other times they are clones of the identity of the guild leader. A guild's identity informs the way that they handle loot, manage raids, tackle progression, and treat non-members who fill out their raids. Outside of the guild, we'd just call that the guild's reputation, but inside there's something more. When guilds talk about what a potential member needs to have to "fit", they're rarely talking about the gear or even skill of the player. It's how closely the person will identify with the guild - how closely aligned their personal goals and values are with the goals and values of the guild.
How much does your identity in WoW align with your guild? Are there aspects of your persona that are supported by what your guild does? What if those parallels no longer existed? How much would your guild have to change in order for you to no longer identify with it?
What about the other members in your guild? Do you find that people you play with have similar values? Perhaps in a larger group you find that you work better among a subset of people whose personalities are similar to yours.
When Identities and Values Collide
Let's say you hold the same view as me on exploits. What if you guild announced that they were going to exploit a raid encounter in order to aid progression? This isn't a hypothetical situation - it happened back in the days of vanilla WoW when it was possible for Alliance guilds (this predates belfadins) to cast Divine Intervention on Razorgore the Untamed, the first boss in Blackwing Lair and a progression wall for many guilds. Guilds were at times called out in public forums for using the exploit, while others were justifiably proud of not having done so. It didn't help that Blizzard was for a time silent as to whether this was an exploit or not. They finally declared it an exploit , and in a later patch the spell could no longer be targeted on Razorgore.
Assume that you're in a guild trying to push into BWL after the strategy was declared an exploit but while it was still possible to use. After a few wipes on Razorgore, your raid leader announces that you're going to use the exploit to get to Vaelestrasz. What would you do?
Or consider loot: what if you had a loot policy that was generous to non-guildies who helped you fill out 25 person raids as your guild was making the transition from 10 to 25 raiding? My policy does - outsiders get second pick of gear after mainspec guild members, before guild alts or offspec. I value the contributions of those who help the guild achieve their goals, but I'm open about the fact that it's my job to gear up the guild's mainspec.
Assume that your guild had a similar policy and one of your friends who couldn't commit to a raid schedule helped out on multiple raids. You like treating people fairly and you're proud to be a member of a guild that does the same. What if the policy changed to prefer guild members for any spec and the guild wasn't forthright in explaining that to outsiders at the start of the next raid? Only after the effort has been expended and loot has dropped do they find out that they're not eligible to roll because a guild member wants an item for offspec? Would you take it upon yourself to inform the outsider yourself? Would you support them if they raised the issue in raidchat to protect your values?
Think about those questions, and the others it raises. Try to get some idea as to how important your online persona, reputation and identity is to you. It will work into the next article on guild mergers and a few other articles ideas I have floating around.
Until Next Time